Israeli Soul: Easy, Essential, Delicious, written by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook, features the family-favorite dishes of Israel adapted for the home kitchen along with beautiful photography and an abundance of stories. Highlights include Jerusalem Mixed Grill, Zucchini Schnitzel, Mofarket Al Abed (Egg Salad from Akko), Opera Bean Soup, Romanian Kebabs, Zalatimo, three types of Tehina Shakes, Fried Challah Sufganiyot, and more. I will also be featuring their recipe for Jerusalem Bagels following the review.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook
Michael Solomonov is the executive chef of Zahav, 2017 James Beard Outstanding Chef in America, and 2016 Eater Chef of the Year.
Together with Steven Cook, they own Zahav, Federal Donuts, Abe Fisher, Dizengoff, Rooster Soup Co., and Goldie restaurants in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They have also written Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking and Federal Donuts: The (Partially) True Spectacular Story.
The level of detail and information in Israeli Soul is absolutely incredible. Not only will you find a collection of great recipes, you will also learn about the history behind the food and the people who have perfected it. With home cooks in mind, many of the recipes have been fully adapted and made easier for the home kitchen.
While some of the dishes are best layered and require multiple steps, others come together with minimal effort. The fresh pita bread can be completed in just an hour and their 5-minute hummus include 24 different topping options (that are also great alone as salads, sides, and condiments) such as Avocado with Peanut Harissa, Saffron Braised Chicken, Carrots with Dukkah, Lamb Meatballs, and Ground Beef with Turkish Coffee.
The chapters are divided according to the following: Falafel; Pita Bread; Sabich; Shawarma; Druze Mountain Bread; Jerusalem Grill; Schnitzel; Hummus; Salads; Ashkenazi; Soups, Stews, Stuffed; Grilling; Savory; Sweet; and Drinks & Cold Treats. The contents have a list of all the recipes for easy reference. They even include a map and list of the different restaurants included in their research (plus Philadelphia).
The photography is provided by Michael Persico. Beautiful photos of the people, scenery, and of course food of Israel are scattered throughout the book along with at least one and often multiple pictures to accompany the recipes. There are also plenty of step-by-step photos. Measurements are listed in US Customary.
Similar to the Middle Eastern Ka’ak, the Jerusalem Bagel is an elongated bread covered in sesame seeds. It is not actually boiled before baking like the NYC Bagel, but this particular version has a Philly pretzel twist with the addition of a baking soda solution brushed all over the tops before baking until golden.
Fresh from the oven, these bagels are perfect served simply with za’atar. You can also use them as the base for Toastim, Jerusalem Bagels stuffed with sandwich ingredients and toasted (you can find ideas in the book for the Olive Butter, Feta, and Tomato Toastim and the Salmon, Labneh, and Avocado Sandwich).
Labneh is a thick and creamy yogurt cheese. It can be found in some larger supermarkets, but is very easy to make at home for a fraction of the price. You just need to plan a bit in advance. Mix about 32 ounces of whole milk yogurt with a large pinch of salt and place in a cheesecloth-lined strainer. Refrigerate and allow to drain for 12-24 hours. The longer you drain it, the more firm it will become.
I also made Matbucha, Sesame Brittle, Pomegranate-Mint Fruit Soda, and Strawberry-Labneh Ice-Pops.
Matbucha is a Moroccan Cooked Tomato-and-Pepper Salad. The tomatoes are cooked slowly over 1-1 1/2 hours with finely chopped onion and red bell pepper to create a flavorful, chunky sauce. It is served with cilantro leaves, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a drizzle of olive oil.
This recipe for Sesame Brittle is their version of a popular Israeli sesame candy. Perfect for those new to candy-making, the brittle comes together easily with just a handful of ingredients. Sesame seeds are coated in a mixture of honey, sugar, and just a little tehina and boiled until thickened. After transferring to an oiled baking dish, the mixture is allowed to cool slightly before cutting into 1 inch cubes.
The Pomegranate-Mint Fruit Soda was such a light and refreshing drink. There are a variety of blended fruit syrups from their restaurants included in the book. I also can’t wait to try the Watermelon-Lime in the summer.
Along with the different fruit soda recipes, there are also plenty of ice-pops. I decided on the Strawberry-Labneh Ice-Pops to use up the rest of the batch of labneh I made for the Jerusalem Bagels. These were such a huge hit, especially with Claire. Other flavors include Lemonnana, Watermelon, and Banana-Date.
Israeli Soul is a great pick for those looking for Israeli recipes and stories. Bread bakers will especially love the abundance of options to work with such as Druze Mountain Bread, Rye Bread, Malawach, Borekas, and even Khachapuri (one of my absolute favorites!).
Most of the ingredients are readily available in the average American supermarket. Some that may require further searching include Tehina, labneh, baharat, nigella seeds, dried chickpeas, Aleppo pepper, Turkish coffee, ground fenugreek, za’atar, and matzo meal. Substitutions are provided when available.
Jerusalem Bagels Recipe
Excerpt from Israeli Soul
- 1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 3/4 cups warm water 105-115˚F, divided
- 4 cups bread flour
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 1/3 cup labneh
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- 2 large eggs
- Sesame seeds for sprinkling
- Combine the yeast, sugar, and 1 1/2 cups of the water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the flour, oil, labneh, and salt and mix until the dough comes together. Cover the bowl and let rise at room temperature until it almost doubles in volume, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Portion the dough into 6 to 8 equally sized balls and place on a lightly floured large board. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
- Pat one piece of dough into a rough rectangle the size of your board, then roll it up, starting from one long end, pinching and deflating/degassing the dough as you roll. Pinch the seam to seal. Continue rolling the dough into a long rope using both hands, starting in the middle and moving outward to make it as even as possible (it should be about 1 1/2 feet long). Bring the edges together to make a long oval and pinch to seal. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces. Let rise on the board for 1 hour. The dough will puff up a bit.
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Spread out the baking soda in a small ovenproof dish and bake for 3 minutes. Remove from the oven and whisk with the eggs and the remaining 1/4 cup water in a small bowl. After the dough ovals have risen, place them on the prepared baking sheets. Brush the tops with the egg wash, using all of it, and sprinkle liberally with sesame seeds. Bake until deep golden brown, 12-15 minutes.