The Jew And The Carrot

Susie Fishbein Takes Israel — Well, Its Upscale Parts

By Miriam Kresh

  • Print
  • Share Share

If you have a lot of money and time to spend in the holy land, you would be lucky to find yourself on one of kosher cookbook author Susie Fishbein’s tours. She recently led a group of 34 from the Negev to Sfat to Tel Aviv — with stops at the artisanal Lachma Baker, a chocolate workshop, the Carmel winery and a Yemenite garden meal in a grove with 120 exotic trees — all while offering cooking demos on a moving bus.

I caught up with her group early in the tour, at the Carlton Hotel in Tel Aviv. The ladies (only four men tagged along) were learning how to stuff ravioli at the hotel’s restaurant, Blue Sky. The hotel sous-chefs had prepared the pasta and rolled it out in advance, so that all the participants needed to do was cut out pasta circles, squeeze a prepared filling of ricotta and spinach over them, then top them with other pasta circles. The ravioli found their way to the lunch table. It reminded me a bit of the challah my daughters used to bring home from school, where the teacher had prepared the dough and the girls only braided and egg-washed the little loaves.

Still, Fishbein said that the trip was transformative for her, introducing her to the flavors of modern Israeli cuisine, which she hopes to incorporate into her upcoming work. When I caught up with her a week later she was just unloading groceries for her next cooking show. “I’m demonstrating butternut squash farrotto, beet soup with pumpernickel croutons, and pistachio-crusted salmon over smashed sweet potatoes with a vanilla-rum butter sauce.”

The menu was radically different from her previous style of cooking — a sort of semi homemade take on Jewish food — lots of sweet ingredients and puff pastry. Now she says, her kosher readers are catching up to a broader healthier trend.

She chatted with me about her best meal in Israel, culinary innovations in the cuisine and a spa that I’d kill to be at right now.

Did you notice any culinary innovations this time in Israel, compared to previous visits?

Without a question, both in technique and presentation. You can clearly see the influences of chefs who studied abroad, but then came home with their Israeli sensibilities - their ethnic interpretations. There’s a European feel, but definitely an Israeli pride about things like techinah, silan, and eggplants, with modern twists.

What impressed you most on your tour?

The food at the spas was of a caliber I never would have imagined. What the chefs are doing with layering sauces and flavors, colors and textures on a plate - it impressed and surprised me. There’s nothing like those kosher spas in America, so it was the first time I’d experienced it first-hand. Those kosher kitchens rivaled what I’ve seen in non-kosher restaurant kitchens. Kosher cooking is really cutting-edge in Israel.

Did you find a common thread running through the new Israeli cuisine?

Yes, always this way of eating healthy, interesting, layered food, and being aware of how the plate is going to end up looking.

Do you think your readership is ready to adopt the Israeli way of eating?

We were in the hands of 5-star chefs all along the tour, and what’s served in restaurants isn’t what people cook at home. When you go to a restaurant and order something recognizable, it’s always different from how it tastes when you cook it yourself. Today there are unbelievable kosher restaurants raising the bar. That reverberates down to the home, and raises the bar of what kosher people are aiming for in their kitchens. Still, nobody is going to go home and make five different sauces for gnocchi, like we had at the Carmel Spa.

What culinary experiences in Israel did you not have, that you wish you could have fitted in?

I’d like to experience cooking in a Druze kitchen, and a halva workshop, and one where we make falafel. I wish we could have made it to the fish market, early one morning. There are lots of new boutique breweries in Israel – I’d like to visit some next time.

Are you planning a book about your Israeli tour?

No, I don’t see a book coming out of that one trip. So many of the dishes - even the vegetarian - are very time-consuming and fussy. My audience wants that look and taste, but they’re just not going to spend three hours over a pot of simmering tomatoes. As much as I feel enriched from my travels, I don’t have book material for my particular audience from them.

What was your favorite part of the week spent eating in Israel?

It was a sensational week. I don’t know if I can single out any one experience, but being at the Bereishit Spa at the Ramon Crater was unique. The place has an atmosphere like no other. Another really special event was the Yemenite lunch and botanical walk at the Bachatzer shel Orah (on Moshav Maimon, northern Negev).

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: susie fishbein, israeli food, israel

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.