Chefs@Google: Janna Gur

Uploaded by AtGoogleTalks on 03.06.2010

>>Susan: I'd like to welcome Janna Gur to come to our Authors@Google talk and I'm personally,
really thrilled to have Janna Gur here since I'm a big fan and a big supporter of her cuisine
and her cookbook, which I, which I own and which I think has many incredible recipes.
So, I was excited to have her here. And one of the reasons I thought it was great and
such a good fit was because Google, as all of you know, as foodies we have a tradition
at Google of having really incredible food. And there's a lot of appreciation for good
food at Google. And we also have a whole group, for example, we have Koogle at Google, which
is an alias that is the Google community that celebrates Passover and gets together and
does a meal. But, Janna Gur has a very impressive background, which I'd like to share.
She's the founder and editor-in-chief of the Israeli food magazine, "Al Hashulhan," did
I say that right? She'll correct, she'll probably say it correctly afterwards. She's published
28 books, and everyone should get them all.
[Susan laughs]
In Hebrew and in English. No, actually just one. I, I can't read Hebrew, including her
first book, "The New Book of Israeli Food: A Culinary Journey." And we have copies of
those books for sale and they're in the back, and with that I'd like to have Janna come
up and introduce, start giving us some background on her perspective. Thank you.
>Janna: Hi, good afternoon. It's really exciting and it's a great honor to be there. As a Google
user, Google is part of our lives, every day, every moment almost, we're Googling something
and to be actually here to speak to you and I know there are many other people somewhere
in the offices, hopefully listening to me, but we, they won't be able to have the cookies,
by the way. We're gonna cookies later. Only those who are actually here, so some people
that are hiding in the rooms, they're welcome to join us.
Ok, thank you, Susan, for such warm introduction. It's, my task is for next hour to try to explain
to you what Israeli food really is. And its, it's a simple question, it's tricky answer
because it's food and cuisine in the making, changing all the time, really finding it itself
all the time and since we're foodies here, I hope, mostly the people who are listening
in, I decided to do it not through history, not through long and theoretical discourse,
but through 12 dishes and ingredients. So, it's gonna be the story of Israeli food in
12 dishes.
And the first one, sorry, I have to, wait a second. I forgot that I'm not, read my password
again. Password, of course, taking up valuable Google time.
Visitor's effect is what it's called, of course. Of course another glitch.
Thank God, could be really embarrassing.
[Janna laughs]
Ok, so here we have our first, the first thing you actually think about when you say "Israeli
food," you think about falafel. So, I have it here, proudly on the screen, but it's not
gonna be part of our Israeli dozen for a simple reason because everybody more or less knows
what it is. "Oh, you're going to Israel, you're gonna have a lot of falafel." So, sure there
is falafel. It's a very popular street snack in Israel, but I think it's about time we
learned about other things which are Israeli food and let's move to our next member of
the family, actually the first one.
And it's much, much less known. And it's very, very ancient. And actually, I'd like to start
here because it takes us all the way back to the Biblical times. And, you know, Israel
is a very young country, 62 years old and, but we do have very ancient history it goes
all the way, thousands years ago. And this product is, has actually very fascinating
story. It's called "freeki" in Arabic, modern day Arabic, but it also appears in the Bible.
If you are familiar with celebrating the holiday of Shavu'ot, the Holiday of Weeks, in three
weeks, and there is a very famous love story between Boaz and Ruth. This poor widow from,
from Moab, and wealthy, older man and they fall in love and they get married and they
become great-grandparents of King David.
And they're seduction scene is actually a picnic; he's feeding her and he's feeding
her, in Hebrew, we say "savatla mea kehli", any Israeli's here in the audience? Ok, you
remember it's "savatla mea kehli"? Pinched her from the kehli. Kehli, in modern day Hebrew
means "a toast," but obviously Boaz didn't have a toaster in the field, so it should
be something else. It should've been something else, it's something that we, we call in Hebrew
also "karrmel" and it means green, cracked, toasted wheat. Ok? So, why green toasted wheat?
Because, in the ancient times, we have this very, very extreme heat waves in Israel during
springtime and the farmers were afraid that the harvest will be ruined, will burn out.
So, they harvested some of the wheat early, toasted it so it wouldn't spoil, cracked it,
and used it for cooking, toasted it. So, it's a little bit like bulgur wheat, but it's green
wheat. And it's extremely, extremely, flavorful. It has some very interesting smoky flavor.
It's popular in Arabic and Jewish cuisine. Actually, it's a very ancient product that
survived thousands of years and remained in Arabic cuisine. And Israeli chefs just fell
in love with it lately and it became one of the trendiest dishes on Israeli restaurant
menus. So, this shows the continuation of tradition from the Bible all the way to the
modern age and here, I think, we have --
Ok, here we go. This is actually Boaz and Ruth in the garden. And this is freeki pilaf,
made from one of our later, latest Israeli cookbooks, very flavorful. I think you can
get it in the States as well, it's called Green Wheat and this is the first member of
my Israeli dozen. And let's move on to the next one.
We're still in the Biblical times, and any ideas what is this beautiful fruit or vegetable,
anybody? Dates. That's right. Usually, I hope people will say "olives" or "grapes," but
these are dates. Dates are one of the symbols of ancient Israel. They are a member of the
seven species; the seven fruits and vegetables with which the land of Israel is blessed.
You all know the expression, "the land of milk and honey." Ok, now, the theory is that
the honey in the milk and honey is not bee's honey, but date honey.
Date molasses, actually, and it's, it was a very important sweetener in the ancient
times. Israel was covered with date growths that looked something like that. Ok, this
is the harvest. The same dates we've just seen, the red ones, that's the way they look
on the tree. So, as I was saying, the date honey, the honey in the land of milk and honey,
is actually date honey, and that's what it looks like. You can see it's brown, it's sweet,
it's less sweet than actual honey and it's sort of caramel flavored. And, again, it comes
originally from Iraq, from Iraqi Jews were the ones who brought it to Israel because
you all know that Israel is actually immigrant societies, with people coming from all over
the world, each one bringing their own food traditions.
So, the date honey, or as we call it in Hebrew, "silan," actually arrived with Iraqi Jews
and today, well, you know bee producers, honey producers in Israel really have a problem
because silan is winning, becoming more popular than actual honey. It's cheaper to produce,
it's less sweet, it's, and it's very, very trendy. So, I think in the States you can
find it maybe in Middle Eastern shops or in stores that carry Israeli produce. You should
try it, it's great for glazing. It's actually a little bit thinner, a little bit less sweet,
but it goes, again, all the way back to Biblical tradition and yet another ingredient that
comprises what we now call Israeli cuisine.
Ok. And now we come to something that everybody knows. I mean, guess, anybody who doesn't
know what it is? Here?
This is, of course, hummus. And hummus is something, oh my God.
[Janna laughs]
Ok. Hummus. Now, hummus is basically very, very simple dish. It's chick peas, soaked
and cooked, tahini, lemon juice, water, condiments. It's popular all over the Middle East. Everybody
has hummus for breakfast, maybe as a part of mesa plate, but in Israel, hummus is actually,
I think I would call it a religion. Definitely cult food. People rarely make it at home.
They usually go out to a restaurant. This one is, for example, from a place called Hummus
Said in Akko, one of the most famous hummus places in Israel. And it's very male thing,
you don't use knife and fork, you use, you know, piece of very light, fluffy pita and
you mop it up.
And if you had real hummus, freshly made that didn't spend any time in the refrigerator,
you will know it's an amazing, amazing dish. Otherwise, I know many Jewish people in the
United States, know it as something you serve at the bar mitzvah, and it's, it's, I mean,
really nothing impressive. This is not real hummus. Real hummus you make and you serve
at once. It has to be warm because, you know hummus in Hebrew is "himtza." Vinegar in Hebrew
is "hometz." It's the same root and this is not accidental. Hummus spoils very, very quickly,
so to make industrial hummus, which what most people in the States know as hummus, you have
to stuff it with antioxidants, add citric acids, all kinds of stuff that spoils the
It's actually very easy to make hummus at home. The recipes in my book, but you can
find it anywhere and the secret is make it and serve it. There is no other way and when
it's good, it's really, really amazing; fluffy, flavorful, and actually there was a research
conducted lately that proves that eating hummus actually releases endorphin in your mind.
So, it's the ultimate make good, make feel well food. So, let's see if I'll be able to
move safely to the next step. Ok, here we have two other famous hummus temples, I would
The bottom one is Ali Karavan, the most famous hummus in Tel Aviv, or actually in Jaffa.
By the way, invariably, best hummus places in Israel are owned by Arabs and this is no
exception. Ali Karavan in Jaffa, it's very rare, actually, to be able to grab a table
in Ali Karavan. Usually have your hummus standing up on the pavement and balancing the plate
and the pita and a few months ago I brought a bunch of really cool, important American
food writers to Israel on a culinary trip. And my fantasy was to take all these sophisticated
New Yorkers to Ali Karavan and have them eating hummus standing up and they did. And one of
them said, after the taste of the hummus, he said, well actually, "masabacha," which
is a variation of hummus warm chick peas with tahini and condiments that is really out of
this world, he tasted it and said, "Ok, and now what I'm going to do for the rest of my
life?" And that was so, so great.
So, this is hummus and as I said, another component, another cul-, much more falafel,
by the way. Falafel is sort of a little bit thing of the past. We so still have falafel
joints, but they are dying out and hummus is stronger than ever. About a year or two
ago, I think you might remember, Sharon, we had this very short lived fashion of fancy
hummus with all kinds of creative toppings, like bolognese on top of hummus, mushroom
ragu, it went away, thankfully very quickly, because--
you don't fool with hummus. And one last thing before I move to the-, to the new, to the
next item, my, actually during my first book tour, a couple of years ago, I arrived in
Israel, to the States, and I had whole bunch of things that I wanted to talk about, but
everybody wanted to talk to me about hummus. And I couldn't figure out why until I realized
that there was this movie, "Don't Fool with--
>>memberfemale: Zohan
>>Janna: Zohan, right. So, everybody wanted to know all about hummus and well, but hummus
outlives even trends like Zohan.
Ok, and now we have something else stuffed in the pita. Now, you must understand in,
in Israeli food culture, pita is not just a pocket bread. It's a way of eating; it's
a way of life. You stuff anything into a pita. You can stuff the whole lunch into a pita.
You can stuff schnitzel, french fries, salad, it goes all in a pita and it's actually sort
of movable, a movable lunch, moveable table. But what we have here in the pita is actually
quite interesting and unique. And it shows for me yet another aspect of, of Israeli food
culture. It is called "sabih." Anybody familiar, except the Israelis here in the audience.
Anybody familiar here with the word sabih? Do you know what it is?
>>membermale: [inaudible]
>>Janna: Oh, ok. Good. But you know what it comes from? What is the history? Now, this
is really interesting. Sabih means "morning" in Arabic. Sabah al khair, sabih is morning.
Now, it's actually combination of fried eggplants, hard boiled eggs, hummus, which we already
know, and amba, a very spicy condiment coming from Iraq and made from unripe mango. This
combination, this very delicious combo-, combination, sandwich combo, actually originates as an
Iraqi Jews Shabbat breakfast. Now this needs some explanation, I guess.
I guess you know that according to Israeli religion and Judaism, you're not supposed
to do any work on Saturday. Everything has to be done in advance. You cannot light fire;
you cannot do any manual work. On the other hand, weekend is the time when you're supposed
to have your best meals. So, to solve this problem, we have a lot of dishes designed
to be prepared in advance and enjoyed during the Shabbat. We have very, very famous cholents,
you've all heard about; the Jewish Shabbat casserole that stays all night in the oven
and then fills the house with all this hearty smells and after you eat some, you can only
go to sleep, it's so filling and so heavy. And that's actually a good idea because it
leaves nothing much to do on, on Shabbat afternoon anyway.
You cannot go to movies, I mean, you know, the observant Jews and the other thing is
breakfasts. Breakfasts are usually cold food prepared in advance and thing that are, that
can be enjoyed cold. Now, Iraqi Jews would have this spread grilled eggplants, hard boiled
eggs, hummus, and condiments on the table and they would make their own pita with that.
One gentleman from Giv'atayim, a small town near Tel Aviv, turned this sandwich combo
into an economic empire. He became very rich sending this sabih thing and today can go
into a trendy restaurant and all-, order a sabih and a focaccia. But the origin is Jewish
ethnic tradition; Jewish ethnic food from Iraq. And this actually teaches us two things
about Israeli food. One, that it draws its inspiration from Jewish ethnic cooking and
number two, Jewish ethnic cooking is much, much more than what we know, especially in
the States as Jewish ethnic cooking.
It's not just gefilte fish, chopped liver, chicken soup, etc., it's mostly food that
comes from all over the world because Jews lived all over the world, in Iraq, in Iran,
in, in Morocco, in Persia, in Syria, in Hungary, in everywhere they lived, they created some
sort of ethnic cuisine that all, at some point, arrived in Israel. So, we sort of pick and
choose interesting traditions from various, various places. I have another example here.
I-, by the way, this is interpretation by a very famous Israeli chef, Yaron Shalev;
it's also called a sabih. I guess it has some eggplants, even though we cannot see them,
it also has seafood and stuff. He calls it sabih. It doesn't look like one, but it's
very good, actually. And here is another example, very quick example of breakfast food of traditional
breakfast food. The Israelis, do you know what it is? Jachnun. It comes from Yemen,
another place where Jews lived for thousands of years and it's actually, its dough rolled
with fat.
And I know it sounds sort of disgusting, no it doesn't, you like the idea, but think about
the croissant. What croissant dough, if you know it? It's, it's, you flat out, you roll
out pastry and put a lot of butter inside and then you roll it again and then you spread
it, so I can call it "Yemenite croissant." And you can have it with also hardboiled egg,
something you could make in advance and grated tomatoes. So, this is another example of breakfast
food that turned all Israeli favorite.
And now we're moving on to the next interesting ingredient that is maybe one single most important
ingredient in modern Israeli cuisine, and this is, of course, tahini. I have it here.
And it's made from sesame. One hundred percent ground sesame; nothing else. Nothing else
should be there. Now, in Israel, we use it for salads, for cooking, for dressing, for,
even for pastry. In the States, I think it's largely misunderstood and used usually only
for hummus. I have to convince people to actually make some use of it. In the end, if we have
time, we're gonna have a little demo on how tahini spread is made. It's something that
you shouldn't buy readymade. You should make it yourself from raw material. It's very,
very simple. It's 100% cholesterol free, it's extremely versatile and we have here tahini
cookies, by the way. They taste magnificent and those who stay till the end will have
a cookie, ok?
But I want to show you fifth, a few things you can make with tahini. For example, these
are lamb patties with tahini dressed-, tahini sauce. It's based on an Arabic dish called
"simia." In Arabic cuisine, tahini is often used for cooking and for baking. It doesn't
break, it stays, it sort of hardens a little bit and it gives very interesting flavor to
the food. This is fish filet with raw tahini sauce. When I say raw, I mean tahini the way
it is, you can't really see, but it's like brownish paste. When you use it with water,
mix it with water, you change the consistency, we will see it in a few minutes. And what
else do we have with tahini? Ok, sorry, the one you saw before, I want to go back to that.
It's really cool. No, please, back. Back. Ok, this is tahini ice cream, ok? Now, it
sounds sort of strange, but do you know what is halva? Ok, many people like halva. You
know that halva is sweetened tahini. It's the same thing, but with added sugar or honey.
Now halva ice cream sounds great. So, this is actually the same idea and what you have
on top, this little hairs, are shredded halva. Amazingly sweet and fluffy, it's like eating
sweet clouds. It's really great. So, tahini again, it's Middle Eastern staple, it used
everywhere in Middle Eastern cooking. Israeli chefs adopted it. They use it in very creative
ways. We make all kind of flavored dressings with that and you should learn how to use
it. It's wonderful substitute for mayonnaise; 100%cholesterol free, very healthy, very calorie
dense, but good calories.
Ok, and now we come to the next symbol of Israeli cooking and that's the Israeli salad.
Now, again, we did not invent it. Israeli salad is something that is actually chopped
salad, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, sometimes peppers, sometimes mint or cilantro, olive
oil, lemon juice, maybe radishes, but this is actually the basic thing. It has to be
cut before you serve it. You don't make it in advance because the tomatoes go all mushy.
Now, similar salads are found throughout the Middle East, but I think Israel, I'm quite
sure that Israel is the only country in the world where you eat salad for breakfast. Actually,
we eat it three times a day, for breakfast, for lunch and for dinner. We sometimes stuff
it in a pita and we sometimes serve it with tahini dressing. It's actually quite delicious.
And, as I said, Israeli, Israeli salad is part of the Israeli breakfast and what sets
apart Israeli breakfast from all other breakfasts is the fact that we eat salad. And it originated,
actually this tradition of having salad for breakfast originated on a kibbutz; this, you
know, Utopian agriculture commune where everybody, there was very much part of early Israeli
And on a kibbutz, the farmers, the workers, would go into the fields very, very early,
you know all, you all know what a kibbutz is, of course, so I don't have to explain.
Ok, they would go to work very early, like at 4 o'clock in the morning because it's a
very, very hot country and they would come back around 8 o'clock when it's already quite
hungry because you put up, you know, three, four hours of very hard manual work. And actually,
your breakfast would be almost your lunch. So, they made, they ate whatever was available
and what was available was fresh vegetables, of course.
They would, actually, the kibbutzni would cut up their veggies by themselves and have
some simple dairy products, maybe some bread, maybe some oranges, but Israeli salad was
there, in the middle, in the center. And today, I don't think you can have an Israeli breakfast
without a salad. And I have here some nice examples. This is a variation using very,
various kinds of tomatoes.
We have great tomatoes in Israel. I don't know if you know that. I didn't know that,
but it turns out that Israel invented cherry tomatoes, which I think quite important thing.
After ICQ, I guess.
And this is an example of a restaurant version of an Israeli breakfast. You see some fancy
croissant at the background, even some sausage and cheese and soft-boiled eggs and the salad,
right there. Very nice version of Israeli salad.
If you go to Tel Aviv today, actually some of the nicest meals you have, you can have
in Israel, in general, is breakfast. It's very many leading restaurants serve breakfasts
and they make it, turned it into a really delicious and elaborate meals. Very cheap,
by the way, and they sometimes serve it throughout the day. They just call it breakfast, but
you can have it in the afternoon, also. And there will be a salad.
Ok, and now I mentioned the fact that Israeli salad was not invented in Israel. This little
fellow was, actually, I can show you the way it looks. I mean, this is the raw material
and this is probably one of the only ingredients that were actually invented, food ingredients
I mean, actually invented in Israel. And it's known in the States as the Israeli couscous.
It's not couscous. We, in Israel, call it "ptitim." Ptitim means "little flakes" and
it's actually toasted pasta flakes.
And to tell you the story about them, I have to take you to another interesting period
of Israeli history. We're talking about early 50s, right after the State of Israel was founded
and there were huge, huge waves of immigrations, like four, five times larger than the original
population of the country and the result was that there was shortage in everything. And
food was rationed for awhile.
It became known as the Age of Austerity, or "Tkufat HaTsena" in Hebrew, and there were
not enough meat, not enough fish, not enough dairy products, and, of course, not enough
rice. And the story, the legend is that Ben-Gurion himself, the Prime Minister of the State of
Israel, the first Prime Minister, came up with an idea to produce pasta flakes that
would resemble rice. And that's why the first version of ptitm was called Ben-Gurion rice.
Now, but it was not only rice shaped, it could be couscous shape, or ball shape, like these
guys. And at some point, in the 90s, in Israel you must understand, ptitim is something kids
love. It's a hit of the kindergarten lunch menu, right? With a little bit of ketchup
on top. And in the 90s, suddenly Israelis discovered to their very great surprise that
these ptitim have become the most trendy ingredient in New York restaurants. So how did this happen?
It was reborn as Israeli couscous. I think I found the answer. We sort of conducted a
little research on this subject a couple of years ago and I believe I found the connection
how this came about. An Israeli chef, whose name is Mika Sharon, you may know her, worked
in New York with a very famous chef, Don Pintabona, it's either Tribeca Grill or Gramercy Tavern--
>>memberfemale: Tribeca Grill
>>Janna: Tribeca Grill. And they were friends, actually. And he was having dinner at her
home on Friday night and she just made, you know, a pot of ptitim for her kids. She wouldn't
even dream of serving it to, you know, this important chef. He tasted it, he loved it,
he took away a package that looked exactly like that to the restaurant and the next day
when she came to work, she realized that there on the lunch special, made in some sort of
fancy risotto and called Israeli couscous because on the package it says, "Toasted Pasta
Flakes, Israeli Pasta Flakes, Toasted, Israeli Couscous," or something.
So he just showed them that and turned it into Israeli couscous and this is, according
to my research at least, how the whole Israeli couscous craze starts. Now, it finally becomes
fashionable in Israel as well. We say, "Ok, if Americans like it so much, we probably
should have taken another look at that."
And, for example, this is, this was our cover photo last summer. We did a big project on
ptitim and it's actually ptitim salad, Israeli couscous salad and by the way, I had a meal
in Philadelphia in a very fancy restaurant the other day and they were serving ptitim
for lunch as well, so I was very proud. Ok, and now we come to something really, really
important. Before I settle on the name for my book, the book of new Israeli food, I was
sort of trying out all kind of interesting names for the book, and one of them was, "His
Majesty, the Eggplant and Other Vegetables."
Because this is the king of Israeli vegetables, by far the most important one and what's nice
about eggplant is that it's so versatile. It also has a chapter in this Austerity Age
that I was just telling you about, because there were plenty of eggplants. And because
it's so versatile, and because it's so neutral, you can do almost anything with it. So, we
had, like, faked chopped liver made from, from eggplants. Later on, all the rage were
fried eggplants in especially Middle Eastern restaurants, sometimes with tahini or with
yoghurt, but the current and most contemporary and in my opinion, the best way to cook eggplants
is to burn them, or flame roast them. This is the way to do it.
I remember one of my New York lectures, I so convince somebody to do it that she tried
to make it in her New York kitchen and the firemen came because they, all smoke detectors
were, were, buzzing, but if you have a barbeque or if you have, if you open a window, it's
completely safe. You just put it on a stove, it doesn't have to burn like that, but you
do flame roast it until the skin is charred and soft and then you scoop out the flesh
and it has this wonderful, smoky, delicate flavor that cannot be achieved if you make
it in the oven. Sorry, it has to be open fire.
Once you have this charred or burned or flame roasted eggplant, you can do all bunch of
things with it. For example, you can make the classic baba ganoush, which is flame roasted
eggplant with tahini. Or, if you are a trendy Israeli chef, you will do something like that.
Ok, this is, I call it "baba ganoush deconstructed." You take the whole eggplant and you slit it
open and instead of making a salad, you just pour the ingredients on top of the vegetable.
Here you have silan, remember I mentioned silan, some olive oil, some tomatoes seeds,
maybe some herbs, but actually it can be anything. You can put yoghurt on top.
This is a very fancy and elegant way to serve eggplants in your home, for example, when
you're entertain-, entertaining, you can make like eggplant per person, slit it open, and
you can either put the ingredients on top and serve them in the middle of the table
and everybody will eat their entrees, so to speak, only make sure you don't eat the skin
because the skin is charred and not very tasty. Or, you can remove the skin and just leave
the eggplant and then it could be something, for example, like this. This dish is from
a very nice restaurant in Tel Aviv called Sheila, and it's like quintessentially new
Israeli cuisine, you have, you can see the eggplant on the bottom.
Ok, it's without the skin so it looks sort of beige colored. On top you see the Israeli
salad mixed with raw fish, like sashimi style raw fish, very sort of nouveau Israeli style
of serving fish. And at the background, the grayish sauce is actually tahini based, so
you have like, the whole speil of Israeli cuisine in one little, pretty dish.
Ok, and we're moving to the next trendy item. Somebody goes, "Yeah," do you know what it
is? You're just hungry, I think. You didn't have
[Janna laughs]
Ok, this is shakshouka. Shakshouka, now shakshouka actually is another example of Jewish ethnic
dish that became first very famous in Israel and then sort of took even the world tour.
It comes originally from Tunisia. As I mentioned, the Jewish traditions from all over the place.
Actually, it's very, I think the next photo may be more telling. Now this is really another
kind of, shakshouka, wait a second.
Ok, so what you do basically, to make shakshouka, you prepare a very, very spicy tomato sauce
with peppers, with baharat, which is a typical Middle Eastern spice mix, sometimes you can
add eggplants, you can add sausage, whatever you like. Once the sauce is cooked and spicy
and flavorful, you break some eggs on top and you wait until they are set. You can wait
for three minutes, for five minutes, depending on how you like your eggs. That's it.
And there was this guy named Bino Sadok, who created a place called Dr. Shakshuka in Jaffa,
and you serve, of course, you have to serve it in the same skillet with a lot of crusty
white bread to mop up the sauce and he made shakshouka so famous, I don't think there
is a tourist coming to Israel who go-, who doesn't go to Dr. Shakshuka. But today, you
can actually find all kinds of shakshoukas, not necessarily with tomato sauce. For example,
this is also a shakshouka. It's shakshouka with spinach and goat cheese and it's delicious
and light. The same idea, but without the sauce, you just wilt, in this case, it's leek
and pinach in spinach and then you break the eggs and you crumble some feta cheese on top;
very famous, very popular breakfast dish in Israel in one of the fancy restaurant breakfasts.
Another option, this is shakshouka actually with ratatouille. You can take the ratatouille,
if you have ratatouille left in the fridge, or givech, some sort of stewed vegetables
you can warm them in your skillet, break some eggs on top, scramble cheese, and call it
shakshouka, even though it really isn't. And this is another version of spinach shakshouka,
very-. If you go to Israel, to an Israeli restaurant, you'll definitely find at least
one version of shakshouka. Actually, I remember on early 80s, when the Israeli cuisine, the
sophisticated Israeli cuisine was taking it's really first baby steps, we had this very,
very famous restaurant called Killeen, owned by Haim Cohen, a very, very famous Israeli
chef, and he was basically preparing French cuisine, very sort of Mediterranean, maybe
a little bit, but not Israeli.
He wouldn't serve any Israeli food because they were considered too commonplace, nobody
would pay lot of money to eat hummus, or tahini, or stuff like that. And one day, for his lunch
specialty, he prepared shakshouka with foie gras, with goose liver, and it was a hit and
he felt encouraged, and the next day he prepared kabab with tahini for the special and audience
loved it and we can say these are, this is where the Israeli cuisine really starts getting
interested. Because when we start relating to our local traditions and from them drawing
inspiration as well as from Jewish ethnic cooking, this is how it all actually happens.
Ok, and now, for the first time, I have something that is really considered Jewish. Ok, and
I brought it, also because, well, we all love chicken soup, but also because many people
think that when they go Israel, they're gonna get to gefilte fish and chopped liver paradise.
And they're very much surprised that there is so little of that in Israel. We do have
some, what we call Ashkenazi food, but it's very, very rare. Actually, in the world, when
you say Jewish food, you automatically mean this kind of chopped liver, gefilte fish and
stuff, but this is actually representative only small part of Jewish cuisine; Jewish
cuisine from Eastern Europe and Russia.
The reason that it became synonymous with Jewish food in general is because of massive
waves of immigration of Russian and Polish Jews coming to the States and to Canada in
the beginning of 20th century. Many of them went into food business, opened up restaurants
and delis, and made this food world famous. Many dishes, by the way, they invented here.
For example, when I was born in Riga, former Soviet Union, and that, the Ashkenazi land,
so to speak, and I can tell you I've never had bagel with cream cheese and lochs in Riga.
I don't think even we know what cream cheese, I mean, there was, there is no cream cheese
in this area. This is an American invention, and neither we had Reuben sandwich. It's 100%
American, but I guess these dishes were prepared in these delis, in these restaurants, still
are, and they became synonymous with Jewish food, but that's the whole beauty of it. There
is nothing wrong with it.
Make, this is important to understand, that's how cuisines evolve. That's how Israeli cuisine
evolves. That we take inspiration from various dishes, we play around with them, we fuse
them with something else, and this is actually very good example and I have a personal story
about this. This is Jewish chicken soup. And it's, do you know what is this orange thing
in, in the middle? What does it look like? It's pumpkin, yeah. Now, those of you who
know how to make Jewish chicken soup would say, "Pumpkin? What is, what is pumpkin doing
there?" Well, the thing is, when my book was first published and it was reviewed in American
press and I got, I must say, I'm glad to say, very nice, favorable reviews, one of them,
though, said that my Ashkenazi dishes are not to be trusted because they're not authentic
enough and as an example, my recipe for the chicken soup was given.
Now, it's important to emphasize, I'm not a chef, I'm a food writer and the majority
of recipes in my book are not my recipes, they are recipes by famous Israeli chefs or
very traditional recipe. This is my chicken soup. I mean, I really know how to make a
chicken soup and she said, this person, that it's not authentic enough because she said,
"Janna says use as many vegetables as you like; leeks and celery and pumpkin." And she
said, "And pumpkin? My Boba is turning in her grave. You do not put pumpkin into chicken
soup." And, well, I was sort of a little bit irate in the beginning, but then I decided
to check other Israeli recipes for chicken soup and surprisingly enough, almost all of
them had pumpkin.
So, at this point, I sort of, I was almost glad about this critic because it sort of
gave me an insight on what Israeli cuisine is because we may call it Jewish classic chicken
soup, but it is already influenced by other Jewish chicken soups that do have pumpkins
and a bunch of other stuff. For example, this one, this is Moroccan vegetable soup that
you serve over couscous and it has pumpkin, of course, and it has zucchini and it has
other stuff. And so, what happens because Israeli society is very, very mixed, it's
not just immigrant society, but intermarriage is actually the norm.
Almost, every Israeli you meet, you ask where he or she is from, they would say, "My father
is from Iraq, my mother is from Hungary. My father is from Yemen, my mother is from Morocco."
So, when there is this kind of intermarriage, automatically there is cross-over on the plate.
So, schnitzel and couscous during one lunch, chicken soup that you can't really know where
it comes from because it turns out that every Jewish food culture has its own version of
chicken soup. And pumpkin, sort of, cross over from Balkan or Moroccan tradition right
to Ashkenazi one and I think that's the whole beauty of that. So, thank that, I don't remember
her name, this critic that gave me this wonderful insight.
And now we come to malabi, another ola ka dashni immigrant, this time from Turkey, it's
a very sweet, lovely pudding made from water, corn flour, milk, and rose essence. It started
out as street snack that you would buy from street carts and it developed into a very
fancy dessert. That's how it would look like in the restaurant. The red sauce, the raspberry
sauce goes on the bottom instead of on top and then you have the actual pudding and on
top you have some nice little fruit compote, an example of street food that turned into
a restaurant dessert. And this is malabi cheesecake; the same idea, but applied to cheesecake flavored
with rose essence.
And now we come to the last one of the dozen. I just couldn't resist bringing this photo,
which, in my opinion, is the most beautiful photo in the book. And it's actually interesting
because of; these are of course, pomegranates.
And this is a pomegranate grove and, you know, it's interesting with symbols. My book has
pomegranates on the cover and two other Israeli cookbooks, very, sort of, you know, cookbook
coffee table books, published in English, also have pomegranates on the cover. And frankly,
and Sharon will correct me, we do not use that many pomegranates in cooking. I mean,
it's, we sometimes sprinkle them on top of, on top of tabouli salads.
I mean, people buy them because they are so beautiful and you, they look nice in a bowl
on the table, but during recent years when the nutritionist discovered that they have
all these amazing antioxidant qualities, somebody became crazy, all of us became crazy for pomegranates
and we started to grow them commercially in Israel because ten years ago you would mainly
find pomegranate trees in the backyard, like one or two trees. Now, we have this amazingly
beautiful pomegranates groves I think that my, for me it looks like the, you know, the
fruit of the Garden of Eden.
Something that was the Adam and Eve are tempted to eat and we are rediscovering, actually,
things that we can do with pomegranates since we so, have so many and for example, we can
make this. This is one of my favorite chef, his name is Erez Komarovsky, one of the most
interesting and creative Israeli chefs. Here, he makes a beet and pomegranate salad. A wonderful
combination, same color, different texture, different flavors, if you have pomegranates
in season, try it. It takes two minutes; I think it's one of the best salads in the book.
And, here, and at this, where I want to finish, I go back to Jewish ethnic cooking, which
for me, is one of the most exciting aspects of our food culture. As I told you, Jews have
lived all over the world for centuries, for thousands of years. Wherever they lived they
created their own cuisines and we have all of them now in Israel. It won't last long,
by the way. It will be gone in a matter of generation, too, because this is time consuming,
labor intensive style of cooking and these cuisines actually represent cultures that
do not exist anymore.
Think of it. There are no more Jews left neither in Iraq nor Iran, Syria, Persia, so these
are endangered species, but they still do exist and those of you are interested in ethnic
cooking and have access to these wonderful cooks, should learn how to make a few recipes
and try to preserve them for future generations. What we have here, by the way, is the lady,
I forgot her name, I'm afraid, I know, her name is Rachel, actually. And she's from lovely
Persian restaurant, in Kfar_Saba, a little town near Tel Aviv, called Gohar, and the
dish she's holding proudly in her hands are lamb patties in fesenjan sauce. This is Persian
sauce made from walnuts and pomegranates molasses and served with fresh pomegranates and cilantro.
Amazing dish, now existing in Israel, going back all the way to thousand years ago when
it was first created in, by Persian Jews and for me this sort of closes the circle, the
cycle of what we call Israeli cuisine, which is cuisine in progress. We don't even know
where it's going, but one thing I can tell you, those of you who haven't been to Israel,
or who have been, we're having some great, terrific, fresh health food and it's only
will get better with time, I think. Now, if we have time for little tahini demo and you
have energy, I'll be happy to oblige, if not, I'm ready for questions so we can do both
things simultaneously. And thank you very much.