Back­yard Kitchen: The Main Course

  • Review
By – August 24, 2020

Sari­na Roffé grew up in the Syr­i­an Jew­ish neigh­bor­hood of Ben­son­hurst, Brook­lyn. Food is an inte­gral com­po­nent of her cul­ture, and she first learned to cook by help­ing her moth­er and grand­moth­er in the kitchen. Like­wise, the fam­i­ly ran a cater­ing busi­ness, so there were many oppor­tu­ni­ties to make tra­di­tion­al foods. This is her sec­ond book, the first one focused on sal­ad recipes, to ensure that the fam­i­ly recipes could be passed down to future gen­er­a­tions. (All the pro­ceeds from the sale of this book sup­port the Sephardic Her­itage Project.)

The book begins with a bit of fam­i­ly his­to­ry and back­ground on Mediter­ranean food and cul­ture. It is divid­ed up into chap­ters devot­ed to par­tic­u­lar food groups, includ­ing: rice and cous­cous, fish, dairy, chick­en, red meat, stuffed veg­eta­bles, and sauces. The recipes are writ­ten clear­ly, mak­ing for an easy cook­ing expe­ri­ence. Addi­tion­al­ly, many use canned and frozen veg­eta­bles, dried onion soup mix, and canned cream of mush­room soup — items that have a long shelf life. The book is spi­ral bound, which makes it con­ve­nient to stand up in the kitchen as well.

There are some cook­ing tips — refrig­er­at­ing onions makes them less irri­tat­ing to the eyes when slic­ing — and basic infor­ma­tion about kashrut includ­ed in the book too. Pho­tos show off the food nice­ly — this is a help­ful intro­duc­tion to Syr­i­an Jew­ish cuisine.

Bar­bara M. Bibel is a librar­i­an at the Oak­land Pub­lic Library in Oak­land, CA; and at Con­gre­ga­tion Netiv­ot Shalom, Berke­ley, CA.

Discussion Questions