Chef Zvika Avisar creates local Israeli cuisine that is influenced by traditional French cooking methods. He does this at his restaurant in the Rothschild boutique hotel, located in one of the loveliest buildings on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv.
The restaurant reflects the philosophy that inspired the concept of the beautifully appointed hotel and is evident in every detail.
The chef gives a modern interpretation to the legacy of the baron himself, creating gourmet food from fresh locally grown ingredients but using methods he learned in some of the best restaurants in Europe.
We asked Avisar to create a few dishes with turnips, the humble winter root vegetable that is now available in the markets and lends itself well to soups, salads and stews.
PICKLED TURNIPS WITH CARDAMOM AND TARRAGON
This dish has a surprising new taste.
✔ 10 small turnips
✔ 2 small dry shata peppers (or less)
✔ 4 cardamom pods
✔ 2 cups water
✔ 2 cups apple vinegar
✔ 1 cup olive oil
✔ 2 Tbsp. kosher salt
✔ 1 sprig tarragon
Wash the turnips very well and cut into quarters. Mix peppers, cardamom, oil, salt and tarragon in a bowl.
Arrange the turnips and seasoning mixture in layers in a jar with a top. Mix water and vinegar and pour enough to cover.
Seal the jar and place on a shelf for about 2 weeks. Open, taste and keep refrigerated after opening.
TURNIPS IN BUTTER SAUCE
This winter side dish is wonderful with fish.
✔ 1 kg. large turnips
✔ ½ kg. coarse salt
✔ 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
✔ 1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
✔ 1 tsp. salt
✔ ¼ tsp. black pepper
✔ 1 Tbsp. olive oil
✔ 1⁄3 cup white wine
✔ 1 Tbsp. butter, chilled
Heat oven to 180°. Spread the coarse salt on a baking sheet and place turnips on top. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
When cooled, slice the turnips to ½ cm slices. Discard the salt.
Heat a skillet with olive oil and fry the turnip slices until golden. Place on a serving plate.
Add the garlic and rosemary to the skillet, season with salt and pepper, add the wine and cook until reduced to half. Remove from heat. Add the butter, while stirring, until texture is smooth and velvety.
Pour sauce over the turnips and serve.
BAKED TURNIPS WITH BLUE CHEESE
When baked, the turnips release a sweet and nutty flavor that simply calls for a little blue cheese.
✔ 1 kg. small turnips
✔ 3 leeks, white part only
✔ 10 cloves garlic
✔ ½ cup white wine
✔ ½ cup olive oil
✔ 1 Tbsp. coarse salt
✔ 6 sprigs thyme
✔ 1 tsp. black pepper
✔ 3 Tbsp. blue cheese, crumbled
Heat oven to 200°. Wash the turnips and quarter them. Cut the leeks into quarters and wash well to remove grit. Peel the garlic cloves. Place turnips, leeks, thyme and garlic in a baking dish. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with wine and oil and mix well with your hands.
Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle with blues cheese and return to oven for 10 more minutes.
This is an easy recipe for a comforting winter soup that requires little work and is ideal for an evening in front of the small screen.
✔ 1 kg. small turnips, peeled and cubed
✔ 1 large potato, peeled
✔ 1 onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
✔ 4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
✔ 5 sprigs fresh sage
✔ ½ cup olive oil
✔ Black pepper
✔ 5 liters water
Heat the oil in a medium pot. Sauté the onions. Add turnips, potato and garlic. After a few minutes, add the sage leaves, cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower heat to minimum, cover and let simmer until vegetables are soft. Remove from heat.
Using a fork, carefully remove the sage leaves and discard. Using a hand blender, blend the soup until smooth and creamy.
Season with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with a few drops of olive oil.
TURNIP SALAD WITH HAZELNUTS
This is a light and easy salad for a dairy meal.
✔ 10 turnips, washed well
✔ ½ kg. coarse salt
✔ 2 Tbsp. shelled hazelnuts, chopped
✔ 1 bunch arugula leaves
✔ 200 gr. Parmesan cheese
✔ 2 Tbsp. olive oil
✔ 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
✔ Salt and pepper
Heat the oven to 180°. Spread the coarse salt on a baking dish and place the turnips on top. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. When cooled, cut the turnips into quarters, place in a salad bowl, add the rest of the ingredients except the cheese.
Season with oil, lemon, salt and pepper and mix well. Divide the salad among four dishes.
Add Parmesan shavings on top of each salad bowl and serve.
Recipes and photos courtesy of chef Zvika Avisar, Rothschild Hotel, 96 Rothschild Boulevard, Tel Aviv. (03) 957-8888 ext.2. Open daily 7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. for breakfast. 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. for lunch. 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. for dinner.