A Gastronomical Tribute To Israel's 70 years | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

A Gastronomical Tribute To Israel's 70 years

Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook's new cookbook celebrates the culinary diversity of a country that loves its food

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To open up the pages of Israeli Soul, (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) is to feel as if you are stepping right into the bustling, noisy walkways of Israel's open air food markets. You can almost hear the sounds, catch the sights and sense the aromas of Jerusalem's Shuk Machane Yehuda or Tel Aviv's Shuk Hacarmel. Whiffs of the freshly-baked pita and rugelach lining the tables, and aromas wafting from the spits spinning juicy shwarma. The Hebrew and Arabic shouts of vendors hawking their wares and, of course, the obligatory haggling that precedes every purchase. Stalls staggerings under their loads of the most fresh, colorful produce and juice stands crafting custom made juices that promies to cure every ailment.

This is what it's like to browse the pages of Israeli Soul, the latest cookbook by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook, the James Beard award-winning chefs and co-owners of the popular Philly eatery, Zahav—also the name of their previous, bestselling cookbook. 

The book's publication was timed with Israel's 70th anniversary and the recipes, as well as the vignettes that precede them, give a taste of the country's culturally diverse nature. They're a testament to the happily messy combination of influences that make up the fabric of Israeli society - Ashkenazi, Morrocon, Tunisian, and everything in between. Below are three recipes from inside their pages.

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Persian Meatballs with Beet Sauce

From 'Israeli Soul,' the new cookbook by James Beard award-winning chefs, Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook.

Serves 4

Persian Meatballs with Beet Sauce

Persian Meatballs with Beet Sauce (Courtesy of Michael Persico)

Tamarind and pomegranate molasses in the unexpected beet sauce contribute this classic Persian sweet-and-sour flavor profile to these otherwise straightforward meatballs. Serve over Yellow Rice for a color explosion.

Ingredients

MEATBALLS

1 pound ground beef

½ cup chopped fresh parsley

½ onion, grated

2 tablespoons seltzer

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1½ teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup canola oil


BEET SAUCE

1 onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons tamarind paste

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

2 large red beets, peeled and finely chopped

1 quart chicken stock

Fresh mint leaves

Recipe Steps

  1. MAKE THE MEATBALLS: Preheat the oven to 275°F. Mix together the ground beef, parsley, onion, seltzer, cumin, salt, paprika, and pepper in a medium bowl. Shape the mixture into golf ball–size meatballs. Heat the oil in a deep ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Sear the meatballs on all sides, about 6 minutes, then transfer to a plate. Do not wipe out the pot.
  2. MAKE THE SAUCE: Add the onion and garlic to the pot and cook over medium-high heat until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tamarind paste and pomegranate molasses and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the beets, meatballs, and stock. Cover and braise in the oven for 45 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through and the beets are tender.
  3. Remove from the oven and transfer the meatballs to a plate. Place the pot over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, and cook until the sauce has reduced by half, about 15 minutes. Taste and add salt as needed. Return the meatballs to the pot, toss to coat with the sauce, and warm through. Scatter on mint leaves before serving.

PERSIAN MEATBALLS WITH BEET SAUCE is excerpted from ISRAELI SOUL © 2018 by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook. Photography © 2018 by Michael Persico. Reproduced by permission of Rux Martin Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

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Brisket Stewed with Black-Eyed Peas

From 'Israeli Soul,' the new cookbook by James Beard award-winning chefs, Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook.

Serves 8 to 10

Brisket Stewed with Black-Eyed Peas

Brisket Stewed with Black-Eyed Peas (Courtesy of Michael Persico)

We ate this soupy-stew at Gohar, a Persian restaurant at the end of a strip mall in the industrial area of Kfar Saba, north of Tel Aviv. A recent tech boom in the neighborhood has made parking difficult, but the pots of stick-to-your-ribs Persian classics set on a hot plate for the lunch rush remain unchanged. The richness of the brisket (we like the flat, or first-cut) and black-eyed peas is perfectly balanced by the stewed greens, the haunting acidity of dried lime, and tons of fresh dill.

Ingredients

1 (6-pound) beef brisket

1½ tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon ground turmeric

1 dried lime, crushed and ground in a spice grinder

¼ cup canola oil

3 large onions, finely chopped

Garlic cloves from 1 head, thinly sliced

2 quarts chicken stock

2 cups dried black-eyed peas, soaked for 4 hours or up to overnight

3 bunches lacinato kale (about 15 stalks), stemmed and chopped

Handful chopped fresh dill

Recipe Steps

  1. Rub the brisket with the salt, turmeric, and dried lime. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours or up to 2 days.
  2. Preheat the oven to 500°F. Place the brisket on a rack in a baking pan. Roast for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 275°F.
  3. Heat the oil in a deep ovenproof pot. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring, until the onions are translucent. Add the brisket and the stock. Cover and braise in the oven for 2 hours. Check and add water if necessary. Remove from the oven, add the black-eyed peas and kale, cover, and braise for 2 more hours, or until the beans and brisket are fork-tender. Serve with the dill.

BRISKET STEWED WITH BLACK-EYED PEAS is excerpted from ISRAELI SOUL © 2018 by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook. Photography © 2018 by Michael Persico. Reproduced by permission of Rux Martin Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

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Fried Challah Sufganiyot

From 'Israeli Soul,' the new cookbook by James Beard award-winning chefs, Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook.

Makes about 24 donuts

Fried Challah Sufganiyot

Fried Challah Sufganiyot (Courtesy of Michael Persico)

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah commemorates the successful Jewish revolt against the provincial Greek government of Judea during the time of the Second Temple (between 530 BCE and 70 CE, if you’re curious). Led by the Maccabees, the Jews reclaimed the desecrated temple, but they found only one day’s worth of purified oil to light the menorah, which was required to burn continuously. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days, enough time for a fresh supply to arrive.

During the eight days of Hanukkah, we celebrate that miracle by eating foods fried in oil, rivaling Halloween for best gratuitous reason to eat junk food—holiday division. Latkes steal most of the Hanukkah spotlight, but sufganiyot—yeast-raised, jelly-filled donuts—are ever popular. Throughout Israel, bakeries turn into donut factories, producing tray after tray of plump, light, and golden brown beauties. We’ve found that eggy challah dough, enriched with butter and sugar, makes a great donut batter that’s easy to work with. Instead of rolling out the dough and punching out rings as with traditional yeast donuts, we use an ice cream scoop to form and dispense the sufganiyot into the oil.

We love the exotic and festive combination of quince jam and rose petal sugar, but feel free to substitute any jam and sugar combination. May we suggest our Federal Donuts cookbook for inspiration?

Ingredients

DONUTS

½ cup sugar

1 packet active dry yeast

1 cup warm water

3¾ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon plus

2 teaspoons olive oil

3 tablespoons canola oil, plus more for frying

½ cup egg yolks (about 6 large yolks)

⅔ cup butter, at room temperature

2 cups quince (or other fruit) jam


ROSE PETAL SUGAR

1 cup sugar

½ cup crushed dried rose petals

Recipe Steps

  1. MAKE THE DONUTS: Combine the sugar, yeast, and water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the flour, salt, olive oil, canola oil, and egg yolks. Mix on low speed until the dough comes together and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl, about 1 minute.
  2. Gradually mix in the butter, mixing for another minute. Scrape down the side of the bowl and continue mixing for 2 more minutes. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise at room temperature until it has quadrupled in volume, about 4 hours.
  3. Fill a large pot with a generous 2 inches of canola oil. Heat over medium heat until the oil registers 350°F on a candy thermometer. Line a baking sheet with paper towels.
  4. Use an ice cream scoop to drop balls of dough into the hot oil, adjusting the heat as necessary to maintain the oil temperature. Fry the donuts in batches until golden, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon to drain on the prepared baking sheet. Let cool slightly.
  5. MAKE THE ROSE PETAL SUGAR: Combine the sugar and crushed rose petals in a shallow bowl.
  6. Poke a hole in each donut with the tip of a paring knife. Spoon the jam into a large resealable plastic bag, press out the air, and twist the top until the bag feels tight. Snip off a corner of the bag and squeeze the jam into each donut until a bit oozes out. Roll the filled donuts in the rose petal sugar. Serve warm.

FRIED CHALLAH SUFGANIYOT is excerpted from ISRAELI SOUL © 2018 by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook. Photography © 2018 by Michael Persico. Reproduced by permission of Rux Martin Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.