Anthony Bourdain’s tour of Israel last fall left me (and most viewers) desperately longing for a real exploration of Israeli cuisine. Bourdain alluded to a meal of roasted baby watermelon in Gaza that never appeared on camera and somehow managed to skip one of the region’s culinary capitals — Tel Aviv — entirely. Where Bourdain failed, I hold hope American-Israeli chef Michael Solomonov will succeed, in his PBS special “The Search for Israeli Cuisine.”
Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until Spring 2015 to catch the entire program. In the meantime, filmmaker Roger Sherman who traveled with Solomonov to Israel last fall has released a taste of what we can expect.
Catch shots of stunningly bright food, simple hummus and a corned beef stuffed pita at that inspires Solomonov to declare: “You can keep your truffles and foie gras, this is where it’s at.”
Viewer digression is advised: Do not watch this while hungry.
At Hummus Lina in Jerusalem, bowls of hummus are topped with mashed fava beans. Photo: Courtesy of ‘Make Hummus Not War.’
On his hop around the world, filmmaker Trevor Graham sampled countless bowls of hummus. But which are his favorites? We found out:
Lina, Jerusalem: This Palestinian-owned restaurant is buried deep in the Armenian quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City and seats only a few guests at its seven tables. The owner, who has been making hummus for 35 years, inherited his recipe from his father. “There’s no air conditioning or fan; it gets quite hot, but the hummus is delicious,” and worth it, Graham said.
Soucci, Beirut: The owner of this famed hummus spot started making hummus when he was a child, 45 years ago, and “his father ran the place before him, and his grandfather started making hummus in the 19th century,” Graham said. While the hummus is some of the best, regulars also come for the atmosphere: “It’s just plastic tables and chairs, but you get prime ministers, opera singers, taxi drivers, locals going there.”
Pinati, Jerusalem: Outside the Old City walls, Graham likes to down his hummus at this small chain. “It became so popular, they opened up other shops in other parts of Israel,” he said. The shop’s hummus is super smooth and a bit lighter than others on offer around the country.
Hummus Place, New York City: Graham says the hummus at this mini-chain is delicious. though it’s been “slightly modified for the New York palette. The garlic’s been a bit toned down,” he noted.
To the great plates of hand-cut, house-smoked artisan pastrami, step aside — 2014 is the year of the perfectly crafted bowl of hummus. Until the opening of chef Michael Solomonov’s Philadelphia restaurant Zahav, few American diners recognized much beyond falafel as Israeli cooking. The cult-like popularity of “Jerusalem: A Cookbook” by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi only fueled the hunger for the cuisine, causing a rush for ingredients like za’atar, raw tahini and pomegranate molasses. Next spring, expect a two hour PBS special exploring the varied dishes of Israel hosted by Solomonov. Additionally, two new restaurants — a hummusiah, or hummus spot called Dizengoff by Solomonov and Bar Bolonat by New York chef Einat Admony — are set to open to diners hungry for the flavors of the Holy Land.
While Israeli fare may be the Jewish cuisine of the year, a staple of the Ashkenazi culinary cannon will see a renaissance this year as well. Appetizing shops, which stood stagnant as their deli brothers were updated for the 21st century, will get their own revitalization. After 100 years in business as a store front shop, Russ and Daughters is set to open a café on the Lower East Side early this year, and Shelsky’s Smoked Fish in Brooklyn plans to expand to a new location with counter seating as well. For dairy lovers and vegetarians, 2014 will be a particularly delicious year. B’tayavon.
Devra Ferst is the Forward’s food editor.
Is Philadelphia hungry for Israeli and Jewish foods? Chef Michael Solomonov certainly thinks so.
Solomonov and his business partner Steve Cook announced that they’ll be adding two more restaurants to their group, which already includes the award-winning Israeli-style restaurant Zahav: A laid back Israeli-style Hummus restaurant named Dizengoff, and a restaurant with “traditional Jewish Diaspora” foods named Abe Fisher. Both are slated to launch down the street from each other in spring 2014, on 16th and Sansom Street in center city Philadelphia.
The news of the latest restaurants in the works broke last week, as the two were in the air, returning from a food tour they had led in Israel.
At Dizengoff the focus will be “really great, consistent hummus,” says Solomonov, who was born in Israel and spent his childhood moving between Israel and the United States.
The menu at the 25-seat restaurant will be very limited, he says. At the moment, he isn’t willing to commit to serving anything beyond hummus and tahini.
“Minimalism is kind of going what we’re going for,” says Solomonov. The restaurant will be “accessible” in terms of both concept and price, he says.
Where can you get the best hummus in Jerusalem? The Wall Street Journal has a hummus bowl for every type of hummus lover. [Wall Street Journal]
A Jewish love of coffee goes back centuries — read about it during your morning Cup o’ Joe. [Moment magazine]
After trailing behind Toronto and D.C., New York City can finally claim a food truck on wheels. [Midtown Lunch]
We’re not so sure this hard squash hummus recipe with Serrano peppers, yogurt and cilantro is actually hummus, but it looks delicious. [Food52]
Americans waste nearly 40% of our food a year. The former president of Trader Joe’s is planning a restaurant and food store with healthy cooked just barely after its sell by date. [NPR]
Tama Matsuoka Wong shares with us how to forage sumac and make your own spice blend. [Serious Eats]
When my kids were little, I was always searching for that perfect lunch. What could I put in their lunch box which would not be returned to me in the afternoon? For each child it was a different challenge: this one didn’t eat bread, this one ate bread but only whole wheat, and this one would eat bread but no crust. The list of variations and challenges went on and on. For a while there, I was lucky and one child loved Morningstar chicken nuggets—phew, fabulous and easy. Another only wanted tuna fish on lightly toasted bread with lettuce and tomato and crust taken off. It kind of reminds me of the childhood song…”Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us; all we want is that you give us something to eat. We don’t want your yucky food; we just want food that’s good…” Now everyone in my house is older, lunchroom cafeterias are a thing of the past. Yet, the question still remains, “What should I take for lunch?”
A 2012 study by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Conagra Foods found that 62 percent of people with desk jobs usually eat lunch at their desks. Some choose to eat at their workstation because there is no staff kitchen, others would rather work 8 hours straight (not sure if that’s really legal). Some prefer to save money and bring a bag lunch. (It should be noted people do buy their lunch and still eat at their desk.)
Until recently, if you told someone you were going to visit Acre (known by most Israelis as Akko), you would probably have been asked, “What happened, did you lose something there?” or would have received a recommendation to try the delicious hummus at the Hummus Said restaurant.
The northern coast city was the capital of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the Crusader regime that was established with the European conquest of Jerusalem in July 1099, and which extended over a large part of Palestine and Lebanon. Throughout history, it has always been a magnet, having been captured, abandoned and resettled many times since its founding. However, after Israel became independent in 1948, Acre languished for years as a development town that just happened to have an old city of moderate interest, and to host an annual alternative theater festival that would attract outsiders to the city for a brief period. As Haifa flourished to the south, Acre continued to be considered a pale, northern version of Jaffa.
However, anyone who visits the city today can sense that something exciting is happening here. In 2001, Acre was recognized Acre as Israel’s first UNESCO World Heritage site. But since that time and, until a year ago, nothing much seemed to be going on in town. Although it could be argued that with elections coming up in October, someone in City Hall realized that Acre’s combination of antiquities, seaside location, and spice and food market could have great potential, and decided to make some improvements. Regardless, the emergence of new eateries is a clear indication that the city is raising its game. Over the past 12 months, a myriad of restaurants and places of entertainment have opened, and against the backdrop of a new culinary awareness in the Western Galilee and thanks to easy access to fresh raw materials, Acre is in line to become the north’s new culinary capital.
Read more at Haaretz.com.
Whether you’re craving creamy hummus, cheesy burritos, Indian dahl, grilled calamari, Druze pastries or fresh fish, eating well in the Holy Land doesn’t have to cost you much. We’ve compiled a list of where to get the best bite for your buck. From Israel’s northern border to its most southern tip, learn where to find delicious, hearty, local, homemade, and budget-friendly options, all for under 60 shekels (less than $17). It turns out foodies can be frugal, too.
Sabich HaNegba street 16, corner of HaRoeh street, Ramat Gan
The dispute over who made the first Sabich – fried eggplant, hard-boiled egg, tehini, hummus and salad stuffed in a pita and drizzled with amba (the Iraqi version of mango chutney) – in Israel is well known to Ramat Gan-ners and Sabich-lovers alike. The employees here and anyone else who grew up in Ramat Gan, claim the word Sabich originates from the name of the deceased Iraqi owner of this spot, Sabich Chalabi, who first made and sold the glorified sandwich in 1961, now considered a national gem. His ID card is proudly laminated on the wall of the place to prove his claim to the patent. True or not, this is the place for sabich.
If you’ve never heard of the dish, you’re certainly in for a life-changing vegetarian treat for the whopping price of 18 NIS. Half portions are also available. This may be a messy feast so devote yourself to the experience, don’t wear elegant clothing and you might even enjoy it when the first drop of tehini stains your shirt. Warm, simple and filling — you’ll never go back to falafel or shwarma. A small tip: if you don’t plan on smelling like you’ve just bathed in yellow curry, skip the amba — although I swear it’s worth it.
I have been making hummus from scratch for nearly 10 years now. I don’t think it’s a big deal — it’s the easiest thing to make — but nearly everyone I talk to who knows this is shocked. How do I do it? When do I find the time? Isn’t it labor intensive? Why would I make my own when I could just buy Sabra? y answer: It’s not time consuming, it’s not labor intensive, and Sabra sucks.
There, I’ve said it. I eat Sabra hummus when it’s the only stuff available (the other stuff is just goyishe bean-dip as far as I’m concerned) but I otherwise find it revolting. Why? Because it tastes manufactured. It’s the heavy overtone of preservatives and acidity that ruins an otherwise half-way decent product. I know my preference flies in the face of many an American Jew (particularly on the East Coast — I forgive the West Coasters because I know there isn’t much out there in the first place — except in L.A. and then you have no excuse) but I stand by it. It’s better if you make it yourself. It’s fresher, it’s creamier, and it’s more flavorful.
Some sports and food groups in the United States are easily associated with one another. Baseball and hot dogs clearly go together, for example. That’s easy.
But what about football? Tailgating parties, where people hold picnics out of the back of the car before a big game, may be an integral part of the football ritual in the United States (we’re talking about American football, of course) but one wouldn’t say that there is a specific dish that one immediately thinks of as official football food.
But let’s try to imagine such a thing for a moment. You’ve packed up the car, you pull out the picnic cooler to start laying out the pre-football-game spread, and you reach your hand inside and pull out a big container of all-American … hummus?
Sounds bizarre and jarring, but it’s now official. The National Football League has signed a deal with Sabra Dipping Co. that will make Sabra brand hummus the “official dip” of the league.
Read more at Haaretz.com.
How do you make the world’s tallest kosher sandwich? The Jewish community in Budapest decided it was high time to find out.
When Andras Borgula started planning the Budapest’s sixth annual Judafest, a cultural street fair celebrating Jewish life in Hungary held June 9, he had an ambitious thought: Why not set some kind of Jewish record?
Borgula, 38, founder and director of the Jewish Golem Theatre and artistic director for the festival, said the idea came to him as he tried to come up with something that would be both Jewish — and Hungarian.
“There isn’t so much Hungarian Talmud or Torah,” he said. “But we’re pretty strong in the kitchen. We like to eat, and we like to cook. So, why not a kosher sandwich?”
Borgula’s dream was almost cut short when he found out that the Guiness World Records did not have a category for unusually tall kosher fare. After much pestering and pleading, the world’s arbiter of unusual and outrageous things agreed to create a special category, with the requirement that the oversized lunch be at least two meters (almost 7 feet) tall.
And so, as the 7,000 attendees of Judafest (put on by the Budapest chapter of the American Joint Distribution Committee) crowded into Kazinczy Street in Budapest’s Jewish Quarter this week, Borgula and 25 volunteers were preparing over 400 sandwiches, to be stacked one on top of each other as “one big club sandwich.”
Sadly, they fell just short of the world-record setting goal, running out of bread just as the sandwich reached 1.9 meters.
But, “even if we had more,” Borgula said, “the tower was start[ing] to fall apart.”
Despite the setback, Borgula, who positioned the individual slices of white bread, kosher turkey, hummus and pickles himself, is proud of his community’s achievement. “It’s not an official record, but still, this is an unofficial tallest kosher sandwich of the world, built by myself, and I’m not an engineer,” he said.
So, what to do with such a masterpiece? Borgula thought of that too. With record-level flooding threatening Budapest, volunteers were put to work to fortify the banks of the Danube. Rather than letting the hundreds of sandwiches go to waste, Borgula and other festival-dwellers carried them down to the river and served them to people working to fight the rising tide.
“I think most of the people never heard about Jews, and never tasted kosher [food] in their entire life,” Borgula said. “They were pretty amazed by this.”
Move over tobacco, it’s time for chickpeas to shine.
It’s increasingly looking like Virginia’s tobacco-farming country may soon be known as hummus country, thanks to Sabra Dipping Company.
This week, the company famous for its plastic pots filled with hummus, matbucha, and other Middle Eastern salads and spreads opened an $86 million research and development center, dubbed the Center of Excellence, near Richmond.
According to Haaretz, the Center is “devoted to the science, production, engineering, packaging and delivery of the chickpea-based spread.”
Sabra is also prodding farmers in the area around the center to replace their tobacco crops with chickpeas, says the Wall Street Journal.
New Yorkers no longer have to go to Tel Aviv for Uri Scheft’s extraordinary bread, his shop has come to Union Square. [Grub Street]
Apparently, an addiction to hummus is a thing — and Kate Moss is suffering from it. Sorry, Kate. [Grub Street]
Three months after Sandy, Eater stops by several restaurants that were hit by the storm to see how they’re doing. [Eater]
Max Sussman has left the building! One half of our favorite brotherly cooking duo has left his post at Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta’s. Where will he go next? [Grub Street]
Where can one find a good black and white cookie these days? Max Falkowitz has the answer. [Serious Eats]
How do we love hummus? Let us count the ways (and places to eat it). Here are 14 of ‘em. [Serious Eats]
Is Jewish food taking over Chicago? We can only hope. [Serious Eats]
Brisket is finally a trend! Or, atleast a trendlet. [New York Magazine]
From the looks of this round up of 2013 cookbooks, the cookbook industry is doing very well. [Eater]
I’m going to be honest with you. I signed up for Birthright mostly because I wanted to spend ten days eating Israeli food. When I found out I was chosen for a summer 2012 trip, my daydreams were filled with visions of pistachio-studded halvah, mounds of falafel, juicy shawarma, and creamy hummus. You could say I was going on the trip for all the wrong reasons, that gorging oneself on Israeli delicacies was not a moral reason to take advantage of a free 10-day trip to the Holy Land. Well sometimes karma bites you back.
I arrived in Jerusalem on a breezy July night, accompanied by my best friend and about 40 other college students, still strangers to me. Jet-lagged and exhausted from the 11-hour flight, we trudged into the hostel’s dining room. My eyes perked up at the sight of roasted chicken, hummus, and juicy watermelon. Yes, this is why I had traveled for nearly half a day. I happily ate my dinner and played the obligatory name games with the group.
Not even 12 hours after the meal, I was struck with a certain discomfort. I’d been sick from traveling before, and I assured myself this little stomach upset would pass. I sullenly skipped out on the next morning’s breakfast of hard-boiled eggs and Israeli salad.
And so, Hummus Week at the Forward comes to a close. One week, fifteen tasters, and thirty-two different hummuses.
On our score sheet for our Wacky Flavor Day, we included what might have seemed like a straightforward question: “does it taste like hummus?” However, many testers understandably asked for clarification about the terms defining just exactly what hummus is. Just tasting all the various Israeli-style hummuses made in New York restaurant kitchens proved to me how diverse the flavors of chickpeas, sesame seeds, lemon, olive oil and garlic can be. Of course, this is all not to mention regional and national differences in hummus — for this project, we focused strictly on Israeli-style hummus.
Syria to Lebanon, Greece to Egypt — each Middle Eastern country not only uses their own individual hummus recipe, but also claims absolute ownership over the chickpea treat. In fact, the Lebanese Industrialists Association has consistently petitioned the Lebanese Ministry of Economy and Trade to request protected status from the European Commission over hummus, and to declare it a uniquely Lebanese food, a trademark comparable to Italian “parmigiano reggiano” or French champagne.
In my experience, there’s often a token non-Jew at Friday night dinner or at the Seder — the Shabbos Goy or the Passover Goy, some call them (affectionately).
Last Friday, however, I experienced the unfamiliar sensation of being the Shabbos Jew at a Friday night dinner with several Catholic friends. And when I call them Catholic, understand what I mean: One is a seminarian in Rome and another is a playwright studying at Catholic University – and our host for the evening, Sarah, has a degree from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family.
I’ve gotten used to feeling the Shabbos spirit at Friday night dinners with eclectic companions. (And my roommates — a lesbian lapsed Catholic and a Puerto Rican lapsed Pentecostal — have gotten used to things like knishes and kasha varnishkes.) Even so, this meal was a mish-mash of cultures — in the company and in the food served.
The winner of our taste test for best Israeli-style hummus in New York City was unanimous — Mimi’s Hummus in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn makes an exquisitely creamy hummus.
And it’s not just the Forward staff that’s obsessed with the restaurant’s namesake dish. The cozy 8-table restaurant has garnered great praise for its takes on favorites like shakshuka, lamb meatballs, and tabouli, but it’s the house specialty that’s the main draw — and for good reason.
In addition the classic-style, piled with chickpeas and generously sprinkled with herbs, Israeli chef Mimi Kitani draws on her Iraqi and Moroccan background to spin out flavorful hummus garnished with mushrooms, extra tahini, and spiced meat and pine nuts.
The Jew and the Carrot talked to Kitani about her cooking, how her restaurant started, and how she really feels about supermarket hummus.
All this week on the Jew and the Carrot, we’ll be taking a close look at the world of hummus. Check out our first post here.
After tasting six classic hummuses, we turned our sights to its next of kin: spicy hummus. Home cooks have been spicing their hummus for generations — adding a little bit of paprika here, or a dash of cumin there, to add a nice kick to their meal or snack.
Hummus companies have taken the work out of spicy hummus and started blending in a variety of spices into their classic recipes. We tasted six different varieties of packaged spicy hummus, to find the best option on the shelf. During our tastings, we tried a few varieties of Jalapeno flavored (which we were surprised to find is a commonly sold hummus), some that were merely labeled “spicy,” and one that tempted us with “40 spices.”
What did we discover? Each spicy hummus somehow tasted different than the last. Even more surprising was how many of them didn’t taste spicy at all.
Chef Tamar Adler shares her secrets for making “brighteners” out of simple ingredients to breathe life into leftovers and more. [Food 52]
Kansas City goes kosher: the capital city of ‘cue is hosting its first-ever kosher BBQ Festival and Celebration with 16 teams set to compete for the inaugural honor. [Kansas City Jewish Chronicle
Daniel Delaney is popping up again this Fall with BrisketTown, an eat-in shop in “North Brooklyn or Lower Manhattan” that will feature sumptuous slabs of his oak-smoked, Texas-style specialty. [Grub Street]
The ever-appetizing Russ and Daughters gets a cameo as a date location for Louis C. K. and guest star Parker Posey to nosh on nova lox in an episode of FX’s “Louie.” [Eater]
Veterans of New York’s hummus scene, chefs Yigal Ashkenazy and Sharon Hoota, along with Nir Mesika of Tel Aviv and Milan, are setting up Brooklyn shop Zizi Limona, which will feature “modernized Mediterranean cuisine” and sell retail goods like pickles, cheese and produce. [Grub Street]
The New York Times Mimi Sheraton revisits New York institutions like Kossar’s and Katz’s to sample timeless “lost and found” specialties like pastrami, rye, and bagels and schmear. [The New York Times]