Wedenesday, December 21, 2005



Her latkes are infused

with flavors of India



Sena Desai Gopal,

Globe Correspondent


Tara Deshpande Tennebaum was raised in Bombay and often ate at the home of a woman who is East Indian and Jewish. ''Most Jews are not aware of the tremendous culinary heritage they have in India -- and it comes as a pleasant surprise to them," says Tennebaum.

Cochin Jews have been in India for almost 1,000 years, she says. Bene-Israeli Jews came in the 13th century, and in the 19th century, Baghdadi Jews fled from Iraq to India. Tennebaum's mother had a friend in Bombay who was from Baghdad and was married to a Jewish man from Zanzibar, Tanzania. That's where Tennebaum was first introduced to Jewish cuisine. In addition, an aunt on her mother's side is a Bene-Israeli Jew.

Now living in Brighton, Tennebaum, 30, a Hindu, is married to Daniel Tennebaum, an Eastern European Jew. ''When we have children, they will be Hinjews," she says.

Tara Tennebaum owns Azalea Catering in Jamaica Plain, where she also teaches Indian cooking. She makes seven kinds of vegetarian latkes -- one with smoked eggplant and another with spinach and chickpeas -- that combine an age-old Jewish dish with East Indian ingredients.

The cuisine that evolved from Jews living in India is a kosher table that incorporates traditional Indian practices. For instance, Indian Jews gave up meat out of respect for their Hindu neighbors, and the Jews began using coconut milk. They ate fish and plenty of vegetables. What resulted was a cuisine more complex than any other Jewish cuisine, says Tennebaum.

The eggplant latkes are a combination of the traditional Eastern European potato pancake and an Indian smoked eggplant side dish called baingan bharta. Tennebaum uses challah breadcrumbs instead of flour and has added a yogurt sauce to cool the smoky spiciness.

Tara Deshpande Tennebaum will teach a class on Indian cooking on Jan. 9 at Nuestra Culinary Ventures in Jamaica Plain (call 617-522-7900). O n March 11 and April 8, she will teach at her catering facility (call 617-254-1185 ).



Eggplant latkes


Makes 12

2 medium Italian eggplants

1/2 cup olive oil

1 bay leaf

2 peppercorns

1/2 stick cinnamon

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 medium onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

6 large eggs

salt, to taste

1/2 loaf challah (about 1/2 pound), made into breadcrumbs

extra olive oil (for frying)


1. Holding the eggplants with tongs, turn them over a gas flame for 8 to 12 minutes or until the skin burns and the eggplants are tender. Or, cook eggplants on a hot grill, turning often, for 8 minutes or until charred and tender.

2. Let the eggplants cool completely. Discard the stems, peel off the skin, and mash the flesh with a fork.

3. In a small saucepan, heat the oil, and when it is hot, cook the bay leaf, peppercorns, and cinnamon stick for 1 minute. Use a slotted spoon to lift out the spices.

4. Add the cumin seeds and cook, stirring, for half a minute. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic and ginger. Cook 1 minute more.

5. Stir in the turmeric, cayenne, coriander, ground cumin, and eggplant. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Set aside to cool.

6. Set the oven at 200 degrees. Line a plate with paper towels. Have a baking sheet on hand.

7. In a food processor, work the eggplant mixture, eggs, and salt. Transfer to a bowl. Stir in the breadcrumbs with a fork. Blend well.

8. Heat 2 tablespoons of the extra oil in a large nonstick skillet until hot. Ladle the batter in mounds in the pan, leaving room between the pancakes. With a spatula, press down on the latkes so they brown evenly. Cook until the undersides are golden. Turn the latkes and brown the other sides. Set on the paper towels, then transfer to the baking sheet. Keep warm in the oven. Continue with more oil until all the batter is used.

-- Adapted from Tara Deshpande Tennebaum


Copyright 2005 Globe Newspaper Company