NEW ISRAELI FOOD
BY JANNA GUR
Review by Barb & Ron Kroll
The Book of New Israeli Food - a culinary journey
(Schocken Books) ISBN 978-0805212242 0805212248
In this coffee table Jewish cookbook, Janna Gur describes the history and diversity of Israeli cuisine, from the foods of ancient Palestine and Sepharidic communities to Ashkenazi and Yemenite Jewish cuisine. Jewish recipes in The Book of New Israeli Food are a fusion of ethnic cuisines, which reflect their North African, European, Russian-Polish and Middle Eastern origins. Israeli recipes include kibbutz breakfasts, Passover Seder dishes and street foods like homemade shawarma.
Janna Gur describes Israeli cuisine and the cultural origins of Jewish dishes in an easy-to-read, informative way. For example, the huge Israeli dairy breakfast buffet originated from kibbutz workers, who needed energy for the long day ahead. They used local produce to meet kashrut religious laws prohibiting the mixing of meat and dairy products.
Kosher recipes in the 304-page cookbook include the number of portions with metric and English measurements. Ingredients used in Israeli cooking include date honey (silan), broad beans (ful), North African hot sauce (chuma), toasted pasta (ptitim), prickly pear (tzabbar) and fried chicken skin and fat (grivelach).
Sidebars in The Book of New Israeli Food include recipes like garlic confit, ways to flavor Jewish chicken soup and how to make homemade halva (sweetened tahini).
Spices in Israeli cuisine
A section on spice mixes and condiments describes amba, a chutney made from pickled mangos and fenugreek seeds, baharat, a seasoning of pepper, paprika, cumin, coriander, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom, and zhug, a spread made from hot peppers, fresh coriander and garlic.
Color photos by Eilon Paz illustrate the Jewish recipes, Israeli foods, ingredients, dishes, street vendors, markets, holidays, farms, countryside, seaside and family life. Pictures depict the manufacturing of Israeli foods, like a tahini and halva factory in the Ara Valley, Israel, and mouthwatering Israeli cuisine like Jerusalem bagels, semolina cake and malabi from the Dr. Erlich Street stall in Jaffa. Other images portray restaurants in Israel like Café Benedict in Tel Aviv, markets like Mahane-Yehuda in Jerusalem, and street food vendors such as Falafel Diana in Nazareth.
Israel restaurant recipes
Some recipes come from Israeli chefs, e.g., the Roasted Eggplant and Goat Cheese Soup recipe from Yaron Kestenbaum of Food Art Catering in Tel Aviv.
The Olive Oil chapter describes the types of olives grown in Israel: Souri, Barnea and Nabali (Balladi) and the taste and aroma of olive oils made with them.
How to make couscous
A Couscous chapter explains how Gueta, a Tunisian restaurant in Jaffa, makes couscous from scratch with semolina grains.
No Jewish cookbook would be complete without grilled foods. Street vendors and restaurants use wood fired grills to barbecue shashlik (skewered meat), kebabs and fish in every Israeli neighborhood. The Grill chapter describes mangal or al ha'esh (Israeli barbecue) and includes photos of steakhouses like Itzik Hagadol in Tel Aviv.
Types of Jewish bread
A chapter on Jewish breads describes lechem achid (standard bread), from small neighborhood bakeries, which is still subsidized by the Israel government. The Challah chapter offers recipe variations for sweet challah, using raisins, Parmesan cheese and orange rind. Photos depict the kosher Lendner Bakery in Jerusalem, which bakes only challah bread. Other examples of breads available in Israel include German and Polish sourdough breads, Arab flatbreads and breads from regions of Georgia, USSR, Ethiopia and India. The cookbook includes recipes made with matzo, such as Passover Matzo Pie and Coconut Cream Napoleons made with caramel matzos.
The Cheese chapter of The Book of New Israeli Food explains the differences between gvina levana (white cheese), gvina tzehuba (yellow cheese) and gvina melucha (salty cheese). It describes safed cheese, made by Hameiri Dairy, as well as regional cheeses made by Hanoked Farm and Rom Farm in lower Galilee.
In the Salads chapter, Janna Gur explains the importance of eggplant as a mainstay of the Israeli diet, with the old Arab saying: “If your future bride can't prepare eggplant fifty different ways - don't marry her!” She describes how to roast eggplant and provides recipes for dips and salads made from this Middle Eastern vegetable member of the potato family.
Fatoush salad. Roasted eggplant and goat cheese soup. Baked lamb patties in tahini sauce. Fish falafel in spicy harissa mayonnaise. Chukor - phyllo spinach and cheese bourekas. Ptitim casserole with chicken and vegetables. Stuffed baby eggplants and courgettes in pomegranate sauce. Gondi - chicken and chickpea dumplings in a broth. Skheena - Moroccan Hamin. Chocolate and halva coffeecake. Ashkenazi potato latkes. Tu bi'Shvat cake. Mina del Pesach - Passover matzo pie. Labane - yogurt cheese. Ma'amoul - date-filled cookies.
- Salads etc.
- The Israeli salad
- The Street and the Market
- Pita, laffa and lahukh
- Jerusalem mixed grill
- Jerusalem bagel
- Simple Pleasures
- Stuffed vegetables
- Pargilyot, kebab and more
- Chicken soup
- Chopped liver
- A Cake for Shabbat
- Rosh Hashanah
- Tu bi'Shvat
- The Israeli Breakfast
- Olive Oil - The Soul of the Mediterranean
- Fishing in Israel
- Bread - From Standard to Sourdough
- Fruits of Paradise
- Cheese - Between White, Yellow and Salty
- Wine Fever in the Holy Land
- Special Ingredients
Janna Gur, the founder and chief editor of an Israeli food and wine magazine, lives in Tel Aviv. The cookbook includes contributions from Rami Hann, Orly Pely-Bronshtein, Adam Montefiore and Ruth Oliver.