Most Israeli recipes

For Independence Day, try these recipes from the new Israeli cuisine.

By NERIA BARR
April 26, 2015 15:26
food

Sabich. (photo credit: BEN YUSTER)

Is there an Israeli cuisine? The question is often debated by food critics. But in recent years the innovative, bold and fresh cuisine that is served in many of the local restaurants and cafes around the country, created by young and very talented local chefs, proves that there is, and it is great.

Inspired by the different cultures that the new immigrants brought with them from the Diaspora – North African, Balkan, East European or American – the local cuisine is also influenced by local Arab cuisine and makes use of the fantastic fresh produce available here.

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So although most Israelis adopted the Fourth of July tradition and light up their grills for their Independence Day picnic, we wanted to try and present other options.

We approached a number of chefs from around the country and asked them to give us a recipe that for them says “Most Israeli.”

Here are their suggestions – to be served instead of, or next to, your barbecue.

Happy Yom Ha’atzmaut!

SABICH

Sabich (or sabikh) is a very popular sandwich in Israel. It consists of pita or other bread, stuffed with fried eggplant and hard boiled eggs. The dish is said to have stemmed from a tradition among Iraqi Jews, who ate it on Shabbat morning. In the following recipe, provided by Love-Eat café located next to Habima in Tel Aviv, the bread is served separately, and the baked eggplant, hardboiled eggs and thina are served on a plate as a sharing dish.

✔ 1⁄3-½ cup prepared tehina sauce
✔ 1 eggplant
✔ 4 cherry tomatoes
✔ 1 hard-boiled egg, halved
✔ 1 small red onion, sliced
✔ 2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
✔ Olive oil
✔ Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 180°.

Slice the eggplant to 2 cm. thick slices.

Arrange in one layer on a lined baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Arrange the cherry tomatoes next to the eggplant slices and season with salt.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the eggplant slices are nicely browned, and the tomatoes burst out of their skins.

To serve: place tehina in the bottom of a plate and rotate the plate so that the sauce covers the bottom of the whole plate. Arrange the rest of the ingredients on the plate – not mixed but next to each other.

Season the parsley with olive oil, salt and pepper and sprinkle evenly on the plate.

Serve with hot green pepper and bread.

ISRAELI SHAKSHUKA

One of the flag dishes – served for breakfast or lunch, or sometime supper, shakshuka can be made in many different ways.

This one was prepared by the cooks of a small restaurant called The Mitbahon (The Kitchenette), located in the Kerem Hateimanim neighborhood of Tel Aviv, next to the Carmel Market. The Mitbahon is a market restaurant, serving dishes inspiredby fresh produce. Their choice for the “most Israeli” dish is shakshuka with feta cheese and olives.

✔ 8 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
✔ 4 red pepper, chopped
✔ 1 large onion, chopped
✔ 7 cloves garlic, chopped
✔ Handful parsley leaves, chopped
✔ Handful cilantro, chopped
✔ ¼ tsp. pepper
✔ Salt to taste
✔ 1 tsp. sugar
✔ 6 to 8 eggs (depending on number of diners)
✔ ½ cup pitted green olives, chopped
✔ 100 gr. feta cheese
✔ 6 basil leaves, chopped
✔ Olive oil

Heat a little oil in a large pan over medium flame, and sauté the onions until transparent.

Add garlic and continue cooking until golden. Add peppers and cook until softened. Add the tomatoes, pepper and salt and cook over low heat until tomatoes are softened and the texture is smooth. Add herbs and mix.

Add eggs: break each egg into a small bowl, make a small well in the sauce and gently glide the egg into it. Continue with the rest of the eggs. Allow 1 or 2 eggs per person. Arrange the feta cubes and olives between the eggs, evenly.

Cover and cook until eggs are cooked to desired degree.

Serve with tehina, fresh bread and olives.

ROASTED EGGPLANT WITH BEETS AND LENTILS

1 sharing dish for 4

Roasted eggplant seems to star in many restaurants around the country and tourists visiting Israel often say how much they love it, as do many Israelis. Chef Dganit Azoulay, who serves gourmet Israeli food in her Zichron Ya’acov restaurant Adama, adds roasted peppers and beets, and lentil salad to the eggplant-tehina combination, making it a large center sharing dish, just the way we like it.

For the roasted eggplant:
✔ 1 whole eggplant
✔ 3 cloves garlic, minced
✔ 3 Tbsp. olive oil
✔ Juice of 1 lemon
✔ Salt and pepper to taste
✔ 1 Tbsp. unprepared (raw) thina

For the beets:
✔ 6 medium beetroots
✔ ¼ cup olive oil
✔ ½ tsp. pepper
✔ ½ tsp. coarse salt
✔ 1 Tbsp. sugar

For the lentils:
✔ ¼ cup black lentils
✔ ¼ cup green lentils
✔ Handful fresh chopped parsley
✔ ¼ onion, chopped
✔ Pinch cumin
✔ 1 Tbsp. olive oil
✔ Black pepper
✔ Coarse salt
✔ A few drops of lemon juice

Prepare the eggplant: burn the eggplant on open fire for 5-6 minutes on each side, until it becomes tender. Peel while still warm and place the flesh in a sieve over the sink to drain excess liquid.

Transfer to a container, add olive oil and minced garlic, cover and chill for at least 20 minutes.

Prepare the beets: cook in water for 30 minutes or until tender. Cool and peel the beets, and cut into 1x1cm. cubes. Transfer to a mixing bowl, add the rest of the ingredients and gently toss.

Prepare lentils: cook in boiling water for 30 minutes or until cooked but not mushy.

Cool and add the onion, parsley and seasonings.

Mix well.

To serve: place the eggplant in an elongated plate, squeeze lemon juice on top and sprinkle salt and pepper. With a zigzag motion drizzle the tehina on top.

Arrange the beet cubes on both sides of the eggplant and top with a few Tablespoonfuls of lentils.

EGGPLANT AND TOMATO SALSA

Another take on the all-Israeli dish of eggplant and tehina comes from chef Alon Lipanski of Bistro Brown in Tel Aviv. Lipanski serves it with a confit of tomatoes and whole chickpeas.

✔ 1 eggplant
✔ 120 gr. tehina
✔ 100 ml. very cold water
✔ 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
✔ ¼ tsp. table salt

For the salsa:
✔ 5 cherry tomatoes
✔ 50 gr. cooked chickpeas
✔ 10 parsley leaves
✔ ½ Tbsp. olive oil
✔ Squeeze lemon juice
✔ Salt

Prepare tehina as in previous recipe – place all the ingredients except the water in a mixing bowl, and start whisking, adding the water slowly until texture is smooth and color light. Prepare tomato salsa: heat oven to 120°.

Cut tomatoes in half and season with a little salt, sugar and a few drops of olive oil. Place on a lined baking sheet and roast in the oven for 50 minutes.

When tomatoes are baked, remove from the oven and cool. Mix with the chickpeas and parsley and season with a little lemon juice, salt and olive oil.

Prepare eggplant as in previous recipe – burn on open flame and peel while still warm.

To serve: in a deep serving plate place 2 Tbsp. tehina sauce and place the still warm eggplant in the middle. Using a tablespoon spread the salsa around the eggplant and serve.

ISRAELI FISH CARPACCIO

Serves 4

Chef Eyal Lavi, chef of Rokach 73 and Rokach Shuk in Tel Aviv, specializes in fish.

To make the summer fish carpaccio Israeli – he serves it with what can be described as a deconstructed Israel salad – red beets, eggplant, sliced small cucumbers, radishes, spicy olives, tehina, labaneh, hot pepper and herbs. This is a dish that proudly represents the new Israeli cuisine – modern, fresh and delicious.

✔ 250 gr. fillet of sea fish, skin removed
✔ 1 roasted, peeled beetroot, sliced or cubed
✔ 1 small (baladi) cucumber, sliced thinly using a peeler
✔ 1 roasted eggplant, peeled
✔ 50 gr. labaneh cheese
✔ 1 fresh chili pepper, sliced thinly, seeds removed
✔ 3 radishes, sliced thinly
✔ 1 Tbsp. kalamata or other black olives, pitted and chopped
✔ 4 basil leaves, sliced
✔ 1 tsp. cilantro, chopped
✔ 2 Tbsp. raw tehina
✔ 2 Tbsp. olive oil
✔ 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
✔ ¼ tsp. sea salt
✔ 2 Tbsp. roasted pine nuts

Slice the fish into as thin slices. Divide into 4 portions. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on each portion and gently pound to a thin carpaccio. Transfer each portion to a serving plate.

Place few slices of cucumber and radishes in the middle of each plate, arrange the beet cubes, chopped olives, sliced basil and chili slices evenly on the carpaccio, mix together thina, olive oil, lemon juice and salt, and drizzle over the carpaccio.

Season the eggplant and place a Tbsp.

on each serving. Add a dollop of cheese on each plate, and finish with a few drops of olive oil and pine nuts.

KEBAB OF GROUPER FISH ON A BED OF TEHINA AND YOGURT

Makes 4

Many Israelis will stuff their pitot with meat kebabs and tehina during their barbecue get-together. Chef Haviv Moshe of Al Hamayim on the Herzliya Beach likes his kebabs made from grouper. For him this dish is a combination of modern Mediterranean cuisine and our love for the grill.

✔ 1 kg. fillet of grouper, skin removed, chopped or ground
✔ 1 bunch parsley, chopped
✔ 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
✔ 5 tomatoes, peeled, seeds removed, chopped
✔ 3 red onions, chopped
✔ 2 Tbsp. salt
✔ 1 Tbsp. cumin 

For the tehina sauce:
✔ 1 cup tehina
✔ 3⁄4 cup very cold water
✔ Juice of 1 lemon
✔ ½ tsp. salt
✔ 1 tsp. curry powder (optional)

For the lemon yogurt:
✔ 1 cup yogurt
✔ Juice of ½ lemon
✔ 1 tsp. salt

For the tomato salsa:
✔ 6 tomatoes, grated
✔ 1 chili, seeds removed, chopped
✔ 1 clove garlic, minced
✔ 2 Tbsp. olive oil
✔ Juice of ½ lemon
✔ 1 Tbsp. salt

Prepare kebabs: place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well until homogeneous. Shape into kebabs – make them elongated or round.

Grease a grill pan or a regular pan and cook the kebabs 2 minutes on each side.

Prepare the tehina – mix together all the ingredients.

Prepare the yogurt - mix together all the ingredients.

Prepare the tomato salsa - mix together all the ingredients.

Serve the kebabs with the sauces on the side.

ISRAELI FISH KEBABS

Makes 4

It seems that a number of Israeli chefs consider fish kebabs to be a dish that represent the new Israeli cuisine. Chef Michael Katz of the Jerusalem trattoria Haba located near the Mahaneh Yehuda market has another version that is more like fish cakes. He mixes a few different kinds of fish for deeper flavor. At home you can use two kinds or one.

✔ 300 gr. gray mullet (buri) chopped
✔ 300 gr. tilapia (amnun) chopped
✔ 300 gr. cod, chopped
✔ 3⁄4 cup bread crumbs
✔ 25 gr. pine nuts
✔ 2 cloves garlic, minced
✔ 2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
✔ 1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
✔ 2 Tbsp. chopped green onion
✔ ½ onion, chopped
✔ ¼ tsp. each: cumin, hot chili powder, ground coriander, Ras el Hanut seasoning mixture
✔ ½ tsp. baking soda
✔ ½ tsp. salt 

Heat oven to 160º and roast the pine nuts on a baking sheet for 7 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn heat up to 200°.

Place all the ingredients in a bowl, and using your hands, gently knead the mixture.

This is a little tricky – knead too much and the fish kebabs may turn rubbery, knead too little and they will fall apart. The way to avoid such mishaps is by using a trial and error method: knead only until the mixture comes together. Then shape one fish cake, bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes and check – if the fish cake falls apart – knead some more. This will also allow you to taste and correct the seasoning.

Shape the mass into 60 gr. patties, place on a tray and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Transfer to a lined baking sheet and bake at 200° for 8-10 minutes.

Serve with thina, lemon juice and salad.

FLANK STEAK SKEWER WITH HERBS AND GREEN GARLIC


It wouldn’t be Yom Ha’atzmaut without any grilled meat, so we got a recipe for a skewer that is garnished with fresh herbs and the fresh green garlic available in the markets now. Chef Boaz Peled serves is in his Tel Aviv trendy Mitbach Layla (Night Kitchen) Restaurant with a sauce that is inspired by the Italian cuisine- Gremolata – but can easily be called Israeli. The recipe is for 1 person double the the amounts according to the number of diners. Allow 120 gr. to 150 gr. meat per person.

✔ Aged flank steak, cut into 4x4 cm. cubes
✔ Skewers
✔ Salt and pepper

For the gremolata:
✔ ½ cup green leaves of garlic (choose fresh, smooth leaves)
✔ Coarse salt
✔ 2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
✔ 1 tsp. green hot pepper, chopped
✔ 1 tsp. radish, sliced into sticks
✔ 1 tsp. lemon chopped with peel on
✔ ¼ cup olive oil
✔ Green almonds (optional)

Prepare the gremolata sauce: using pestle and mortar crush the garlic leaves with a little coarse salt until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. If you find green almonds in the market, slice 1-2 and add to the sauce.

For added color replace the green epper with a red one.

Skewer the meat, season with salt and pepper and roast on very hot grill to until meat is medium done. Serve with green garlic gremolata.

CHEESE KRANTZ CAKE WITH CANDIED ORANGE PEEL

Makes 2 loaf pans

We couldn’t end this story without a dessert, so we asked pastry chef Oren Becker to give us his “most Israeli” cake. Becker says for him the combination of Jaffa oranges and white cheese, a common ingredient in many Israeli suppers, makes this cake this cake a typical and “most Israeli recipe.” We say: enjoy it on Independence Day or Shavuot.

For the cake:
✔ 500 gr. flour, sifted
✔ 25 gr. fresh yeast
✔ 2 large eggs
✔ Pinch salt
✔ 50 gr. demerara sugar
✔ 100 gr. butter, at room temperature
✔ 125 ml. milk
✔ 1 tsp. lemon zest

For the filling:
✔ 400 gr. 5% white cheese
✔ ½ container 9% yogurt
✔ ½ cup corn starch
✔ 1 cup demerara sugar
✔ 125 gr. cream cheese
✔ 1 tsp. lemon zest
✔ 3 Tbsp. candied orange peel

Make the dough: in a mixer bowl melt yeast in a little milk and sugar.add the rest of the ingredients and knead about 12 minutes, or until dough is smooth. Leave the dough in the bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile prepare the filling: in a bowl mix together all the ingredients except the candied orange peel, adding them one by one according to the order in the list of ingredients. Mix well until smooth. Keep in a closed container until ready to use.

After 30 minutes, remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 2 equal parts. On a lightly floured work surface roll out each part into a rectangle.

Spread the filling evenly on the dough and sprinkle with the candied orange peel.

Roll tightly and twist into a braid.

Place each cake in a greased baking pan and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes, until doubled in size.

Brush the cakes with egg and bake at 170º for 45 minutes.


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