Growing up in a Sephardic family, Ladino was the native language in Linda Capeloto Sendowski’s grandparents’ homes. This cultural inheritance — from the language to kitchen practices to nostalgia — infuses this self-published cookbook of glimpse into different regions of the Sephardic world.
Beginning with a section on breads, Sephardic Baking with Nona offers a challah recipe with ground anise seeds and topped with sesame, among other variations including raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries, candied orange peels, and even Dulce de Toronha, candied grapefruit peels, together with a list of useful tips for successful challah baking. Other breads make their appearance, as well: laffa, with its yeasty aroma, and panezikos, sweet rolls recommended for a Thanksgiving feast.
For the Jewish holidays, traditionally recognizable recipes like Hamentaschen appear beside folares, “a pastry dough flecked with cheese in a cage-like shape, representing Haman’s hanging noose.” She suggests kezadas, Sephardic rice and cheese pies, for Shavuot and lahmajun, a Turkish lamb-spiced pizza popular on Syrian tables, to be followed by a non-dairy baklava or ka’ak.
The book’s accessibility and clear instructions reflect its origins on the author’s popular cooking blog, The Boureka Diary—now a series on The Global Jewish Kitchen. The author takes a practical approach to these recipes, noting which ones can be frozen and how to best prepare made-ahead goods once they’re out of the freezer. The photographs are excellent and enticing, beckoning the reader to the kitchen and practically jumping off the page. The book also thoughtfully inserts blank pages here and there, sometimes at the end of a section or a recipe, allowing space for the home cook to write down their own notes for each dish.