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Dining out in Israel with food aficionado Janna Gur

Sara Ivry
September 15, 2008

For most people, the words “Israeli cuisine” probably bring to mind little more than falafel, pita, and perhaps a finely-diced cucumber salad. But according to Janna Gur, the founder and editor of Al Hashulchan Gastronomic Monthly, Israel’s leading food and wine magazine, that view is outdated.

Gur is also the author of a new cookbook called The Book of New Israeli Food: A Culinary Journey (Schocken, 2008), and she invited Nextbook to join her for a tasting at the popular restaurant Lechem Erez in Herzliya Pituach, a suburb of Tel Aviv. Over plate after plate of scrumptious food, Gur talks about everything from the wide range of influences on Israeli cuisine to the merits of having salad for breakfast.

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With the upcoming holidays in mind, here are a few recipes from The Book of New Israeli Food: A Culinary Journey by Janna Gur:

Beet and Pomegranate Salad
Special thanks to Erez Komarovsky of Lechem Erez

Ingredients (serves 6)
3–4 medium beets
2 tablespoons pomegranate concentrate
2–3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2–3 dried chili peppers, crushed
Coarse sea salt
1/4 cup delicate olive oil
1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves
1 cup pomegranate seeds


Chicken Casserole with Dried Fruit on a Bed of Couscous

Inspired by Moroccan tagine cooking, this dish contains modern additions: wine, balsamic vinegar, and soy sauce. Like the Moroccan original, it is served over a bed of couscous, which lovingly absorbs the rich sauce. Chicken is considered “everyday” food, but this dish is fit for the most festive occasion.

Ingredients (serves 4–6)
12 chicken drumsticks
6 whole small red onions, peeled
12 pieces (each 2 inches long) of Jerusalem artichoke, peeled
9 oz. dried figs
7 oz. prunes
7 oz. dried apricots

The Marinade
1/2 cup oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup soy sauce
5 cloves garlic, chopped
3 sticks cinnamon
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 level teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon cumin seeds, crushed
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cups dry red wine

To Serve
1 lb. 2 oz. instant couscous
1/2 cup walnuts, roasted


Magical Honey Cake
Special thanks to Dalia Zarchiya

“Do you have a really good recipe for a honey cake?” This is a standard query of the pre–Rosh Hashanah rush. The following recipe was given to us by an enthusiastic amateur cook, Dalia Zarchiya, and has been our favorite for years.

Pay attention: the cake should “mature” for seven days before serving.

Ingredients (for 3 loaf pans)
6 cups + 3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 heaping teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 cups honey
1 cup oil
4 eggs
2 tablespoons instant coffee
2 level teaspoons baking soda
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Variation: If you don’t like the taste of coffee in your honey cake, replace it with one cup of strong dark tea.

Recipes courtesy of Janna Gur, The Book of New Israeli Food: A Culinary Journey, Schocken Books.

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Sara Ivry is the host of Vox Tablet, Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast. Follow her on Twitter @saraivry.

Sara Ivry is the host of Vox Tablet, Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast. Follow her on Twitter@saraivry.