Israeli Food: The Trend That Won’t Quit | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Israeli Food: The Trend That Won’t Quit

Israeli Food: The Trend That Won’t Quit

“Modern Israeli Cooking” renders the holy land’s recipes approachable.

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Thanks to cookbooks like the beloved series from Ottolenghi, and the acclaimed Zahav by Michael Solomonov, Israeli ingredients like pomegranate molasses and sumac have entered our culinary vernacular.

Danielle Oron, chef and owner of the now-closed Moo Milk Bar in Toronto, and founder of the blog “I Will Not Eat Oysters” brings her own chutzpah to Modern Israeli Cooking. Oron acknowledges the blessing and curse of Israeli cooking: It’s hard to define. The food is a melting pot of different cuisines, and you see that deliciously portrayed in Oron’s book.

Modern Israeli Cooking is accessible Middle Eastern cooking. Chapters are arranged a little unconventionally. Slow Cooking is all about dishes worth the time they take; Beach offers lighter recipes to enjoy on the sand in Tel Aviv; you’ll find new everyday favorites in Weekdays and then there’s my favorite, Brunch. Always a rule breaker, I may or may not be making the Roasted Tomatillo & Poblano Shakshuka below for lunch and dinner too.

Oron tells it like it is. No, you can’t use canned chickpeas in her hummus recipe and don’t you dare skimp on slathering on the mayo on her Schmitzel & Sumac Slaw Sandwiches. Yes, ma’am. I like her. She writes as if she is chatting with a dear friend, sharing her tips and gripes while combining flavors in new ways. (“No one wants those mushy carrots. I’m sorry if I have offended anyone’s brisket.”) Sumac Fries, Braised Pomegranate Short Ribs and the cheeky Chicken and Dumplings and Dumplings (not a type-o, these include both wontons and matzo balls) are just a few creative combos.

Certain flavors show up over and over again throughout the pages. Sesame paste is in three desserts – a blessing if you love it as much as I do – and za’atar is all over the place (another favorite ingredient of mine.) But, as a minor gripe, Oron doesn’t include a recipe for it, and store bought blends vary. If I had one complaint, and this is if you threatened to take away my tahini if I didn’t name something, it’s that some of the recipes are too simple. Babka French Toast? Buy Babka and make classic French Toast. Cinnamon Challah is slightly fancier cinnamon toast, Banana Nutella Pita Panini is just that and Za’atar Fried Eggs? Fry eggs, and top with za’atar. But the rest of my copy is littered with Post-Its marking recipes made to be made and shared with friends.

Each mouthwatering recipe is accompanied by a gorgeous photo, which too many cookbooks sadly don’t do. As wonderful as the recipes are, it’s the stories that tie them all together and give this cookbook life. Oron inserts anecdotes, personality and a little food history. (I may have a new found addiction to Ayada, cold-whipped garlic mashed potatoes). She pays homage to classics while acknowledging that Israeli food evolves. And as long as that includes Whipped Cheesecake using Labane, and Roasted Tomatillo & Poblano ShakshukaI’m more than okay with it.

Roasted Tomatillo & Poblano Shakshuka

Note: Modern Israeli Cooking is definitely not kosher and it doesn’t pretend to be. There is shellfish, and a lot of milk and meat combos, but many of the recipes are adaptable. Leave the cheese out of the Reuben Hash Skillet or replace the butter in the Caramelized-Onion Chopped Liver with schmaltz (mmm schmaltz). Just skip over the Peel & Eat Harissa Shrimp.

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