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Foods of Israel Today Hardcover – 19 Apr 2001

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Amazon.com: 22 reviews
53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
Oral gratification 23 Mar 2001
By Larry Mark MyJewishBooksDotCom - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
With 300 recipes, two pages of suggested Israeli restaurants, two web sources for ingredients, and nine suggested menus, Nathan shows the diverse cuisines of Israel?s sabras and immigrants. THIS IS ISRAELI CUISINE that is being eaten in Israel. Includes turkey schnitzel, quick kibbutz apple cake, eggplant salad, and halvah chocolate cake. Includes Transylvania Green Bean Soup, a dessert salami (made of cookies) and the Chocolate Cake recipe from the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem. It includes over a dozen poultry recipes, including Doro Wat, a spicy chicken of Ethiopian Jews; and Hamim, an overnight chicken dish with cloves, spaghetti, cumin, cinnamon, and cardamom. Ms Nathan felt compelled to write this 400 page book on the night Itzhak Rabin was assassinated (Nov 4, 1995). Three decades ago, she lived in Israel for three years and worked in Jerusalem for Mayor Teddy Kollek for over two years (where Nathan co-wrote her first cookbook). The book is in the style of her earlier American Jewish Cooking book, namely, each recipe is preceded by an oral history, and there are histories, classic photos, and stories between the recipes. For example, to complement the recipe for Shakshuka, the reader learns about the Doktor Shakshuka Restaurant in old Jaffa and its owners. For the burekas recipe, we read about eating burekas at Jerusalem?s city hall in the Seventies. While discussing the Friedman?s farm in Rosh Pina, we get lots of farm recipes. A recipe for Kaiserschmarrn is coupled with an old picture of Beit Ha?Pancake?s roadside gas station and a story about the search for the dish?s Viennese roots. In addition to salad, tahina, and hummus recipes, Nathan lists 19 of the best places for hummus from Jerusalem to Akko to Haifa. Plus 12 happening places for falafel. There are 23 salads, including Hamutzim (pickled vegetables). Some of my favorite recipes are Mish Mish Apricot Jam (with cinnamon stick); Egyptian Coconut Jam; Triple Citrus Marmalade (coupled with a story on Etrog picking); Israeli Onion Jam (from Neot Kedumim), a guide to how to make your own Za?atar spice; Carmelized green Olives; Shortcut Potato Burekas; Marhooda; Bulgur Patties from the Black Hebrew community in Dimona; and a Revisionist Haroset (from Hemda Friedman). The Palestinian Fruit Soup uses cinnamon stick and was found in a 1930's Cleveland cookbook of all places. There is a Bukharan style Tomato Gazpacho and Bulgarian Eggplant Soup with Yogurt. Speaking of Za?atar, Nathan includes the recipe for Abouelafia?s Sunny Side Up Za?atar Pita Pizza (if you haven?t had it in Jaffa, either buy the book or fly ElAl to the bakery immediately). Speaking of soup, she has the Hummus Soup recipe from Keren Restaurant, as well as Aramaic Chicken Soup; and the Goulash Soup recipe from Fink?s Bar (on King George at Ben Yehudah mall). The Olive Bread recipe uses black and green olives and oregano. The Mahlouach recipe is from Nahlaot, and the Chocolate Bread recipe is from Lehem Erez Komarovsky. The Jerusalem Kugel recipe is heavy on the pepper and the Barsch is Uzbeki style from Holon. There is Yotvata Potato Mushroom Casserole from Kibbutz Yotvata (and all you thought they made was milk), and the 16 fish dishes include Khremi, a Libyan style fish from Beit Shikma; Ima Sharansky?s gefilte fish; and Chef Steinitz?s Salmon Trout dish (Dan Hotel, Eilat). What more can one want? Oral recipes and oral histories results in oral gratification
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
WOW! A Top-10 Cookbook! An Epiphany! 19 Aug 2003
By Aidan Gilbert - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I would emphatically disagree with the person who characterized this as a coffee table book! It only leaves my kitchen so I can read it on the train or before I go to sleep! It has completely changed the way my family eats! I have often bemoned not being able to have fresh bread with dinner because my wife and I both work. Now we have homemade pita most days with dinner, and couscous has completely replaced pasta as our staple starch. My wife and 6-year-old love everything I've made from it -- from the Moroccan meatballs with tomato-olive sauce to kubbanah (a sabbath bread baked overnight) to fishballs in a spicy tomato sauce to chocolate challah! I now even make my own harissa (Tunisian hot hot hot sauce)! Joan Nathan, already one of my favorite cookbook authors, has really created a masterpiece. I can't imagine anyone being disappointed with it -- it is such a joy and opens the door to the cuisine of Israel to the American home cook. My only suggestion for improvement -- and it is small -- would have been to include a resourse for purchasing some of the exotic or esoteric cookware mentioned in the book. I would love to own a kubbanah pan and a large couscousierre, but don't know where to get either in the states. I love this book and will probably buy a second copy to tuck away for when I wear this copy out! I wouldn't want to live without it! Bravo, Ms. Nathan!
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Every dish has a story to tell 21 Nov 2002
By Ein Kunde - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
If you believe that every dish has a story to tell, in other words, if you are the kind of person who likes to read cookbooks as much as you like to cook by them, then "The Foods of Israel Today" by Joan Nathan is a book for you. While the title indicates these are foods found in contemporary Israel, each dish is traditional, originating perhaps in Israel, or more often somewhere else: Germany, Iran, Italy, Libya, Morocco, Turkey, etc., but all a part of the Jewish diaspora and eventual return to multicultural Israel. The author really tells the story of each dish (there is just as much "story" as actual recipe): the people that make it, where they come from, how they live, and how the author came to learn it all. There are lots of historic photographs too. One slight drawback is that this book is most useful to someone who is an experienced cook, especially one who is familiar with Jewish cuisine. In a few places where a food or cooking technique may not be familar, it is not as much a step-by-step guide as it could be. However, this is a minor fault in a very valuable and enjoyable book.
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Israeli Cooking and Dining, with Reservations 4 Sep 2001
By JR25 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I tend to stick to the classic cookbooks (Claudia Roden for Middle Eastern food, for example), but I know I will be cooking from "The foods of Israel Today" for a long time. There are some terrific recipes in here.
I do have a few problems with the book, though. One is its references to obscure ingredients, usually spices, with little help on where to get them or what substitutions might work. For example, what do you do if you don't happen to have ground sumac? Some recipes call for 'baharat', with no reference to what it is. The index points to Jaffa Orange-Ginger Chicken with Baharat, which offers a rather vague definition of a spice mixture that "varies from cook to cook." What to do?
Another problem is the pictures, or lack of them. There are lots of somewhat murky black-and-white historical snapshots, some of them pretty interesting. But this food is out-of-the-ordinary for most cooks, and I'd like to see pictures of it. How to cut a potato in half and then get the stuffing to stay between the layers or cut a casserole into diamond shapes? Instead of a picture of the dish, there's a guy on a camel. Line drawings would be a big help for some of the techniques. The three 8-page tip-ins of color pictures are a strange selection, and to me, they don't capture the color and variety of Israeli food. They also make Israel look more third-world and primitive than it is.
Another matter is whether everything can actually be made as it's described. For example, those stuffed vegetables. You are supposed to cut the top off tomatoes and onions, stuff them with a meat filling, and then brown them on all sides? I envision a mess, with most of the filling falling out into the frying oil. Wouldn't they brown sufficiently in the oven?
It's hard to believe this book was edited by Judith Jones, of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" fame; if you follow the instructions in "Mastering I and II" carefully, everything, no matter how complex, comes out beautifully. Luckily, that's how I learned how to cook. So I can take these somewhat sketchy recipes that often read if they were compiled from family and friends' recipe cards, clippings from newspaper food columns, oral instructions from proprietors of funky restaurants -- and make them work. Perhaps, today, publishers insist that recipes fit on one page; they feel that if the recipes look "too long," people won't buy the book. That's too bad, because the longest recipes (unless youre Elizabeth David) are often the easiest to cook from.
However, none of the above will stop me from using this book and reading it the way I read books in the Time-Life Foods of the World series. I'm not so sure I would go as far as a previous reviewer and call Nathan a "cultural anthropologist," but she does delve into history, society, culture, and personalities in sidebars and recipe introductions the way few cookbooks have since the days of Foods of the World. Too bad she didn't have the photography and production budget.
All in all, a worthwhile addition to your cookbook shelf, and a fine gift for your cooking friends (Jewish and not).
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Savoury to read and to cook from 29 Oct 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The Foods of Israel Today is a delicious tour of Middle Eastern tastes and sights. The black and white photos of Israel's early days and the beautiful color photos of contemporary life in its varied ethnic communities provide a vivid picture of the country's history and the complex textures of its vibrant daily life today.
I love reading all of Joan Nathan's books almost as much as I enjoy cooking from them. The dishes I choose to emulate are enhanced by the stories of the people who have already fed these goodies to their own families. Where else can you find recipes for life alongside recipes for casseroles?
The cooking instructions themselves are easy to follow. I don't read a cookbook like a science text; I don't much care if what comes out of my kitchen is exactly like the original. The fun is at least partly in the process. And with The Foods of Israel Today, as with all of Nathan's books, there's an added reward: while your friends and family are enjoying their dinner (and complimenting you for it) you can regale them with the stories of the interesting folks who made these recipes possible.
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