I come from a family with some amazing cooks. One tradition that always stuck with me was our weekly Shabbat dinner. When I was a kid, we would go to my grandparents’ house in the Bronx every Friday. They would invite all of their children and grandchildren. The food was amazing—I can still taste the schnitzel (breaded and fried cutlets) and coffee cloud cake (a dish we actually ran on Passover this year). As all great food does, it gave us an opportunity to come together and spend time as one big family!
The tradition has been passed down for as long as I can remember. It carried on through my teens until my grandparents moved to Florida full time. When my sister and I became adults and moved out of our parents’ house, they started having us over every Sunday (a much easier day to get off in the restaurant industry).
Now that my sister and I have children, the weekly dinner has grown even larger! Now, my parents invite all of their children and grandchildren just like my grandparents did. A family is so important to all of us and it gives us much needed time together.
Chef Daniel Kleinhandler’s Grandmother’s Almodrote
From Istanbul, Turkey
- 2 large eggplants (or 3 medium-large ones)
- 1 large challah loaf or brioche loaf (about 14 inches long and 5 inches high)
- 1 large wheel of Kashkaval cheese (about 4 cups grated)
- 2 eggs
- Salt and pepper
- Hot water, to moisten the challah loaf
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Prep the eggplant: Prick the eggplants with a knife, making five to six half-inch cuts all around, to release the steam as it cooks.
Place the eggplants on a baking sheet and place under the broiler in an oven (my mom used to actually broil the eggplants on the stove top, with the fire). Rotate periodically, until the eggplants are charred on all sides and collapse, and the insides are soft and tender. Remove eggplants from the oven and let cool.
When eggplants are cool, slice lengthwise and remove the inside pulp. Place the pulp into a sieve and squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible. Chop until fine and creamy. Do not use a food processor—it will be gummy.
Prep the challah: In the meantime, cut off the outer crust from all around the challah loaf. Cut the challah into cubes and place in a large bowl. Add hot water to the bowl, so that it fully covers the bread by more than one inch. Soak for about 10 minutes.
Squeeze the water from the bread, as much as possible. It will look pasty and will be about 1/4 of the original size. Knead and rub the cubes between your fingers to form them into balls.
Prep the Kashkaval: Grate the Kashkaval cheese and set aside.
Combine ingredients: In another bowl, mix the eggs, salt, and pepper. Add the eggplant to the egg mixture, then add the challah. Add 2/3 of the grated Kashkaval cheese to the mixture, and combine thoroughly.
Put mixture onto a half-sheet pan with 1-inch high edges. Press the mixture into the pan until it is completely filled. It will be about 3/4-inch high. Then spread the remaining cheese on top, and press down slightly so that it is flattened.
Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown and the cheese is sizzling and gooey on top. Enjoy!