The Jew And The Carrot

Taste Testing: 'Cook in Israel: Home Cooking Inspiration' by Orly Ziv

By Alix Wall

“Would You Make This?” is a sporadic column where personal chef Alix Wall evaluates a cookbook by making some of its recipes, sharing them with friends and asking what they think of the results.

When tourists want to learn more about local food in Israel, they often end up in the kitchen at the home of Orly Ziv. A trained nutritionist, Ziv who has been leading culinary tours and teaching classes under the name “Cook in Israel” since 2009. In a typical class, she takes her hungry students shopping in Tel Aviv’s Shuk HaCarmel and to a pita bakery, and then back to her home to make classic dishes like hummus, Moroccan fish and plum cake.

If a trip to Israel isn’t in your near future, getting your hands on a copy of Ziv’s new cookbook “Cook In Israel: Home Cooking Inspiration” with Orly Ziv with photos by Katherine Martinelli, will easily satisfy your cravings.

The book has a healthy bent and most of the recipes are vegetarian with some mouth-watering sounding fish dishes and only two meat dishes (Ziv herself has been a pescaterian for almost 30 years, but, on occasion, cooks meat for her family). Not surprisingly, Israeli favorites like tomatoes and eggplant are the stars of this book as are salads of all kinds — including some more unusual options like a raw beet and apple salad. The book ends with a surprisingly rich dessert selection with recipes for an orange, semolina and coconut cake and chocolate/halva babka.

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Orly Ziv's Green Shakshuka

By Orly Ziv

This version of shakshuka can be found in Israeli cafeיs and restaurants for those who want a change of pace from regular shakshuka. The color is great, as is the taste — especially with fresh bread on the side.

3-4 Tbs. olive oil
1 onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 spring onions, sliced (optional)
1 bunch Swiss chard, roughly chopped (leaves and stalks separated)
1 bunch spinach leaves, roughly chopped
2 Tbs. white wine
½ cup heavy cream
Salt & pepper
Nutmeg
4-6 eggs
Feta cheese, crumbled (optional)

1) Heat olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the onion, garlic, spring onions and Swiss chard stalks until the onions are golden brown.

2) Add the spinach and Swiss chard leaves. Cook for a few minutes, stirring, until the leaves lose half of their volume.

3) Stir in the wine and cream and season with salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.

4) Bring to a boil and lower the heat. Cook for 20 minutes on low heat.

5) Break an egg into a small dish and gently slide into the pan. Repeat with remaining eggs, evenly spacing them within the pan.

6) Cover and cook until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still soft (or to your preference).

7) Remove the lid, sprinkle with cheese, if using and serve with plenty of fresh bread.

Serves 4 to 6

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Orly Ziv's Fish Kebabs with Yellow Tahini Yogurt Sauce

By Orly Ziv

Katherine Martinelli

Packed with fresh herbs, these fish kebabs are bursting with flavor. Since there are no binding ingredients like eggs, the secret is to knead the mixture like dough to break down the proteins. The kebabs are good on their own, but even better with the creamy yellow tahini sauce.

Fish Kebabs

1 kg (2.2 lb) fish filet, finely chopped (such as tilapia, sea bass, mullet or red drum)
2 shallots or 1 small red onion, finely chopped
½ bunch parsley leaves, finely chopped
½ bunch mint leaves, finely chopped
½ bunch cilantro leaves, finely chopped
Lemon zest
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 tablespoons olive oil
Salt & pepper

1) Mix together all the kebab ingredients in a large bowl and knead until you obtain a uniform mixture.

2) Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3) Shape into small round or oblong patties. Working in batches, cook on a hot grill or skillet for 3 to 4 minutes per side until cooked through and golden.

4) Transfer to a plate or put in a pita and serve with a generous spoonful of the tahini yogurt sauce.

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Cooking the Balaboosta Cookbook

By Alix Wall

“Would You Make This?” is a sporadic column where personal chef Alix Wall evaluates a cookbook by making some of its recipes, sharing them with friends and asking what they think of the results.

“Balaboosta: Bold Mediterranean Recipes to Feed the People You Love” is a funny name for a cookbook from a chef who is 100 % Sephardic, but never mind (it means the perfect housewife in Yiddish). Written by Einat Admony, the Israeli-transplant chef who owns a restaurant and two falafel bars in New York, learned how to cook by standing at the elbow of her Persian mother. She defines the modern-day Balaboosta as follows: “She can be anyone — young or old, male or female, religious or not — who lives life with gusto, shuns fear, and relies on instinct over precision” and one who expresses “emotion… through food. Not exactly my great-grandmother’s definition of a perfect housewife, but a balaboosta all the same.”

The book, which is lovingly photographed by Quentin Bacon, has a good mix of dinner-party worthy dishes (chicken tagine), romantic dishes (lamb chops with Persian lime sauce), recipes from Israel (Eggplant salad), barbecue (harissa and honey hot wings), and even items to feed your kids (chicken littles). And that’s only some of the categories, there are more.

While Israeli recipes abound (shakshuka, falafel, sabich, hamin), so do lots of Moroccan and Persian flavors, this is not solely an Israeli or even Middle Eastern book. One could be forgiven for wondering what oysters with watermelon granita or Spanish-style shrimp are doing in here.

The cookbook came out in the fall, so I thought it was high time I took it for a test drive in the kitchen. I cooked three of the recipes for a small group of friends: Kibbeh Soup, which Einat loosely defines as an Iraqi borscht, Dorit’s Cabbage Salad, and My Homemade KitKat.

The kibbeh soup is a simple beet broth that looks like borscht, but doesn’t have the same complexity. That is, until you add the meatballs. Ground beef is mixed with onions, cumin and cinnamon and then wrapped in a semolina and rice flour dough to make dumplings, which are then simmered in the soup.

Einat has you grind jasmine rice yourself, and I wondered why I couldn’t just use rice flour, but I did as she said, using my spice grinder. I’m not sure what happened, but the dough didn’t work for us. From the beginning, it was too watery, and we needed to add more semolina and rice flour to get it to stick together. When we finally got it, it was a strange texture, in fact, resembling matzo balls, and most guests ended up picking the meatballs out of the dough, to eat them by themselves.

With that ringing endorsement, I would understand if you were saying to yourself “then why are you including this recipe?” I am doing so because the soup and meatballs were so delicious, that we didn’t care about the failed dumpling dough.

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King Solomon and the Olive Trees

By Miriam Kresh

Miriam Kresh

It’s Hanukkah, and we’ve been hearing a lot about olive oil. But consider the olive tree; its noble wood and generous shade; its gnarled beauty; its fruit, and the pungent oil pressed out of that fruit.

A trip to the Galilee brought me to Druze villages where residents traditionally make their living from the olive harvest. My guide was Nivin, a young Druze woman. We drove past modern olive groves planted against green hills. She indicated where to stop, at the edge of another olive orchard. This one’s trees are 2000 years old.

They thrive on winter rains alone, and for this reason, the ancient farmers spaced them well apart, making room for each one to receive sunshine and moisture without competition. It was a cool, blue afternoon, and we walked between the great, silent trees with a certain awe. They had been set down into that soil as flexible saplings when Solomon’s Temple still stood.

The trees continued to grow slowly throughout the centuries, making new wood that curved outward, so that each tree’s heart was exposed, or curved back towards the mother tree so that a wooden hollow was formed that’s big enough for an adult to stand in. And those ancient trees are still producing fruit. Their branches were so heavy with sun-warmed, blue-black olives that they bowed almost to the ground.

As we walked through the orchard, Nivin told me a Druze folk tale, about the olive and King Solomon. King Solomon had the supernatural power of understanding all living creatures’ languages. He would leave his palace to walk through fields and forests, conversing with beasts and plants, gathering and distilling their wisdom. For this, all natural beings loved him. When the great king died, nature went into mourning. The trees deliberately shed their foliage, so that their bare branches rattled sadly in the winter gusts. But not every tree did this. To the disgust of the others, the olive stood in its full glory of green and silver leaves.

“Why aren’t you mourning the passing of Solomon?” the trees asked the olive. “Don’t you care? Look at us. The mulberry, the almond, the oak — all our greenery has fallen to the ground. Everyone can see how sad we are. Yet you are indifferent. You haven’t shed one leaf. Where’s your heart?”

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Culinary Dreams of Israel — Interrupted

By Emma Rudolph

Emma Rudolph

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.

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