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Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking Hardcover – October 6, 2015
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From the Publisher
Twice-Cooked Eggplant from Zahav
Makes 5 cups
This is probably my favorite eggplant preparation of all time. It first uses pan-frying to char and sweeten the flesh, followed by a second cooking with tons of vinegar. The result is a sweet, sour, and smoky salad that converts unsuspecting eggplant haters into passionate fan boys in a single bite. As a bonus, this recipe flouts all conventions of French technique by charring the eggplant until just before it’s burnt. Most of the chefs I’ve worked for would have made me throw it out if they saw it on my station. But by taking the eggplant to the edge, you can develop rich, deep, and almost chocolaty flavors that make this one of the punchiest bites there is. The flavor intensity of this salad makes it a great complement to roasted lamb, and it’s out of control as a sandwich addition.
Sprinkle the eggplant slices with the salt and let stand for 30 minutes on a paper towel or a rack.
Film the bottom of a large nonstick skillet with olive oil and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering but not smoking and working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding, remove the cooked eggplant to a plate. Add the eggplant slices in a single layer and cook until almost black on the first side, about 10 minutes. Turn and repeat on the other side, adding more oil as needed.
Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the red pepper, onion, coriander, and paprika to the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very soft but not brown, about 12 minutes. Add the eggplant and sherry vinegar to the pan, breaking it up and mashing it coarsely with a wooden spoon until well combined. Cook until the vinegar has evaporated, about 8 minutes. Off the heat, add the parsley and lemon juice. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 2 medium eggplants, cut into rounds
- 6 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
- 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- ¼ cup sherry vinegar
- ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
"After stints working with chef Marc Vetri in Philadelphia and as head chef at Marigold Kitchen, Solomonov developed a passion for Israeli cooking and his desire to show the full breadth of the cuisine began to take shape; he started his own restaurant, Zahav, in Philadelphia in 2008. Six years later, he won the James Beard award for best chef in the Mid-Atlantic region. Solomonov shares his story as well as his wide-ranging approach to Israeli cuisine in this impressive collection of recipes that are sure to challenge readers’ preconceptions. In addition to kibbe, kugel, latke, and rugelach, Solomonov offers chicken albondigas, the Spanish tapas standard; cashew baklava cigars; and the Chocolate Almond Situation, his riff on the flourless chocolate cake. To these stunningly simple dishes he adds deliciously decadent fare such as duck and foie gras kebabs, and beluga lentil soup with marrow bones. Solomonov isn’t one for showmanship (or waste—the juices from his Israeli salad of cucumber, tomato, parsley and lemon are added to gin to create an unusual martini), and virtually all the book’s recipes are within the reach of novice cooks. The reader’s biggest challenge will likely be mastering the ubiquitous tehina sauce used as a foundation for hummus and as an accent in countless dishes. Readers with an adventurous palate and an open mind will be richly rewarded by this terrific debut."
—Publisher's Weekly, starred review
"Zahav’s modern approach to Israeli cooking makes for the kind of book that will redefine the conversation around Middle Eastern cuisine in America.” —EATER.com
“Each of Michael Solomonov’s soulful recipes feels created by someone impassioned by one of the world's most exciting cuisines – a master of his craft. I’m smitten!” — Gail Simmons, TV Host, author, Talking With My Mouth Full
“Cooking is how Michael found himself, changed his life, and then the world around him. Michael writes that ‘nothing in my life happened the way it was supposed to.’ He means life in its beauty and its awful brutality. I think that his life and most importantly this book, is beshert, ‘meant to be.’ I believe his Zahav will be one of the most cherished books in years, with staggeringly delicious recipes from one of the brightest lights in our culinary world. I believe this book will be beshert for you too.” — Andrew Zimmern, chef, anthropologist, global thought leader
“Zahav is the most honest chef’s cookbook I have read in a long time. Mike’s soulful depiction of his life delivers the same heart and intelligence that emanates from his restaurant. Zahav is essential reading for anyone who wants to make the food of Israel —or Philadelphia— today.” — Joan Nathan, author, The Foods of Israel Today
“Zahav has become a staple of my Philly restaurant experience, but staples only hold pages down. Here at last are pages —and pages — of Michael Solomonov’s thinking on food, community, and the recipes that get me back to Zahav every time.” — Questlove
“I’m excited to have Zahav, a compendium of Chef Solomonov’s recipes, so I can recreate them.” — David Lebovitz, author, My Paris Kitchen
“The great thing about Michael Solomonov is that he simply cooks from his heart. With Zahav, he has developed perhaps one of the most innovative and thoughtful restaurants in America. After years of asking him for recipes, I'm relieved to finally have his book to answer all of my questions!” — Chef Marc Vetri
"The humanity of it, that's the thing. The presence. The joy. The actual connection that's forged between the person cooking and the person eating. In Zahav, the recipes don't end when the food is done cooking — there are instructions for bringing things to the table, for how to serve, for how to eat, for how to share, for how to finish...The result is cooking that feels right for both a world-class restaurant and a home kitchen, food that's both an education and a pleasure." —EATER.com
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Throughout the entire book, Solomonov gives the reader traditional, variations on tradition, (his take on tradition), and new and unusual combinations. The book is rich in recipes with lively flavors, vibrant colors, enticing aromas. Just looking at the pictures of all the dishes will have your salivary glands working overtime.
With any cookbook written by a popular restaurant chef, one will find quite a bit of autobiography and info about his/her restaurant(s). This book is no exception. What is the exception, is that the reading--all the stories, the words, the advice, the thoughts--is interesting. It is also a testament to the fact that if one works hard and diligently, believes in and lives his/her dream, it has a good chance of coming true. (Luck and the trust of your backers does have something to do with it, too….)
It may not be apparent to all—but it should if you have Ottolenghi’s books and you contemplatively compare the recipes of the two chefs—this is not only an Israeli cooking book, this is a very American book. Ottolenghi cooks in London, and one can see it in his ingredients and his style. Michael Solomonov has an American’s view of creating and putting ingredients together. He definitely thinks like an American, and I like that, because so do I. While I love Ottolenghi’s recipes, I find I can relate to Solomonov’s way easier. For example, Solomonov’s variety of tabbouleh recipes range from the very traditional, to those using ingredients that will sub for the tomato when it is out of season. Solomonov’s seasons line up with mine—and that is a good and helpful thing.
I loved the entire chapter on tehina (tahini) which worked as a great introduction to and representation of all of Solomonov’s cooking: He uses tehina sauce in many dishes, and Zahav’s hummus helped make it famous. There are all kinds of recipes in that chapter, from small bites to main dishes.
As I went through the Salatim chapter, all the veggie recipes really excited me. The recipes take on flavors from all over the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the US. I found it personally interesting, to realize that I have been cooking with these same flavors for decades, and that I have similar tastes. I continue to enjoy how Solomonov puts the flavors together, and his recipes have helped me fine-tune some of mine. Plus, he has given me a wealth of new ideas.
When I got to the Mezze chapter, with more vegetables, cheeses, fish and meats I realized there had not been a single recipe that had turned me off.
There is not a chapter in this book that I do not appreciate: The soups (especially the Yemenite flavors), the breads (especially the recipe for Challah, (different from the one I use)), the kebabs (especially the marinade for the lamb cubes, and the Romanian Kebabs with their garlic, sugar and club soda), the rice dishes (especially the pilafs), the beautiful roasted meats (especially the coffee-braised brisket and the Yemenite braised short ribs), and the desserts.
I found the one-page “Resources” to be very helpful for the tehina and spice blends. The nine-page index is comprehensive. Type size is easy on the eyes, and page layout is easy for the brain to follow. I even like the special touch on the inside covers: Small mounds of different spices, left unidentified on the inside front, then ID’ed inside back.
The cuisine of Israel is beginning to get notice--it's a blend of many cultures such as Sephardic Jewish, African Jewish, Ashkenazi European (influenced by Poland and Germany and Russia), Mediterranean and Middle Eastern. Hummus plays a big role in appetizers and snacks and you get a great recipe here plus advice on tahini sesame paste (tehina, spelled the Israeli way.) I can verify that it makes a big difference what kind of tahini you buy--a friend clued me into an organic brand that was so much better than the canned or grocery store tahini that it's what I now buy--and Chef Solomonov gives a great deal of detail about why tahini matters. It's the mayonnaise of Israel, the peanut butter, and a base of cooking, so the quality and flavor is paramount. If you have a peanut butter that is "the only one" or "the only brand of mayo I'll use" you can see how this would be important. Chef Solomonov does not sneer at canned chickpeas, and gives you a way to make a superior hummus that is not at all difficult.
The recipes go from mezzes (the little Middle Eastern tapas or small plate appetizers) to salads, roasts, soups, and even pastries, from the phyllo dough based konafi--shredded phyllo soaked in syrup to European rugelach. The rugelach (a tiny crescent shaped filled cookie or pastry) was my mom's speciality, too. The fillings include a date-nut and apricot as well as a few other even more inventive. Since I can't eat nuts--and the traditional filling is cinnamon-walnut, I was delighted to see the other fillings that do have nuts but are so substantial that I can delete the nuts or substitute seeds and still get a great cookie.
There are a lot of recipes for "freekeh"--which is green kernels of wheat that are fire-roasted and used as you would rice or bulghur wheat. Freekeh is getting the attention that farro (whole spelt) did a few years ago and like farro, it's a great grain for risotto and pilaf. It's used a lot across many countries (gruenkern in Germany is very popular) and probably came out of necessity: while waiting for the wheat crop to ripen, people are hungry. Green (unripe) wheat can be harvested and fire roasted to remove the chaff and preserve it somewhat and it's tasty.
There is a section on rice, an obsession of the chef. There is a recipe for Persian rice, which is the rice that has that famous crunchy layer at the bottom of the pot, prized for its flavor and richness.
I was so impressed with this book, I bought a hardbound copy for my sister, who loves to cook both traditional foods and vegetable-laden dishes. I bought the Kindle copy for myself because I love Kindle cookbooks for their convenience in the kitchen. Either way, this book is as wonderful as the Ottolenghi books but different--more of a fusion of European, American and Middle Eastern food and with a lot of information and anecdotes about the restaurant, about the author and about the foods of Israel. Highly recommended.
I gave this book as a gift a few times and the recipients loved it!
Most recent customer reviews
I also like how he mixed in his personal stories.Read more