One of the better things to come out of the pandemic has been the deluge of jokes, videos and cartoons, but by now the comedy is wearing a bit thin. You’ve probably seen the one labeled “Travel Plans 2020” depicting a home’s floor plan with arrows leading from room to room. Funny when we first saw it; not so funny anymore. For most of us there has been a little too much leisure, travel not so much. This, our “Travel and Leisure” issue, reminds us that, yes, we will fly again.
In the meantime, armchair travelers have only to open a cookbook to take a virtual tour of a favorite destination, cook its food and delight in the exotic cuisine of distant lands. Maybe next year you’ll take that coveted trip to Israel, but for now acclaimed chef Einat Admony and Israeli food authority Janna Gur bring the beguiling aromas and fresh flavors of Israel’s colorful open-air markets straight to your kitchen with their cookbook, “Shuk” (Artisan, $21.99). Admony, who was born in Tel Aviv, brought her Mizrahi (Middle Eastern) heritage and experience shopping and cooking from the shuks to her New York restaurant Taim, and with “Shuk” she has made these recipes accessible to the home cook. Gur, founder/editor of “Al Hashulchan” (“On the Table”), a leading Israeli food and wine magazine, brings her knowledge of Israeli culture and history to the table, adding informative and authoritative primers on the multi-ethnic roots of this rich, diverse cuisine.
You’ll find delightfully surprising twists on Israel’s most popular dishes: hummus, falafel, chopped salad and shakshuka; Admony’s family recipes from her Persian and Yemenite roots as well as Moroccan tagines, Levantine spreads and the rare, hand-rolled couscous of North Africa.
“In Israel there is a large Ethiopian Jewish community, but the majority of Israelis are not familiar with their unique cuisine,” Admony writes. “I, however, have always felt super connected with Ethiopian culture, partly because I had Ethiopian girlfriends when I was young, and partly because it reminds me of my Yemenite father’s culture.”
The Ethiopian chicken dish called Doro Wot is typical of this flavorful cuisine characterized by the use of vegetables and often spicy meat dishes. Wot is a thick stew, and Doro Wot is considered the national dish of Ethiopia. “The fragrance of this dish, the fenugreek in particular, transports me back to my childhood home,” she says. “In an Ethiopian kitchen, this dish would be served with injera, a famous Ethiopian spongy flatbread that’s perfect for mopping up sauce.” Admony suggests substituting with a similar Yemenite bread called lachuch, a favorite of her father’s.
Now, fasten your seatbelt and return your tray table to its full upright and locked position. We’re traveling to the Isle of Rhodes, Greece, the ancestral home of Stella Cohen, food writer and authority on Sephardic cuisine and author of “Stella’s Sephardic Table” (Hoberman, $45). Located close to the coast of Turkey and along the sea route to Israel, it was once home to a rich and vibrant Jewish community— it was even nicknamed La Chica Yerushalayim (Little Jerusalem). The economic depression of the ‘30s and the coming onslaught of the Nazis drove the Jews out, and today fewer than 20 Jews remain.
Cohen’s family wound up in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) where she was born. “My mother’s ancestors include my great-grandfather, Yaacov Capouya, the rabbi of Rhodes,” she told me by phone from New York where she was visiting family.
“Everyone seems to be baking as we look to bring comfort and joy to our loved ones during this time,” Cohen wrote on her Facebook page. Jews from medieval Spain adopted the irresistible almond shortbread biscuits called polverones. “These buttery biscuits made with toasted almonds are crumbly in texture, polvo in Spanish meaning dust or powder,” she says. “When the Sephardim in exile settled in Rhodes Island, they continued to make these melt-in-the mouth treats, very similar to Greek kourabiethes.” Cohen has added tahini paste to the original recipe and toasted sesame seeds for extra crunch.”
Kurabyes (Almond Shortbread)
Grind the toasted almonds finely but not to a powder – they should be like sand with coarser bits giving the biscuit more crunch.
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup confectioner’s sugar sifted, plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup sunflower oil
2 tablespoons tahini paste
1 tablespoon brandy or ouzo
3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup cornstarch
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup blanched almonds, lightly toasted and finely ground
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
1 teaspoon orange blossom water diluted in 1 cup water.
20 blanched slivered almonds or pistachios, for topping
1) Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 2 baking pans with parchment paper.
2) Beat butter on medium speed in bowl of electric mixer until pale and creamy about 8 minutes. Gradually add confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes. Beat in oil, tahini paste and brandy.
3) Sift together flour, cornstarch and baking powder and add to mixture with the ground almonds and sesame seeds, gradually working them in lightly with your hands until a very soft dough forms. Be careful not to overwork it.
4) Pinch off about 20 pieces of dough. Moisten your hands with diluted orange blossom water and shape into balls. Squeezing with both forefingers and thumbs, shape into triangles 1½ inches wide and ½-inch high. Arrange on prepared baking sheets leaving some space between them as they spread while baking. Press in sliver almond or pistachio in the center of each biscuit.
5) Bake about 20 minutes or until just beginning to color. They should be pale, slightly cracked on top and barely golden around edges. Do not over bake. Let cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes before removing with metal spatula and set on wire racks. To serve, dust generously with confectioners’ sugar and stack on a platter.
Source: “Stella’s Sephardic Table” by Stella Cohen
Doro Wot (Ethiopian Chicken)
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
6 bone-in, skin-on chicken legs, separated into thighs and drumsticks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
¼ cup canola oil
2 large onions, finely diced or chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground fenugreek seeds or leaf
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
2¼ cups homemade or low-sodium store-bought chicken stock or water
Lachuch, for serving (For recipe, go to jlifeoc.com)
1) Rub chicken with lemon juice and 1 tablespoon salt and let it sit for 30 minutes.
2) Meanwhile, heat oil in heavy–based wide skillet or Dutch oven (large enough to hold the chicken in one snug layer) over medium heat, add onions and remaining tablespoon salt, and sauté gently until fragrant, golden, and sweet, about 20 minutes. Do not let onions actually brown.
3) Add garlic, cumin, ginger, cardamom, turmeric, paprika, fenugreek, and pepper and stir for a minute so spices bloom in the oil. Nestle chicken pieces and eggs into pan and pour in broth.
4) Cover pan and adjust heat to a solid simmer. Cook about 30 minutes. Then remove lid (so sauce will reduce and thicken a bit) and continue to simmer until chicken and sautéed gently until fragrant, golden brown, and sweet, about 20 minutes. Do not let onions actually brown.
5) Add garlic, cumin, ginger, cardamom, turmeric, paprika, fenugreek and pepper and stir for a minute so spices bloom in the oil. Nestle chicken pieces and eggs into pan and pour in broth. Thread steak onto skewers. Reserve marinade mixture.
6) Cover pan and adjust heat to a solid simmer. Cook about 30 minutes. Then remove lid (so sauce will reduce and thicken a bit) and continue to simmer until chicken is very tender when poked with a knife and juices run clear (or until thickest part of thigh or drumstick reaches 165°F on an instant-read thermometer), 45 to 60 minutes.
7) Taste and adjust with more salt or pepper. Serve with lachuch to mop up the delicious sauce.
Source: “Shuk” by Einat Admony and Janna Gur
Jlife Food Editor Judy Bart Kancigor is the author of “Cooking Jewish” (Workman) and “The Perfect Passover Cookbook” (an e-book short from Workman), a columnist and feature writer for the Orange County Register and other publications and can be found on the web at