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Israeli soul: A cornucopia of culinary traditions

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Sabich (Wikimedia Commons photo - switch_1010 )

Shabbat Shalom! Easy, Essential Delicious Israeli Soul, co-authored by celebrity Israeli-American chef, Michael Solomonov and his partner, Steven Cook, is a terrific cookbook that’s relatively new and offers a huge selection of recipes that reflect the various culinary traditions of Israel.

Solomonov was in Toronto last week headlining a culinary gala event for the Jerusalem Foundation of Canada (JFC). The menu was Israeli, based on the popular dishes served at his award-winning restaurant, Zahav, in Philadelphia. Everybody at the event received a signed copy of Israeli Soul.

The book, which was published in the fall of 2018 to mark Israel’s 70th anniversary, is a love-letter to Israel and its cuisine. Israeli Soul is as much a food travel log as it is a cookbook.

Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt photo)

Cook and Solomonov write: “The soul of Israeli cuisine lies in the journey these foods have taken to the ends of the earth and back, to be woven together in an ancient culture that is both nascent and modern…”

“For two millennia Jews have been …embracing the cultures and cuisines of their local hosts and adapting them to their religious and dietary needs.The creation of the State of Israel created a repository for all these traditions… to evolve in strange and wonderful ways.”

The book focuses on Israeli street food. There are even whole chapters devoted to such dishes as falafel, shwarma and sabich.

What is evident is that most of the dishes – except the Ashkenazi ones – are heavily vegetable based.

For instance, there are 24 different salads, as well as 10 eggplant recipes. With so many people going vegan or vegetarian, Israeli Soul offers many options from the cornucopia of Israeli culinary traditions.

 

SABICH

Sabich is an eggplant and egg sandwich traditionally eaten by Iraqi Jews on Shabbat morning. Since cooking is prohibited on Shabbat, there are a number of traditional overnight stews like cholent, the Ashkenazi bean-based stew, and the Sephardic, hamin, a stew containing slow cooked eggs. Hamin is actually the Latin word for oven. Huevos means eggs and haminados is short for huevos haminados or baked eggs.

The Iraqi Jews would fry or bake eggplant ahead of time. On Shabbat morning they would prepare a pita sandwich with the eggplant, a slow-cooked egg from the stew, and add Amba, an Iraqi pickled mango sauce.

BAKED EGGPLANT

1 large eggplant

1tbsp of kosher salt

2 tbsp of canola oil

 

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Peel the eggplant by stripping it lengthwise with a vegetable peeler. Trim off the ends and slice the eggplant into 12 rounds roughly half an inch thick. Toss them with salt and oil in a large bowl. Place the eggplant in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until tender. Turn the slices and bake a couple of minutes to brown the other side. Let the eggplant cool sightly before assembling.

Makes 4 servings

 

HAMINADOS

6 large eggs

2 black tea bags

2 tbsp of Turkish coffee

Peels from 4 onions

2 quarts of water

In this recipe tea and coffee replace the braising liquid of the meat, which was used traditionally in these slow-cooking Sabbath stews.

Preheat the oven to 200°F. Mix all the ingredients with the water in a large ovenproof pot. Cover and bake for at least 8 hours and up to 12 hours.

Remove the pot from the oven. Crack, but do not peel, the eggs. Then return them to the pot with the liquid. Set the pot on the stove top and cook over high heat, uncovered until almost all the liquid has evaporated, about 20 minutes. (Watch closely. The eggs can explode if the pot gets too dry.)

Cool the eggs on a plate. Then cool and slice.

Makes 4 servings

READ: THE SHABBAT TABLE – HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ISRAEL!

 

CLASSIC MANGO AMBA

2 ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted and chopped

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 large clove of garlic, thinly slices

1 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp mustard seeds

11/2 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp crushed Aleppo pepper or black peppercorns

1 tsp ground fenugreek seeds

1 tsp smoked paprika

Kosher salt

Lemon juice

Combine all the ingredients, except the salt and lemon juice, in a medium sauce pan and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until the mangoes have broken down and the mixture is reduced by half, about 20 minutes.

Let the amba cool, then add salt and a squeeze of lemon juice. Refrigerate in a covered container up to 2 weeks.

 

TO ASSEMBLE THE SABICH

Open a pita wide. Stuff 2 slices of eggplant ** inside. Add a few slices of the haminados (the roasted egg.) Drizzle a tbsp of amba or to taste.

Optional: add chopped tomatoes and cucumber.

 

**Fried or baked eggplant can be used.