Spice things up with a Libyan aharaimi for Passover

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It’s a story that has been passed down from one generation to the next. On Monday evening, Jewish families around the world will sit down to the first seder of this year’s Passover holiday to recount the story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. Bound by the strict dietary laws that dictate what should and should not be consumed during Passover, Ashkenazi and Sephardic families alike will break matzah over their symbolic seder meals in observance of these traditions.

King Solomon’s Table” is a new cookbook by James Beard Award-winning author Joan Nathan that traces the Jewish diaspora’s adaptation of regional cooking styles from around the world. In 1948, the establishment of Israel as an independent state saw a huge influx of Jewish immigrants fleeing religious persecution that included Jewish Libyans. They brought dishes like aharaimi, a spicy fish tagine that combines fragrant North African spices such as cumin and caraway with pilpel tsuma, a potent Libyan seasoning mix of garlic and red peppers. Fresh Scotch bonnet peppers from Jamaica were also added to give the stew an unexpected kick. Nathan explains that the fiery Caribbean chiles used in this dish made their way to Libyan shores by way of early European and Jewish merchants returning from their explorations of the New World.

Some say the name aharaimi is derived from the phrase “harr ya’mmi,” which means “Mom, it’s hot!” But don’t worry — you can always temper the heat of your aharaimi by reducing the amount of Scotch bonnet peppers you use. Serve it with rice or a fresh salad, as it’s enjoyed in Sephardic households throughout the Maghreb during the Passover seder, or to mark the first night of the Sabbath.