Carmel cuisine

A new cookbook offers a host of favorite recipes created at the exclusive Carmel Forest Spa Resort.

October 31, 2012 12:38
Carmel cuisine

Carmel cuisine. (photo credit: oded marom)

Guests at the exclusive Carmel Forest Spa Resort on Mount Carmel first fall in love with the quiet, relaxing atmosphere, the pampering rooms and spa, as well as the clean air and magnificent views. But they soon learn to enjoy and look forward to the innovative healthful dishes served at the resort’s restaurant.

In charge of the culinary excellence are chef Amir Khalfon and his capable staff, who are ever creating sumptuous new menu ideas. True to the new trend of seasonal cuisine, they must change menus every few months and create new delicacies for returning guests as well.

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After receiving numerous requests from their guests over the years who ask for the recipes, they decided to publish a cookbook that not only offers the recipes for some of the resort’s more popular dishes but also conveys the love the staff of Carmel Forest Spa have for their Garden of Eden on the mountain, the inspiration they get from the surrounding nature, the trees, the flowers, the fresh morning dew and their herb garden.

This book is also about the people who make the spa hotel what it is – the caring kitchen staff behind the steaming pots and hot ovens, many of them Galilee locals who bring their cooking traditions from home and combine them with modern techniques and healthful ideas.

The Carmel Forest Resort’s chef faces a difficult daily challenge when creating his dishes. The hotel is described as a health resort and spa, meaning that he not only has to serve his guests top-quality food, but it should also be in accordance with the dietician’s demands, low fat, low cholesterol, low sodium but high in healthful nutrients.

The cookbook, Ya’arot Hacarmel – Love Story (in Hebrew), is divided into several sections: brunch, salads, starters, soups, main courses, Druse cuisine, breads and desserts.

Makes 6 servings

This rich salad earned its nickname due to the quality ingredients. Rich in herbs, nuts and seeds, it is seasoned with reddish-purple sumac, a typical spice used in the local cuisine. When in season, replace the cranberries with pomegranate seeds. The salad is sometimes served wrapped in a Druse pita (see photo).

2 cups 1-cm. slices of green onion
4 cups parsley leaves, chopped
2 cups mint, coarsely chopped
1 cup (100 gr.) roasted almonds, coarsely chopped
1 cup (100 gr.) roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
1⁄3 cup (50 gr.) roasted shelled sunflower seeds
1⁄3 cup (50 gr.) roasted shelled pumpkin seeds
1 cup (100 gr.) dried cranberries Dressing:
1⁄2 cup olive oil
1⁄3 cup lemon juice
1 Tbsp. sumac
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a jar with a screw-on lid, shake together all the dressing ingredients well.

To assemble the salad: Place all the ingredients in a large bowl, toss, pour 1⁄2 the dressing, toss and taste. Add more dressing if necessary.

Makes 6

This starter is delicious and easy to prepare and is great when entertaining.

The rice sheets, once hard to find here, are now sold in many supermarkets.
They keep well for a long time. All you need to do before preparing the dish is wet them.

6 rice sheets
6 leaves of iceberg lettuce
Chives (optional) Vegetable filling:
200 gr. rice noodles, soaked in water
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
1 cup Chinese sprouts
2 cucumbers, seeds removed, and julienned
4 green onions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
10 mint leaves
10 basil leaves
1 cup (100 gr.) roasted and ground peanuts
1 tsp. dark sesame oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch chili flakes

For the soy dip:

3 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. sweet chili sauce
1 tsp. peanut butter
1 tsp. dark sesame oil
1 tsp. sugar

To prepare the dip: Mix all ingredients together in a closed jar. Shake until blended.

To prepare the filling: Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.

To assemble the dish: Soak the rice sheets in water for 10-20 seconds until softened and pliable. Remove from water and place on a clean towel. Place a lettuce leaf on the rice sheet, add 1 Tbsp of the filling and roll.

Place on the side, covered with damp towel to avoid drying. Prepare all the rolls.

When ready to serve: Slice each roll into 3-cm. thick slices. Tie each slice with a chive (see photo). Serve with the dip on the side.

If preparing a long time ahead of serving, the chef suggests wrapping each slice with a lettuce leaf, to keep them from drying up, and tie with a chive.


Makes 4

This dish is another hit among guests. It combines opposing tastes and textures to create that Asian magic. The ingredients are readily available in Asian and healthfood shops, as well as some supermarkets.

5 fresh skinless tuna steaks (160 gr. each)
4 nori seaweed leaves
1 cup (240 ml.) corn or canola oil, for frying

For the marinade:
2 Tbsp. white miso
1 Tbsp. mirin (sweetened rice wine)
1 Tbsp. sake (rice wine)
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
2 Tbsp. water
Pinch chili flakes For the crust:
1 cup (120 gr.) panko bread crumbs
1 cup (140 gr.) flax seeds
1 cup (100 gr.) ground almonds
1 Tbsp. sesame seeds

For the sauce:
4 geranium leaves
3 Tbsp. sugar
Pinch chili flakes
1 cup (240 ml.) dry white wine
2 Tbsp. mirin
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. water
6 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. corn starch mixed with 2-3 Tbsp. water

To prepare marinade: Bring all the ingredients to a boil and cook, while mixing, until smooth. Remove from heat and cool. When cold, place the fish in the marinade, cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.

To prepare the sauce: Caramelize the sugar in a pan, add chili and geranium leaves, add wine and cook until reduced to half. Add the vinegar, water and soy sauce, bring to a boil and reduce. If necessary, thicken with 1 Tbsp. cornstarch mixed with 3 Tbsp. water.

Just before serving, place each tuna steak on one nori seaweed leaf and roll like a cigar. Wet the outer side of the nori with the marinade.

Mix the panko bread crumbs with the flax seeds and sesame seeds. Dip each wrapped tuna steak in the crumb mixture.

Heat oil in a skillet and fry the wrapped tuna steaks 2 minutes on each side or until crunchy.

To serve: Slice each steak into 1-cm. slices and arrange overlapping. Pour sauce on top. The chef suggests serving this dish with boiled white rice.

Makes 8-10 portions
This warming soup is really a complete meal. The secret to any good goulash, says the chef, is to know the exact time to add the potatoes. The secret is to avoid overcooking them, which results in the potatoes disintegrating in the soup, but to make sure they’re cooked long enough so they absorb all the flavors. He says the caraway seeds are a must.

2 large onions, chopped
3-4 Tbsp. canola oil
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 celery stick diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 fresh tomatoes, peeled and diced
2 Tbsp. sweet paprika
1⁄2 kg. stewing beef, cubed*
100 gr. smoked goose breast, diced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 heaped Tbsp. tomato paste
3 liter chicken or vegetable stock or water
1 tsp. ground caraway seeds
1 tsp. cumin
2-3 large potatoes (about 1⁄2 kg.), peeled and cut into 1 cm. cubes

Lemon zest
1⁄2 bunch chopped coriander

*Use shoulder No. 5 or cut No. 8

Heat oil in a large pot and sauté onions for 8 minutes, until golden. Add celery and carrot and continue cooking 3 more minutes. Add garlic, tomatoes and paprika and continue cooking 3 more minutes, while stirring all the time. Be careful not to burn the vegetables.

Add the meat and goose cubes, season with salt and pepper, and brown the meat. The fat from the goose should melt, but you can add a little oil if it is not enough. Add the tomato paste and continue cooking 1-2 minutes.

Pour the stock into the pot and bring to a boil. Season, cover and cook for an hour and a half over low heat until meat is tender. Add the potato and cook 30 more minutes or until ready. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Serve in soup bowls with chopped coriander leaves and a little lemon zest.

Makes 6

Before you start, make sure to have Persian pickled lemon and saffron on hand – two ingredients that are not always stocked in most kitchens but add unsurpassed flavor.

Together with the root vegetables, this will soon become a favorite winter chicken dish to be served for special guests.

4 chicken thighs, divided
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 onions, cubed
1 fennel bulb, diced
1 celery root, peeled and diced
1 parsley root, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 celery stick, diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 liter chicken stock
A few saffron strings, soaked in a little water
1 Tbsp. silan
2 Persian lemons, halved or punctured
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper


Heat oil in a wide pot and brown the chicken for 10 minutes, turning so all sides brown. Add onion and cook until it is golden. Add the rest of the vegetables and the garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the chicken stock and add the saffron, the silan, bay leaves and Persian lemon. Bring to a boil, lower heat and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until done to your taste.

Serve with white rice or couscous.


There are many dessert ideas in the cookbook, but we chose one that is very easy to make and is filled with goodness. Miriam is chef Khalfon’s aunt.

750 gr. (1 and a half packages) vacuumpacked seedless dates
1⁄2 cup honey
1 cup whole roasted hazelnuts
100 gr. roasted chopped walnuts
100 gr. roasted pistachio nuts, chopped
100 gr. roasted almonds, chopped

3 Tbsp. oil
200 gr. roasted sesame seeds

Cook dates and honey in a small pot over medium heat until soft and smooth.
Add nuts, mix well and remove from heat. Refrigerate for two hours.

Oil a work surface. Divide the mixture into three and form sausage-like lengths 31⁄2 cm. in diameter. Place the sesame seeds in a deep plate and dip the rolls in the sesame until covered well.

Wrap the rolls in aluminum foil and freeze.

To serve: Remove from freezer and slice into 1⁄2-cm. slices.

Variation: Make small balls from the mixture and dip in either sesame or coconut flakes. They are a great substitute for chocolate truffles.

Recipes and photos courtesy of Carmel Forest Spa Resort.

The cookbook Ya’arot Hacarmel – Love Story costs NIS 128 and is available at the Carmel Forest Spa Resort, the Royal Beach Eilat and the Beresheet Hotel in Mitzpe Ramon, as well as by phone: (04) 830-7872.

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