I grew up in New York in a typical Jewish immigrant family where home entertaining was the norm rather than the exception.  Our dinner table regularly sat twenty guests from all over the world and was often elbow-to-elbow full.   During the Jewish holidays, my parents adopted the literal meaning of the biblical words, “All whom are hungry, let them come and eat.” It was a festive fiasco of wine goblets clinking to the word “L’Chaim,” silverware clanking, a table overflowing with familial rice dishes center stage to the polyglot ensemble. This multi linguistic home represented the intricate tapestry of my family who were scattered all over the world. I am a product of this ensemble and these dishes are my effort to fuse my ancestral ties to my contemporary sensibilities. More specifically, I am of Central Asian descent, which still probably does not help you understand where that it. Well, I am part Afghan and part Bukharian (southern Muslim republic of Russia) and a lot in between.

 These dishes are an ode to the ancient silk road, however has been integrated into our contemporary lifestlye utilizing local ingredients still retaining the authentic flavor. The diversity in the dishes has to do with the spices that were indigenous to the country and the produce that were seasonally available. Keeping that in mind, I have aimed at eating rhythmically to the seasons to remain interconnected with the environment to appreciate the change of foods with the change of seasons. It is also noteworthy that a meat based diet along the Silk Route was a luxury, because of the expense and the scarcity of animals. Most animals, chattel to be specific were used as laborers and on special occasions for consumption.  So many of the dishes from the region are vegetarian based that is a collage of Asian, African, Russian and Mediterranean cuisine fused into a unique new cuisine that most Westerners have never tasted. You can read more about my plight to vegetarianism when I adopted my cocker spaniel, Flynn.

Plagued by health issues in my young adult life and then learning the powerful healing nature of food, these recipes are geared towards the Vegans, Gluten Free and Wheat Free foodies.
I am not a trained chef, however learned through my mothers’ fervor for cooking, who fearlessly combined spices and a lot of love into her recipes forming groundbreaking unique flavors. So, if I can cook these dishes anyone can.

Although all the dishes on Silk Road Vegetarian are gluten free, I am no longer gluten free. After a few years of eating a gluten free diet, I attempted to eat wheat again. Starting out very modestly, I did not have an adverse reaction and now eat wheat moderately, but only organic. I now bake my own challah and teach classes on the spiritual significance of challah baking tied in to the Jewish month, every month. My newest book, Spiritual Kneading through the Jewish Months: Building the Sacred through Challah has just been released.

In the meantime, here is a video on the Afghan – Bukharian community that has roots from the Babylonian Exile. My family is part of this traveling pack that moved from country to country along the Silk Road. They started in Babylonia and then moved to Persia, Bukhara, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. There is so little information on Afghan Jews, although at their peak there were 40,000 Jews thriving economically in an Muslim country.  The men were all travelers, trading and expanding their cultural repertoire. So happy to see many photos of my parents that I have never seen before.