Both books are written in collaboration with Steven Cook, and I was lucky to be on the presentations of both of them for the Jewish cookbook lovers. What can I say? Sometimes I get lucky! Both books are beautifully printed with amazing colorful photographs – a pleasure to read and just flip through. All of this, of course attests to good connections in the cookbook printing word, not the actual taste of the dishes, but – the dishes are amazing too!
While some of them would be better attempted in a kitchen that I can only dream of, others are very much doable even in my tiny one. Anyone can make the Fried Potatoes with Harissa Tehina, and you will get a recipe for a homemade Harissa as well. I was particularly impressed with the things that I never thought I would make, like Pickled Persimmons, for example. The idea of pairing fruit with garlic never occured to me, and I actually loved it! You can then eat those by themselves, add them to salads or lamb dishes if you eat meat.
Of course, there are recipes for challah, and pita, meat, and such favorites as Leek Patties, which I love to make in spring, but a couple of my favorites are desserts – Knafeh and Baklava cigars. Too sad that I don’t have pictures for all of those things. They were surprisingly easy to make!
I appreciate all the explanation about the spices, and the ways to find them here in the US. All in all this book is very personal, and that is probably why it appeals to me. Just like mine, and possibly many people’s, Michael’s life was changed by a tragedy. I suppose this pushed him to become a better person, just like it did to for me. And while, it seems, our words are quite different, the food is something that always binds people together. I would have loved to talk to him more, but none of his restaurants are kosher, so….
“Israeli Soul” is a book both different and similar. Similarly beautifully printed, it is less personal, and more about the foods of the differents parts of the country both geographical and ethnic. Stories too, are about the land, and sometimes its controversies.
Again you will find guides to the spices, burekas, and kebabs, lots of salad variations that you wouldn’t get anywhere in America, except places where Israelis live, like New York or LA. There are different versions of the same dishes depending on who is cooking, and what one has at their disposal. Personally, I love it, but I am crazy about cookbooks in general and books about Jewish food in particular. Of course there’s another recipe for pickled lemons, something I think everyone has to have in their fridge, and some other things which are not typical here, but I cannot live without – sumac, dried limes, schug, etc.
All in all, if you are like me, love reading not only about how to prepare your food, but the stories behind it – get both. If you want a straightforward recipe – maybe Zahav should be your choice out of the two.