On Mon­day, Rey­na Sim­ne­gar, the author of Per­sian Food from the Non-Per­sian Bride: And Oth­er Sephardic Kosher Recipes You Will Love, wrote about Sephardim Strike Back! She will be blog­ging all week for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing.

It had been 9 years since I had not seen my beau­ti­ful cousin Isha. She lives a busy life in Flori­da work­ing in the restau­rant indus­try and going to school. It was my turn to feed her, and I decid­ed to invite her for Shab­bat din­ner. After all, is there a bet­ter time than Shab­bat to impress any­one with delec­table dishes?

Isha is half Venezue­lan and half Amer­i­can. She is the per­fect com­bi­na­tion of Latin Amer­i­can charm and Amer­i­can beau­ty. As we were rem­i­nisc­ing about the past (over a slice of my favorite dessert, Per­sian Roulade), it was impos­si­ble not to talk about how much we suf­fered starv­ing togeth­er in the name of our mod­el­ing careers. You see, both Isha and I were part of a Venezue­lan mod­el­ing agency that recruit­ed girls for the Miss Venezuela beau­ty pageant.

For many Venezue­lan lit­tle girls their dream is to become a beau­ty queen. I am not talk­ing about the kind-heart­ed queen that has a tal­ent and vis­its orphans, I am talk­ing about a queen whose attrib­ut­es are com­plete­ly based on out­er beau­ty and her tal­ent in mem­o­ry; that is how tal­ent­ed she is to be able to mem­o­rize the right answers to any pos­si­ble ques­tion the jurors might have.

Isha, with her exot­ic mixed looks and height, actu­al­ly made all the way. When she refused to have plas­tic surgery to add a lit­tle here and take a lit­tle from there, she was let go. I was a lit­tle less lucky,” I was sim­ply too short to make the cut. No plas­tic surgery would have helped with a height prob­lem! These cast­ings are the most humil­i­at­ing sit­u­a­tions any­one can put her­self through, and your self-esteem, if com­plete­ly based on your looks, becomes absolute­ly shattered.

Going through that expe­ri­ence real­ly helped me under­stand the con­cept of mod­esty in the Jew­ish world. Hav­ing grown up in a coun­try where cloth­ing is an option, it nev­er occurred to me that by the sim­ple act of cov­er­ing cer­tain parts of my body I would regain an incred­i­ble amount of self-appre­ci­a­tion I had lost dur­ing my upbring­ing. I am not going to deny that in the begin­ning mod­esty was a real­ly dif­fi­cult con­cept to grasp, not to men­tion to embrace. How­ev­er, the longer I cov­ered cer­tain parts of my body, the more sen­si­tive and spe­cial they became.

See­ing myself as more than just a body or a face real­ly helped me com­pre­hend how I am not real­ly what peo­ple can see, but I am the soul that lives inside. And, even though I always knew that true beau­ty lies inside, I was nev­er real­ly able to grasp this con­cept until I stop focus­ing only in the outside.

I love look­ing good, work­ing out, feel­ing healthy and beau­ti­ful. How­ev­er, I love it even more when I go to sleep know­ing I have worked equal­ly hard on mak­ing my inner beau­ty, that is my true beau­ty, equal­ly presentable.

A woman’s inner beau­ty shines through and per­me­ates into her out­er beau­ty, and I hope I can be an exam­ple of this con­cept, even if I don’t make the height requirement!

PER­SIAN ROULADE

This is by far the most pop­u­lar dessert at my Shab­bat table! It is amaz­ing to see people’s eyes when I bring it to the table — and also to wit­ness their puz­zled faces try­ing to fig­ure out the unfa­mil­iar fla­vor they can’t deci­pher (rose water).

Ver­sa­til­i­ty is what is great about this recipe! You can use the same cake recipe I pro­vide you, but the fill­ings are end­less. Since I usu­al­ly serve this cake after a meat meal, I use pareve (nondairy) whip­ping cream (such as Rich’s Whip). Oth­er fun fill­ings are rasp­ber­ry jam, Nutel­la (if dairy), and even date but­ter. I also like to use rum or brandy mixed with a bit of water to moist­en the cake if I do not have rose water handy. I promise, this will be a hit! Check out more videos at my web­site.

TRICKS OF THE TRADE

The eggs should be at room tem­per­a­ture so that you can whip them to max­i­mum vol­ume. The secret to mak­ing the parch­ment paper stay in the bak­ing pan is to spray the pan with a lit­tle oil or water before lin­ing it. Cut slits in the cor­ners of the paper for a snug fit. This cake freezes beau­ti­ful­ly — just wrap in parch­ment paper and then in foil. Also, it is impor­tant to use parch­ment paper and not wax paper; these are not the same prod­uct. Make sure not to over­bake this cake or it will crack. You can driz­zle some pow­dered sug­ar on the cake before rolling it so it doesn’t stick to the parch­ment paper. For a clean­er look, you can cut off both ends of the cake…I’ll bet you can’t resist eat­ing them!

Cake
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tea­spoon vanil­la extract
1 tea­spoon bak­ing powder
1 cup flour
1/4 cup rose water (to moist­en cake)

Cream
1 pint pareve whip­ping cream, divided
1 cup pow­dered sugar

Gar­nish
pow­dered sugar
4 strawberries
parve whip­ping cream
choco­late shav­ings or melt­ed choco­late chips (option­al!)

1. Pre­heat oven to 350°F. Line a 17”x12”x1” jel­ly­roll sheet with parch­ment paper. Set aside.
2. Beat eggs in the bowl of a stand mix­er for 1 minute or until fluffy. Add sug­ar and vanil­la and con­tin­ue beat­ing for 3 min­utes or until the mix­ture begins to turn pale yellow.
3. Gen­tly and thor­ough­ly fold in bak­ing pow­der and flour with a flat spat­u­la, mak­ing sure not to deflate the eggs. Spread bat­ter even­ly onto the pre­pared cook­ie sheet. Bake for 15 min­utes or until cen­ter springs back when light­ly pressed.
4. In the mean­time, whip pareve whip­ping cream until peaks form. Add sug­ar and com­bine. Set aside.
5. When cake is ready, hold the cor­ners of the paper and remove from tray onto a flat sur­face. Peel cake off paper. Roll, 12-inch side in, along with the parch­ment paper. Set aside for a few minutes.
6. Unroll and use a pas­try brush to moist­en the top of the cake with rose water. Spread cream even­ly on the cake, leav­ing some for gar­nish. Roll again
7. Place on a plat­ter, seam side down, and gar­nish with pow­dered sug­ar, melt­ed choco­late, pareve whipped cream, and straw­ber­ries, as desired. Refrig­er­ate if not serv­ing imme­di­ate­ly.

Yield: 10 slices.

Rey­na Sim­ne­garPer­sian Food from the Non-per­sian Bride: And Oth­er Sephardic Kosher Recipes You Will Love is now available.