Title: The Book of New Israeli Food
303 pages; Hard cover Photography---Color
Publisher: Schocken Books, NY, NY 2008
Reviewed by, Chef John V. Fall 2008
If you have eaten hummus, tabbouleh or
pita bread, then you have eaten Israeli food. Well maybe
not as it really is in Israel. The Book of New Israeli
Food, A Culinary Journey by Janna Gur is the real thing,
not just a cook book but a guide to Israeli life with
wonderful real life pictures by Eilon Paz. Authentic
recipes and real life pictures of food, the country and
people. Recipes and culture are a cross border mix of
foods from centuries of travel, conquest and religion.
You can see influences from Spain to North Africa and
from Turkey to the Orient.
I have experience in Middle Eastern food and can tell
you that these are good recipes! Some are easy to make
and some a little challenging for an amateur. Remember
the title--it has "New" in the description, so if you
remember a recipe that is in the book it might not fit
into your preconceived notion. One of these is a new
take on Shawarma from Omer ben Gal, at the Lilt
Restaurant in Tel Aviv. It is essentially an open faced
steak sandwich with roasted eggplant, hyssop and
matboucha salad on olive oil grilled flat bread and a
picture to show its beauty! I
made this recipe and it was delicious. Figs Stuffed with
Bulgur and Cranberry Salad is as pretty as it is light and
delicious. Imagine fresh figs stuffed with a bulgur,
cranberry, carrot, cilantro and toasted sesame salad and
drizzled with pomegranate reduction. Very nice dish and
presentation. There are many new recipe and a few stand-bys like chopped liver and chicken soup too. I had to
try one dessert but which one? Well maybe not exactly a
dessert but a sweet treat found in many a bakeshop world
wide---Babka. In this book it is called a Chocolate
and Halva Coffee Cake. The recipe has you make an easy
sweet yeast dough in which you roll the halva and
chocolate chips. Bake it and baste with sugar syrup! I
Since this book is also a cultural journey many a recipe
is intertwined with the many holidays and the foods that
are traditionally served to celebrate them. So if you
want to prepare a menu for Rosh Hashanah, Passover or
Shavuot, it will be easy to do so because each section has
its own suggestions and recipes for these holiday meals.
Anyone who likes food should buy this book, there are
many great and new recipes that are appealing and easy
to make and healthy too! If you are Jewish, you will
appreciate the "keeping with tradition" in many a
chapter if not, you will
certainly learn more about the culture and its people
and the common bond that everyone in the world
Omer ben Gal, Lilit Restaurant, Tel Aviv
This up-market version of schawarma is a flatbread
sandwich with stir-fried steak strips, flame-roasted
eggplants and two tasty salads.
Ingredients (serves 4)
1/2 cup olive oil
Juice of 1-2 lemons
Coarse salt and crushed black pepper
The Matboucha Salad:
4 ripe tomatoes
1 hot green pepper
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup olive oil
The Hyssop Salad:
1/2 cup fresh hyssop (or oregano) leaves
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sumac
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
The Steak Sandwich:
Olive oil for brushing
1 laffa (Iraqi flatbread, p. 86) quartered, or 2
pita breads, each halved into two disks
1 kg (2 Ib 4 oz) beef sirloin, tenderloin or
entrecote, cut into thin slices
1 cup thick tahini dip (p. 38)
1. Prepare the eggplants: Flame roast the eggplants
(see instructions on p. 31). Cool slightly, scoop
out the flesh, chop and mix with olive oil, lemon
juice and salt. Set aside.
2. Prepare the matboucha salad: Preheat oven to
3. Brush the tomatoes and the pepper with olive oil,
season with salt and sugar and bake for 15 minutes.
Take out the pepper and continue baking the tomatoes
for another 5 minutes until they become dark brown.
4. In a deep bowl, mash the grilled tomatoeswith a
fork, season with olive oil and salt. 5. Seed and
chop the pepper and add to the tomatoes. Keep warm.
6. Prepare the hyssop salad: Mix all the ingredients
and set aside.
7. Assemble the sandwich: Brush the laffa quarters
or pita halves with olive oil and toast under the
oven broiler or on a barbecue grill for a few
minutes. Transfer to a serving plate. Spread the
tahini dip on the toasted bread and spoon on some of
the matboucha and chopped eggplant.
8. Heat a large skillet over a high heat. Brush the
meat with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and
stir-fry for a couple of minutes.
9. Place the meat on top of the matboucha salad and
eggplant, heap on some of the hyssop salad, sprinkle
olive oil and serve with tahini dip on the side.
Figs Stuffed with Bulgur and Cranberry Salad
Figs, fresh or dried, with their sweet luscious
flesh and firm skin, are perfect for stuffing. Here
is a light healthy dish to start off a summer meal.
Ingredients (serves 10)
10 fresh figs
Pomegranate concentrate, for serving
100 g (3 1/2 oz) bulgur wheat
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped coarsely
1 cup carrots, grated coarsely
2-3 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, roasted
3 tablespoons pecans, chopped
2 tablespoons pomegranate concentrate
1. Soak the bulgur wheat in water for 4-5 hours,
until it swells up and softens. Or, add half a cup
of water to the wheat and cook in a microwave oven
for 3-4 minutes until the bulgur softens and absorbs
the water. Allow to cool.
2. Mix the bulgur with the other salad ingredients.
The preparation up to this point may be done in
advance and the salad kept in the refrigerator.
3. Halve the figs and scoop out some of the flesh,
which you can add to the salad. Place two fig halves
on each plate, heap on the salad, sprinkle with
pomegranate concentrate and serve.
Chocolate and Halva Coffeecake
Also known as babka or krantz, this old-world cake
is a popular Shabbat offering in many households.
The following version combines traditional chocolate
filling and Middle Eastern halva, with an
irresistible result. Strand halva is t most
convenient to use for the filling but you can use
regular halva (crumble) as well. Another special
ingredient is halva spread. Outside Israel it can
found in Middle Eastern groceries and kosher stores.
If unavailable, pre your own.
Ingredients (for 2 loaf pans)
560 g (1 Ib. 4 oz, 4 cups) bread flour 220 ml
(8 oz, 1 cup less 1 tablespoon) water
50 g (2 oz) fresh yeast
100 g (31/2 oz, 1/2 cup) sugar
Pinch of salt
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100 g (31/2 oz) butter, softened
The Chocolate-Halva Filling:
200 g (7 oz, 1 cup) halva spread 250 g (9 oz) strand
or regular halva, crumbled
200 g (7 oz, 1 cup) chocolate chips Syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1. Prepare the dough: Place all ingredients except
the butter in a mixer fitted a kneading hook and
knead for 7 minutes. Add butter and continue
kneading f minutes. The dough should be shiny and
very soft. Transfer to a greased bowl, c and allow
to rise to twice the original size.
2. Prepare the cakes: Divide the dough in half and
roll one piece on a well-floured surface to a 20x30
cm (9x12 inch) rectangle.
3. Spread the dough rectangle with a thin layer of
halva spread. Sprinkle the strand with crumbled
halva and chocolate chips and roll into a log. Slice
the log length and braid the two pieces. Place in a
loaf pan lined with baking paper and tuck in edges
of the cake so it fits snuggly into the pan. Repeat
the process with the sec piece of dough in the
second pan. Allow to rise to twice the original
4. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
5. Bake the cakes for 35-40 minutes until deep
6. While the cakes are in the oven prepare the
syrup: Bring the water and sugar a boil and simmer
for 20 minutes.
7. Brush the hot cakes with the syrup. They will
keep fresh wrapped in foil for 3-4 days and can also