Cooking Class: A treasury of tastes

Celebrate the diversity of Israeli cuisine with a new cookbook that culls traditional Jewish recipes from around the globe.

LachmaJoun  (photo credit: EILON PAZ)
(photo credit: EILON PAZ)
A new cookbook, The Treasure of Jewish Cooking by the gourmet food magazine Al Hashulchan, was published in time for Passover and holds a real treasure trove. It contains 200 recipes, among them dishes that have become household classics in most Israeli kitchens, alongside others that are known only to members of certain families.
In addition to the traditional recipes, there are newer versions of old favorites, created by local chefs that were inspired by what was served in their families kitchens.
“When speaking about Israeli cuisine,” write the editors of the book Jana Gur and Iris Gelbart in the preface, “we immediately mention the 70 diasporas, the melting pot and other worn-out expressions.
We need to distance ourselves a little in order to grasp the uniqueness and richness of the culinary baggage that was brought here by the olim. Dozens of Jewish cooking traditions that developed in all parts of the world, with every-day as well as holiday recipes, unique cooking techniques and utensils, traditions and customs that landed here and only now begin to surface.”
The book is in Hebrew, but the publishers say they are thinking about publishing it in English in the future. In the meantime, here are a few recipes that are ideal for an Independence Day gathering.
Chef Avi Levy has perfected his family’s recipe for the North African deep-dish potato pie. It is a fluffy, crustless potato and egg pie with herbs that is fried on the stove and then baked in the oven. Before you start, you will need a rather high, narrow pot, about 16-18 cm in diameter, preferably with a non-stick coating. The oil may start splattering as it bakes, so place the pot in a tin foil baking pan before putting it in the oven.
✔ 4 medium-size potatoes, washed but not peeled ✔ 1 large onion, chopped ✔ 1 bunch parsley, chopped ✔ 1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper ✔ 1 Tbsp. salt ✔ 1 tsp. turmeric✔ 1 tsp. chicken-flavored soup mix ✔ 10 eggs✔ 1 cup oil ✔ Juice of 1⁄2 lemon Boil potatoes until almost tender; the hearts should remain hard. Chill, peel and puree until almost smooth – leave a few lumps. Add eggs, vegetables and seasonings.
The mixture will seem a little runny – that’s fine.
Heat the oven to 200º. Heat the oil in a tall cooking pot until very hot but not bubbling. Pour the potato mixture into the pot, cover and fry over medium heat for 12 minutes.
Remove the cover and place the pot on a cooking sheet to keep the oven clean, and bake in the oven about 75 minutes until done (test with a toothpick).
Remove from oven. Run a sharp knife around the sides of the pot and drizzle the pie with lemon juice. Wait 2-3 minutes and carefully turn over onto a platter. Serve hot or cold.
Ruth Oliver presents the Mediterranean answer to pizza. She says that much like pizza, the thickness of the crust is a matter of taste. You choose how thin to roll the dough and the amount of topping, usually meat, to serve on the bread. Whichever way you choose, she says, serve it as they do in the street stalls in Turkey – rolled up with a few slices of tomato, onion and a little parsley.
For the dough: ✔ 700 gr. (5 cups) bread flour ✔ 50 gr. (1 sachet or cube) fresh yeast ✔ 60 ml. (4 Tbsp.) oil ✔ 2 tsp. salt ✔ 2 Tbsp. sugar ✔ 420 ml. (1 3⁄4 cups) water Meat topping: ✔ 3⁄4 cup olive oil ✔ 1 large onion, chopped ✔ 1 heaping tsp. paprika ✔ 1 heaping Tbsp. tomato puree ✔ 3 cloves garlic, minced ✔ 500 gr. ground lamb with a little fat ✔ 2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeds removed, and cubed ✔ 1 hot pepper, chopped very finely ✔ 1⁄2 bunch parsley, chopped ✔ Salt and pepper ✔ 50 gr. pine nuts To serve: ✔ 1 red onion, sliced thinly ✔ 1 tomato, sliced ✔ 1⁄2 bunch parsley, leaves only
To prepare the dough: Mix ingredients together about 10 minutes. Cover and let rise for an hour.
To prepare the topping: Fry onions in 3 Tbsp. olive oil until golden. Add paprika and tomato puree. Fry for 1 minute more. Place mixture in a mixing bowl. Add meat, garlic, tomatoes, hot pepper, parsley, salt and pepper, and mix well. Heat the oven to 220º.
Divide the dough into 10 balls, about 110 gr. each. On a lightly floured surface, flatten each ball into 1 to 1⁄2 cm. thick discs. Place dough discs on an oiled and floured baking sheet. Brush each disc with about 1 Tbsp. oil and spread a little of the meat mixture. Sprinkle with pine nuts.
Bake 12-15 minutes until dough is baked and meat done. Remove from oven, cool 1-2 minutes, and place a little onion, slice of tomato and parsley leaves on each disc. Then roll and serve.
Sambusak is a vegetarian pastry pocket filled with chickpeas, which is a wonderful light meal served with tomato salad.
Nir Dudek, who recreated this recipe, says it is such a favorite among his wife’s Iraqi family that there used to be fights over who ate more.
Dough ✔ 500 gr. (31⁄2 cups) flour ✔ 100 gr. margarine (or butter) ✔ 1 egg ✔ 1⁄2 tsp. salt ✔ 3⁄4 Tbsp. dry yeast ✔ 1 cup water Gilling ✔ 1⁄2 kg. chickpea, cooked, frozen or from a can, washed and strained ✔ 1⁄4 cup oil ✔ 4 onions, sliced thinly ✔ 1⁄2 tsp. cumin ✔ 1⁄2 tsp. salt ✔ 1⁄2 tsp. black pepper ✔ Oil for deep frying
To prepare dough: Using your fingers, mix flour and margarine in a bowl until crumbs form. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Knead on a floured surface about 3 minutes, until dough becomes smooth and gluten fibers form. Place in a bowl and cover. Let rise about an hour.
To prepare filling: Blend chickpeas in a food processor. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and fry onions until browned. Add ground chickpeas and seasoning and mix. Continue cooking until the mixture becomes golden. Chill. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
With moistened hands, roll 40 small balls from the dough (the size of pingpong balls). Place the balls on a tray and cover to avoid drying. Flatten each ball into a small disc, using your palms or a rolling pin. Fill each disc with 1 Tbsp. of the chickpea mixture. Fold into half a circle and press around to close, using your fingers or a fork. Place one layer of the filled sambusak on each baking sheet. At this stage, you can freeze the sambusak. Thaw half an hour before frying.
To deep-fry the sambusak: Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and fry all the sambusak on both sides. Place in a strainer or on paper towels. Eat fresh or freeze them. To reheat, put them in a 200º oven for 4-5 minutes.
* Variation: Replace chickpea filling with cheese mixture with an added 1 Tbsp. corn flour.
BOIKOS (CHEESE BUNS) Makes 30 bite-size buns
Berta Manovela brings the recipe for these aromatic Balkan cheese-filled buns, which are easy to prepare and are perfect for parties.
✔ 350 gr. (1 small bag) self-rising flour ✔ 250 gr. 5% white cheese ✔ 1 egg ✔ 200 gr. butter or margarine, ✔ 150 gr. crumbled Bulgarian feta ✔ 200 gr. grated hard, sharp yellow cheese Topping ✔ 200 gr. grated hard cheese Heat the oven to 200º. Mix all the ingredients except the cheese for topping in a bowl until you get a very soft batter.
Divide into 30 balls. Dip the balls in the grated cheese and place on a lined baking sheet. Bake about 20 minutes or until golden. Chill a few minutes and serve warm.
All recipes and photos are from the book The Treasure of Jewish Cooking.Al Hashulchan publishing house