Home is where the cookbook is

Using her years of experience dealing with food, Orly Ziv has created an English-language cookbook featuring traditional Israeli recipes.

Orly Ziv cooking at home 370 (photo credit: Katherine Martinelli)
Orly Ziv cooking at home 370
(photo credit: Katherine Martinelli)
After a colorful career as a trained nutritionist and setting up her own successful business offering culinary tours of Israel, Orly Ziv thought long and hard about what her next step would be. As a food lover, it only seemed natural to concentrate her expertise and write a cookbook sharing her vast knowledge of the local Israeli cuisine.
Her first cookbook, the English-language Cook in Israel: Home Cooking Inspiration, features over 100 mostly vegetarian kosher recipes and draws on inspiration from years of expertise in the culinary world as well as her rich food heritage.
Ziv recently sat down with The Jerusalem Post to talk about the cookbook and the inspirations behind it as well as her work in the world of food tourism.
Ziv has always loved cooking and baking and is proud of the diversity found in the cuisine of Israel. While food has always been a part of her life, it wasn't until 2008 that she turned her passion into a business and started taking tourists on culinary tours of the country.
"In 2007 I was at a cooking school in Tuscany and this is where my idea and vision came from," she explains. "I thought it was about time to introduce the concept of culinary tours to Israel."
Just one year after her trip to Italy, Ziv had already set up her own business "Cook in Israel," which allows tourists to get to know the country through unique and personalized culinary tours.
"Until I started doing it, no one was teaching cooking classes or taking tourists on culinary tours [in Israel]," she says. "When I started the business in 2008 they looked at me saying it will never work." Knowing that cooking tours and culinary tourism was popular around the world, Ziv was confident that visitors coming to Israel were looking for it too.
Since starting the business, Ziv has showed hundreds of tourists what Israel has to offer and says it is the best way for them to learn about the local culture and food. "It's a great way to start," she insists.
Of all the programs that Ziv offers, the most popular is a daily tour in Tel Aviv. As part of the tour, tourists explore the Carmel Market and experience foods such as felafel, local spices and Druze pita. Along the way Ziv helps her clients to pick out the best produce and at the end of the shopping trip they make their way to her home to do the cooking.
"It gives people the opportunity to enter a real Israeli home," she explains. With food being such a big part of her life, her family inevitably get involved in the process. "My husband is always my sous chef and sometimes one of my children is there to join in," she says.
Dealing with foreign tourists, Ziv does all her tours and classes in English and caters to the English-speaking market. With a growing following of satisfied customers, she recently started receiving inquiries as to whether or not she had a cookbook. This is where the idea for Cook in Israel: Home Cooking Inspiration began. "I think there are enough cookbooks in Hebrew but I don't think there are many Israeli cookbooks featuring Israeli recipes in English," she explains.
She stresses that while the food featured in the book is all kosher and has a Jewish influence, it is first and foremost an Israeli cookbook. "There are plenty of cookbooks in English focusing on kosher food, but less on traditional Israeli recipes," she says. "Some people think that Jewish food is just chicken soup and matzo balls. I am bringing something else."
Being such a foodie, Ziv didn't just want to provide some of her recipes with glossy pictures. She explains that with her cookbook she aims to inspire people how to cook local food and how to season it properly. She uses the example of the trusted meatball to highlight her point. "Meatballs are a global food," she explains. "I put two special ingredients in mine - parsley and baharat, which is an Iraqi spice. It makes a huge difference to the taste." With this example she highlights that people around the world cook with the same basic ingredients but it's the special techniques and finishing touches that make all the difference.
Continuing on this point, Ziv says that Cook in Israel: Home Cooking Inspiration is as much a book about Israel's culture as it is a recipe book. With over 50 percent of her clients not being Jewish and not having much prior knowledge about Israel, she explains it is interesting for them to know about the food and culture in general, as well as the specific recipes.
In order to gain inspiration for the book, Ziv started with the recipes that she teaches in her classes. As well as the food that is popular among her clients, she then added recipes from her family, as well as recipes for the Jewish holidays.
With both her parents hailing originally from in Saloniki in Greece, Ziv was introduced to Sephardi cooking at an early age with lots of tomato sauce, eggplants and feta cheese. "These are three ingredients that are very significant in the book," she explains.
Home cooking is something that is very important to Ziv. She wanted from the outset to create a book where all the recipes are user-friendly and nothing is too complicated. In a bid to show how easy the recipes are to make, all of the photos were taken in her home while she was cooking and no artificial coloring or styling were used. "The photos show exactly what you will get if you make it," she says while highlighting that some of the recipes also have step-by-step photos.
Cook in Israel: Home Cooking Inspiration can be ordered through Orly Ziv's website at http://www.cookinisrael.com/book and can be shipped worldwide.