As Israeli food becomes more popular outside Israel, interest in learning more about it continues to grow. Reflecting — and contributing to — this phenomenon are various books that have come out in recent years.
By far, the most successful and one that Galya Sarner strongly recommends is Jerusalem: A Cookbook. Published in 2012, it was co-written by chefs Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, the former Jewish, the latter Arab, both of whom hail from Galya’s hometown of Jerusalem. Ottolenghi and Tamimi both live in London where they first met and are now partners in several successful restaurants.
True to its title, the book spotlights dishes common to Jerusalem or inspired by the city. Readers can choose from 120 contemporary and traditional recipes for a diverse range of Mediterranean-style food including soups, salads, meat, fish, vegetables, cakes and desserts, which are central to the Israeli palette. Not surprisingly, given Galya’s background and the focus of the book, it resonates deeply with her and has pride of place among her many food books.
“Being born in Jerusalem and having grown up on food so connected to that city, I was immediately drawn to this book the moment I first saw its inviting cover at an Indigo store in Toronto in 2013,” says Galya. “A few days later, I was visiting my friend Eti Greenberg and she had a copy in her home. I remember discussing it with Eti, who’s originally from Israel, and we both agreed it was so well done. The more I read the book, the more I admired what Ottolenghi and Tamimi had done. In many ways, they put Jerusalem cuisine on the map internationally.”
Jerusalem: A Cookbook is also a delight for the eye due to its design and the many beautiful photographs of the food and various sites in the venerable city. Through their respective stories, personal anecdotes and cooking techniques, Ottolenghi and Tamimi evoke the rich Jewish and Arab cultures of Jerusalem along with others that together form the city’s Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Armenian mosaic.
“As I read the book, I appreciated the culinary journey that Ottolenghi and Tamimi captured in the pages,” says Galya. “It took me back to my youth in Jerusalem when my late grandmother, Gracia Sitton, a 7th generation Jerusalemite, taught me the magic of Jerusalem cuisine. The authors of this book are clearly so knowledgable and passionate about this type of food and the story behind it.”
Today, Ottolenghi is one of the most respected chefs in the world. With his many bestselling books and frequent appearances in the media, he’s also established himself as a powerhouse when it comes to food writing and the culinary scene.
Three years ago, while in a London for a conference, Galya made a point of going to one of his highly acclaimed restaurants there.
“What I loved most is that Ottolenghi emphasizes his own style and interpretation of what Jerusalem food is all about,” says Galya. “I like his emphasis on fresh ingredients, his incredible selection of salads and the simple, clean design of his restaurants.”
This October, Galya will help host Ottolenghi when he visits the Schwartz Reisman Centre in Toronto in connection with the launch of his new book titled Sweet.
Meanwhile, here’s a selection of other books that Galya recommends for a better understanding about Israeli food:
– Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking, by Michael Solomonov
– Israel Eats, by Steven Rothfeld
– The Palomar Cookbook: Modern Israeli Cuisine, by Layo Paskin and Tomer Amedi
– Breaking Breads: A New World of Israeli Baking, by Uri Scheft
– Modern Israeli Cooking: 100 New Recipes for Traditional Classics, by Danielle Oron
– The Book of New Israeli Food: A Culinary Journey, by Janna Gur
– Cook in Israel: Home Cooking Inspiration