Two of the leading voices in Israeli food are coming to Austin for the Texas Book Festival next week, and you have two chances to hear from them.
To write her second cookbook, "Shuk: From Market to Table, the Heart of Israeli Home Cooking" (Artisan, $35), New York chef Einat Admony, who was born in Tel Aviv and now runs Balaboosta, Kish-Kash and a budding falafel chain called Taïm in New York, teamed up with famed Israeli food writer Janna Gur, who founded the premier Israeli food and wine magazine Al Hashulchan.
Admony, who answered the Q&A questions below for a preview that is running in next week's print food section, will be talking about the book at 1:15 p.m. Oct. 26 in the cooking tent of the Texas Book Festival.
Gur will be leading a brunch at Olamaie at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 27, where she'll talk about the open-air marketplaces that are the subject of the book, while Olamaie chef Michael Fojtasek oversees the three-course brunch menu. Tickets to that brunch, $125, are available through texasbookfestival.org. They authors shared their recipe for green shakshuka, below, which will be on the menu at Sunday's brunch.
What was the most meaningful cookbook from when you were a young cook?
To be honest, I didn’t need to use cookbooks growing up. I was lucky to learn about ingredients and cooking techniques from both my Persian mother and Moroccan neighbor, who guided my culinary education from a very young age. The integrity and variety of the ingredients available to us at the Israeli shuks made it easy to make incredibly delicious food with love and care, using varied traditions of my multicultural homeland. Eventually, I gained my own culinary intuition from so many years spent in kitchens, both in my childhood home and the professional kitchens in which I launched my career.
What is your favorite recipe in your cookbook?
Mafroum (beef-stuffed potatoes simmered in tomato sauce) is near and dear to my heart. It is my favorite comfort food I grew up eating alongside traditional hand-rolled couscous, and it was the inspiration behind my couscous restaurant, Kish-Kash, in New York. This makes a fantastic dinner main course, with or without the couscous. And Israelis love a chopped salad. We eat them for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and they can be served alongside most things. One of my personal favorites is the chopped avocado, cucumber and kohlrabi salad in the book. It has both crunch and creaminess, and the sweet-spicy flavor pairs well with anything from schnitzel to grilled fish.
What was the hardest part of the book to finish?
The hardest part was deciding which recipes to include! The shuks provide endless inspiration, and there are many rich traditions in Israel that inform the cuisine — Persia, Iraq, Morocco, Yemen, Ethiopia, The Levant, etc. There are so many alluring, delicious and evocative recipes in my repertoire that I wanted to highlight that curating them was very difficult.
What's the biggest message that you hope readers take away from the project?
I hope readers are inspired by the vibrant culture of Israel, a melting pot of many cultures, much like the U.S., and become curious to learn more about them. And also see that the sourcing of quality ingredients is just as important as the time and effort you take in preparing a dish. When you have abundant, fresh produce and herbs at their peak, it doesn’t require much effort to make delicious food.
What's the one thing you wish you could tell yourself when you were at the beginning of your career?
Take good care of your body and your mind. The food industry can be extremely demanding, and caring for yourself first will make you a better cook and a better leader in the kitchen.
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Green Shakshuka with Chard, Kale, Spinach and Feta
Thick, slightly tart stews made from slow-cooked greens are one of the hallmarks of both Tunisian and Libyan (Tripolitan) cuisine. So if red shakshukas were made with leftover tomato stews, it’s entirely possible that leftover stews of simmered greens were repurposed as green shakshukas. In Israel, green shakshukas are almost as popular as red ones, and they come in many versions. This one, relatively slowly cooked and seasoned with cumin and caraway, has some of the stewy texture typical of North African dishes, with the feta adding a Balkan note in the true Israeli spirit of culinary mash-up. The best time to make this shakshuka is in the colder months when spinach, chard and other leafy greens are at their sweetest.
— Einat Admony
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 leeks, white parts chopped and green tops very thinly sliced
3 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 small jalapeño, cored, seeded and thinly sliced
5 or 6 Swiss chard leaves, leaves coarsely chopped, stems thinly sliced
1 small bunch Tuscan kale (also called lacinato or dinosaur), stemmed, leaves coarsely chopped
3 cups baby spinach or trimmed and coarsely chopped regular spinach
1 teaspoon ground caraway
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup homemade or low-sodium store-bought chicken stock or vegetable stock or water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
6 to 8 large eggs
5 ounces feta cheese, coarsely crumbled
Extra-virgin olive oil
Crusty bread or challah
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks, garlic, jalapeño and chard stems and sauté until softened and lightly caramelized, 10 to 12 minutes (take care not to brown the garlic). Add the kale, spinach and the chard leaves and cook, stirring often, until wilted and soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the caraway and cumin, and season very lightly with salt (the feta is quite salty) and several twists of pepper.
Add the stock and the lemon juice and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, then reduce the heat to low and cook for another few minutes, until the greens meld into a thick, dark green, stewy sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Use a large spoon to create little wells in the greens mixture. Carefully break 1 egg into a cup or ramekin, then slip it into one of the wells; repeat with the remaining eggs. (Cracking the egg into a cup first lets you inspect it for any runaway bits of shell.) Cover and simmer until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still a little runny, about 7 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat.
Sprinkle the shakshuka with the feta, drizzle with oil, and sprinkle generously with za’atar. Serve the shakshuka directly from the skillet, with plenty of crusty bread or challah. Serves 4 to 6.
— From "Shuk: From Market to Table, the Heart of Israeli Home Cooking" by Einat Admony and Janna Gur (Artisan Books, $35)