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Easy Israeli cuisine

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Israeli-style food has become an incredibly popular cuisine in many major cities worldwide.

The problem is that many Israeli recipes have too many ingredients for the average home cook with a life that does not revolve around the kitchen. However, Adeena Sussman’s new cookbook, Sababa: Fresh Sunny Ingredients from My Israeli Kitchen, really makes Israeli-style foods accessible for North American cooks.

Sussman is an American who lives in Israel. She moved there for love, but she also has a deep appreciation for the country.

The recipes in Sababa are kosher.

Sussman offers her own take on classic Israeli dishes like shakshouka, baba ghanoush and kubaneh bread. She also takes familiar dishes like granola, lemon curd and ice pops and incorporates Israeli ingredients. For instance, she uses tahini paste and silan (date syrup) in her granola.

Sussman provides recipes for creating Israeli spice blends like baharat, hawaiij and za’atar. She also suggests substitutions. For instance, Greek yogurt can be substituted for labaneh, an Israeli-style yogurt.

The cookbook, with its gorgeous photographs, is also beautiful. Sussman uses a lot of colour in her cooking. Her crisp apple and pomegranate slaw, for example, is green, orange, red and purple, and it tastes as good as it looks.

I also tried Sussman’s pistachio-crusted lemon bars. I brought the dish to a pot-luck dinner and it was real a hit. I went home with an empty pan and many requests for the recipe.

 

Pistachio-Crusted Lemon Bars

Pistachio crust

o 90 ml (6 tbsp) cold coconut oil and more for greasing the pan

o 125 ml (1/2 cup) shelled pistachio nuts

o 125 ml (1/2 cup) all-purpose flour

o 125 ml (1/2 cup) icing sugar

o 5 ml (1 tsp) lemon zest

o 1.25 ml (1/4 tsp) fine sea salt

Lemon curd

o 3 large eggs

o 4 large egg yolks

o 185 ml (3/4 cup) sugar

o 45 ml (3 tbsp) corn starch

o 1.25 ml (1/4 tsp) fine sea salt

o 250 ml (1 cup) freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 5 lemons)

o 60 ml (4 tbsp) lemon zest

o 80 ml (1/3 cup plus 1 tsp) extra virgin olive oil

o 30 ml (2 tbsp) chopped toasted pistachios

o 5 ml (1 tsp) crushed rose petals for garnish (optional)

To make the crust, grease a 20-cm (8-inch) square pan with coconut oil. Line the pan with two crisscrossing strips of parchment paper, greasing between each layer and leaving a 5-cm (2-inch) overhang on each side. Grease the top and sides of the parchment-lined pan.

Place the coconut oil in a small bowl and refrigerate until solid, about a half an hour.

Place the pistachio nuts in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse the nuts until they are almost fine, about 30 seconds. Add the flour, sugar, zest and salt until incorporated, about 15 pulses. Using a spoon, add the coconut oil in small chunks to the food processor and pulse until the mixture looks like uniform large breadcrumbs, about 15-20 pulses.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, pressing down to form a crust, but not over-packing. Chill for 30 minutes.

To make the lemon curd, place a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl and set aside. In a small saucepan, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch and salt and then whisk in the lemon juice and zest until smooth. Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture becomes thick and the curd coats the back of a spoon, about 8-9 minutes.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and use a silicone spatula to push the curd through the mesh strainer into the bowl below. Discard the solids in the strainer. Whisk in the olive oil until smooth. Cool slightly, then press plastic wrap onto the surface to prevent the formation of a skin.

Preheat the oven to 165 C (325 F). Bake the chilled crust until it has puffed, then sunk and turned golden, about 20-22 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and cool for about 3 minutes.

Raise the temperature of the oven to 180 C (350 F). Pour the filling over the crust, smoothing it evenly with a knife or offset spatula. Bake until the curd has formed but the centre still moves a bit, about 16–17 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven, cool completely and seal the top with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Cut into 16 pieces and garnish with crushed chopped pistachios and crushed rose petals.

 

Crisp Apple and Pomegranate Slaw

o 1 medium apple, cored and thinly sliced

o 80 ml (1/3 cup plus 1 tsp) apple cider vinegar

o 1 l (4 cups) shredded green cabbage

o 1 l (4 cups) shredded red cabbage

o 1 small red onion, thinly sliced

o 1 large carrot, shredded

o 2 scallions, very thinly sliced

o 2 medium radishes, very thinly sliced

o 125 ml (1/2 cup) extra-virgin olive oil

o 30 ml (2 tbsp) whole-grain Dijon mustard

o 25 ml (1½ tbsp) honey

o 8 ml (1½ tsp) ground cumin

o 5 ml (1 tsp) kosher salt

o 1.25 ml (1/4 tsp) freshly ground black pepper

o 125 ml (1/2 cup) pomegranate seeds

o 60 ml (1/4 cup) chopped fresh cilantro

o 60 ml (1/4 cup) chopped fresh mint

o 125 ml (1/2 cup) lightly toasted shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

 

Toss the apples with 5 ml (1 tsp) of vinegar in a large bowl, then add the green and red cabbage, onions, carrots and scallions and toss.

Combine the olive oil, remaining vinegar, honey, mustard, cumin, salt and pepper in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake until creamy.

Pour the dressing over the salad, toss to coat and let the slaw sit for at least 15 minutes (30 minutes will really mellow the acidity of the vinegar), then toss again with the pomegranate seeds, cilantro, mint and pumpkin seeds before serving.

Makes 8-10 servings.

READ: KICK OFF THE NEW YEAR WITH HEALTHY EATING

Za’atar Roasted Chicken Over Sumac Potatoes

o 4-5 medium red potatoes (0.5 kg or 1½ lb), scrubbed

o 4 medium shallots, quartered

o 60 ml (4 tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil

o 30 ml (2 tbsp) sumac

o kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

o 1 small roasting chicken (about 1.5 kg or 3½-4 lb), patted dry

o 1 small lemon

o 75 ml (5 tbsp) za’atar

o 1.25 ml (1/4 tsp) dried red pepper flakes

o 2 cloves garlic

o 6 sprigs thyme

 

Preheat the oven to 220 C (425 F). Cut each potato into 6 wedges.

In a 23×33-cm (9×13-inch) metal or glass baking dish, toss the potatoes and shallots with 15 ml (1 tbsp) of olive oil, along with the sumac, salt and black pepper.

Season the cavity and exterior of the chicken well with salt and pepper. Zest the lemon into a small bowl, halve the lemon and set aside.

Add the remaining 45 ml (3 tbsp) olive oil to the bowl along with 60 ml (4 tbsp) of za’atar and red pepper flakes and gently stir.

Stuff the lemon halves, garlic and thyme sprigs inside the chicken, then rub the chicken all over with the za’atar mixture. (If you want to, you can tie the legs of the chicken together; it’s easier than doing a full chicken trussing, which is not necessary.) Sprinkle with the remaining za’atar.

Place the chicken, breast-side up, on top of the potatoes. Roast the chicken for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 165 C (350 F) and continue to roast until a chicken leg jiggles when pulled, the juices run clear and the potatoes underneath the chicken are soft and the ones on the edges are crisp and golden, about another hour and 20 minutes (the rule is 23-25 minutes per pound of chicken, but the high roasting temperature at the beginning of the recipe shaves off a little time).

Remove the chicken from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes. Remove the lemon, garlic and thyme springs from the cavity, discarding the garlic and thyme. Carve the chicken right on top of the potatoes, letting the juice coat the potatoes, then squeeze one or both halves of the reserved lemon on the chicken and potatoes.

Makes 4-6 servings.

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