I served this at one of our Seders a few years ago. An elderly neighbor attended with a caretaker from Georgia. The caretaker, not Jewish, was thrilled to find a native dish on the table. From there she got into politics. She clearly loved Stalin and sighted him everywhere. But anyway Phali is a terrific and unusual appetizer. You can substitute chard or spinach.


Young Beet Leaves in Walnut Sauce. Adapted from Copeland Mark’s SEPHARDIC COOKING


1 pound young beet leaves and stems steamed for a half hour

1 cup shelled walnuts

1 tsp salt or to taste.

4 cloves garlic minced

1 or 2 jalapeño chili , seeded, to taste

1 teaspoon ground coriander

2 medium onions, chopped fine, yield on cup

¼ cup fresh dill

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Cut the beet leaves and stems into ¼ slices. Process the walnuts, salt, garlic and chili into a paste.

Toss the beet leaves, coriander, onions, dill and vinegar. Mix well. Serve with a good crusty bread as an appetizer.

BROTHERS IN CRIME: Jesse Damon Crime Novel #5 by KM Rockwood

Brothers in crime: Jesse Damon Crime Novel #5 by K.M. Rockwood

I love stories that find the fault lines in our legal system. Brothers in Crime does that for me with great poignancy. KM Rockwood tells Jesse’s story in a picaresque manner. Jesse started life with all strikes against him and almost ended it at sixteen when he is prosecuted as an adult and forced to plea to a murder he didn’t commit. He’s taken the fall for his two no good brothers who committed the murder robbing a drug dealer. Jesse was the mere lookout. Now at age thirty-six he’s out on parole, working the night shift in a sheet metal factory. A comical, good cop bad cop, pair of detectives harasses him throughout the novel. Whatever crime goes down in the Maryland industrial town where Jesse is trying to get his life together, he is immediately the suspect. Such is the life of a parolee. It’s difficult to go straight with the law looking over your shoulder. To make matters worse he is pursued by a doppelganger. The pair of detectives is convinced that it is Jesse who appears on a security tape when an ATM is robbed. There are sightings of him in other places when he hasn’t been there. Yet his work operating a forklift when the crimes occurred alibis him. He is one of two forklift operators. The other a female is his sometime girlfriend Kelly.

            Brothers in Crime had me on the edge of my seat. Jesse is an innately good man and that made me pull for him each and every time trouble came to find him. Beside the ATM robbery there’s a potassium cyanide leak at the plant. He takes in a domestic violence victim and gets into a fight when her husband comes to get her back. Any one of these encounters could be a parole violation and land him back in prison to serve the rest of his forty years. His sometime girlfriend Kelly abuses alcohol and uses him as a babysitter while she goes off to AA meetings but instead gets involved with a pornographer. Jesse has bonded to her children and makes an incredible difference in their lives. The novel is peopled with caring characters. Jesse inspires that. Rockwood uses his goodness to heighten the suspense. It’s a nice writing technique. I didn’t think I would bond with a parolee the way I bonded to Jesse.

Sarah Levine Simon