The Book of New Israeli Food: A Culinary Journey
Reviewed by Mick Vann, Fri., Dec. 5, 2008
The Book of New Israeli Food: A Culinary Journeyby Janna Gur
Schocken Books, 304 pp., $35
Author Janna Gur is the founder and editor of leading Israeli food and wine magazine Al Hashulchan – The Israeli Gastronomic Monthly. In her Book of New Israeli Food, Gur chronicles the relatively recent progression of Israeli cuisine from spartan austerity into a true gastronomic haven. Although Israel is a young nation, its culinary roots go back thousands of years, constantly evolving through the dishes imported and adapted from the distinct heritages of its melting-pot inhabitants. The explosion of Israel's modern agricultural system has helped to transform the cuisine, providing the necessary produce, fruits, meats, cheeses, and wines. Modern aquaculture provides a constant supply of the freshest fish. There is a whole new generation of home and restaurant cooks eager to learn, experiment, and evolve.
Against this backdrop, Gur provides part cookbook, part culinary cultural exhibition, filled with stunning photographs. Chapters are grouped under salads, the street and the market, simple pleasures, grill, Shabbat, and holidays, but a comprehensive cross-referenced index makes it easy to locate dishes by recipe and ingredient. Recipes ranging from simple and rustic to detailed and more elaborate are easy to follow and reinforced with detailed headnotes, while providing a wealth of variations and hints. Cooking techniques are well-illustrated and explained. This is a book that succeeds for both neophyte cook and trained chef. Whether it's the simple food you expect to find or more creative offerings such as fennel, lemon, and pistachio salad with honey dressing; a grilled lamb kebab baked under pastry in an oniony tomato sauce; or artichoke with fish tartare and argan oil, it is impossible to read through this delicious book and not salivate.