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EST. 2011 BY LIZ RUEVEN
The Melting Pot that Informs Israeli Cuisine

The Melting Pot that Informs Israeli Cuisine

When hummus becomes a culture and freekeh is sold at Whole Foods, you know that the “New Israeli Food” has reached far and wide.

Freekeh, a chewy, nutty grain, has roots as far back as the Old Testament and is often cooked in the Middle East.  It’s not a coincidence that the 7 “species” mentioned in the Hebrew Bible are so much a part of the new Israeli cuisine.

Chefs love their depth of flavor, accessibility and ancient references. Many have taken a deeper and more experimental look at wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.

Chef Shlomo Schwartz prepping shlushy watermelon, arak and mint cocktails
Chef Shlomo Schwartz prepping shlushy watermelon, arak and mint cocktails

I was lucky enough to catch a cooking class in NYC last week taught by Chef Shlomo Schwartz, a sabra (Israeli native) who was trained at the Center for Kosher Culinary Arts (CKCA) in Brooklyn.

Shlomo now teaches at CKCA, owns his own kosher catering company called YOUR SOUL KITCHEN, and guides groups of enthusiastic 20 something’s through the tasty, ever changing, and extraordinarily creative culinary landscape in Israel.

cherry tomato and garlic confit with crispy za'atar pita bites
cherry tomato and garlic confit with crispy za’atar pita bites

The class I landed on with 10 other lucky cooks of all levels, was indeed called “The Melting Pot: flavors, people and stories that create the New Israeli Food”. We met at the Ramaz School, a convenient summer only outpost of the Brooklyn campus.

We gathered around stainless steel workstations with slushy watermelon cocktails in hand, (Red Flag on Tel Aviv Beach- blended watermelon, arak and muddled mint leaves) to listen to Shlomo’s intro and to receive our assignments.

Many hands separating kataif dough for Knafeh
Many hands separating kataif dough for Knafeh

After dividing up into groups of 2-4 we went to work chopping, sautéing, whisking and nibbling. Schwartz easily managed the group’s many questions and floated from station to station, demonstrating knife skills, best way to fry eggplant, how to elicit perfect creaminess from hummus all while sharing his passion for ingredients rooted in his native land.

Simmering Shakshuka for Chamshuka
Simmering Shakshuka for Chamshuka

Schwartz’s names for these dishes give clues to the origins and twists in each composition. Let me know if you need some help deciphering them. Here’s what we whipped up.

Amouse- Bouche- The Queen and King of the Desert– A New-Old Love Story: Cherry tomato and garlic confit with crispy za’atar pita bites and goat cheese.

Red Flag on Tel Aviv beach: Slushy watermelon, arak and mint cocktail (dangerous when you’re thirsty)

Sabich Salad
Sabich Salad

Sabich Salad– A Twist on Israeli Street Food: Iraqi-Jewish-Salad with fried eggplant, hard cooked eggs, green tehina, fresh parsley and garlic and sumac seasoned croutons

Fatush Salad
Fatush Salad

Fatush Salad: Shuk to Table: Forget Israeli, Arab, Mediterranean Salad. This is the real deal: chopped fresh market veggies and haloumi cheese with pita croutons

Freekeh Tabouli– Between Tel Aviv and Jaffa: Freekeh with fennel, celery , mango, red onion, fresh herbs, lemony tehina and more…. (see recipe below)

Chamshukah- Shakshuka over creamy hummus
Chamshukah- Shakshuka over creamy hummus

Jerusalem Machne Yehuda Chamshuka: traditional tomato and pepper stew with poached eggs, cheese and herbs over a bed of creamy hummus

Beets to Go: Carved beets with lemon-herbed couscous and roasted pistachios over yogurt sauce

and the grand finale…

Upgraded Knafeh: cheese pastry soaked in sweet syrup with vanilla ice cream, tehina cream, silan and nuts.

Drooling yet?

You can find Chef Shlomo  Schwartz at Your Soul Kitchen or teaching at the Center for Kosher Culinary Arts. Check this kosher cooking school for a wide range of classes for professionals seeking certification or for enthusiastic home cooks by clicking here.

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