Food: The Jerusalem melting pot

Georgian, Armenian, and traditional Jewish foods meet in a city often called the center of the world.

Jerusalem old city 88 (photo credit: )
Jerusalem old city 88
(photo credit: )
In a city divided among a variety of religions and ethnic groups, it might be expected that even gastronomy is not entirely free of politics. It is certainly a fascinating adventure for both the palate and the soul. The food scene in Jerusalem has changed over the decades, and the diverse inhabitants have created a live-and-let-live state of culinary affairs. In a beautiful stone house in the heart of Nahalat Shiva, Kangaroo restaurant is a meeting place for the Georgian community. David and Lina Chiskarshvili, who made aliya from Georgia in 1992, offer exclusive dishes such as khinkali, tzebork and khachapuri - staples of the Georgian cuisine. Patrons of this eatery also have the opportunity to savor Georgian wines while taking in a unique ambiance. Lina's Khinkali 1 kg. minced meat. 3 onions, finely chopped 1/4 cup cilantro 1/4 cup fresh parsley 500 gr. flour salt and pepper to taste Mince the meat with the onions, coriander and parsley in a food processor. Season the minced meat with salt and pepper, adding 1 glass of warm water, and mix thoroughly. Sift the flour and form a "mound," making a dip in the center. Pour in a glass of water, add some salt and knead the dough. Roll out the dough to a thin layer and cut out rounds using a glass or a cup. Put a spoonful of the meat mixture in the center of the dough circle. Gather the edges together into a bunch and twist the top. Press down slightly to create a form similar to a bulb. Drop khinkali into boiling salted water. They tend to drop to the bottom and then rise to the top of the water. Stir occasionally to prevent from sticking. Allow to boil for a few minutes. Serve hot. Nestled in a cave in the Armenian Quarter, across the street from the police station (near David's Tower), the Armenian Taverne is one of the only places in the country that serves Armenian cuisine. A narrow staircase leads to the arched spacious dining room where authentic paraphernalia adorn the walls. Soujookh (Armenian spiced dried sausage), churek (flat Armenian bread with sesame seeds) and kadin budu kufta (breaded meat ovals), are among the highlights of the rich menu. Armenian Eggplant Casserole 1 eggplant 4 tomatoes 1 green pepper, diced 1/4 cup olive oil 1 clove garlic, finely minced pepper, freshly ground 1 medium onion, sliced 1 1/2 tsp. salt Peel and dice eggplant. Heat oil in a skillet and add onion, green pepper and eggplant. Stir over low heat until eggplant is soft. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper and simmer a few minutes. At this point you can add basil, chives, parsley, tarragon or oregano to taste. Turn into casserole dish and bake at 175 for 40 minutes. May be served hot or cold. Rehov Mea She'arim got its name from the maze of yards with an endless number of gates facing the nearby Old City. Among the tiny shops adorning the street is Deitch, an East European Jewish food restaurant. The kitchen at this "men only" eatery dishes up Jerusalemite kugel, two types of gefilte fish, chicken soup, mashed potatoes and chopped liver. If you visit on a holiday you'll find homemade kreplach as well. With a no-reservation policy, the prices at this eatery are a bargain. Chopped liver 1 kg. chicken liver (koshered) 4 onions, finely chopped 4 Tbsp. schmaltz (fat) 4 hard-boiled eggs salt and pepper In a large skillet, fry onions in schmaltz until lightly browned. Set aside. If needed, add more schmaltz to skillet and saut liver until just done. Remove from skillet. Using a meat grinder, coarsely grind ingredients separately. (If a you do not have a meat grinder, a Cuisinart can be used but results will be pastier.) Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in a large bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve with rye bread or a bagel. In 1868, the first stone house was built outside the walls of the Old City. Today, that same building, a living memory of the early days of the settlement of new Jerusalem, houses an elite restaurant, appropriately named "1868." Chef Menahem Katz, who grew up with the aromas of a traditional Jewish home in Mea She'arim, brings a young, refreshing culinary accent to the kitchen of the restaurant, combining raw materials from the Jerusalem area with French and Italian traditional cooking. Menahem Katz's Bass with Garlic Puree 6 bass fillets 500 gr. garlic cloves 1 Tbsp. sugar 1 small red chilli pepper 1 tsp. ground coriander seeds 1 c. white wine 250 ml. cream salt and pepper to taste Cook garlic in wine over low heat for approximately half an hour until wine is completely reduced; strain. Bring cream to a boil; add sugar, coriander, salt. Add garlic and puree the mixture. Season the fish with salt and pepper, place in a pan lined with waxed paper. Bake at high temperature for 5-10 minutes. Place fillet on top of garlic puree and serve. Lilach Rubin contributed to this report.