The chef who makes Israeli cooking a healthy option
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The chef who makes Israeli cooking a healthy option

Food from the Holy Land helps you live longer thanks to a new book by top chef Michael Solomonov

Alex Galbinski is a Jewish News journalist

A new book by Israeli-born Michael Solomonov will surely help to explain why the Israeli diet has been praised as the healthiest in the world.

The land of milk and honey was recently found to have the lowest rate of diet-related deaths (89 per 100,000, compared with the UK’s ranking of 23, with 127 per 100,000) in a study.

Poor ranking countries had diets  with low intake of healthy foods, including fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

Solomonov – who was raised in the US – and co-author Steven Cook (with whom he co-owns several restaurants), have raised the profile of Israeli cuisine.

Their second cookbook, Israeli Soul, an ode to Israel, is interwoven with personal stories. It places a heavy emphasis on salads and vegetables.

Mike and Steven!

Turkey Paillard 

Serves 6

Applying a shawarma-inspired spice blend to lean grilled turkey breast elevates this mild meat above its workaday existence as a lunchtime staple. Served over Opera-Style Chopped Salad, inspired by our favourite Yemenite restaurant in Hadera, it’s a light and flavourful meal.

Ingredients

  • 1 (2- to 2½-pound) skinless, boneless turkey breast
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons za’atar
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup fresh coriander
Turkey Paillard

Method

  1. 1Butterfly the turkey and pound it evenly to a ½-inch thickness, then slice thickly.
  2. Mix the oil, salt, za’atar, ground coriander, garlic, and fresh coriander in a shallow bowl. Add the turkey and coat it in the seasonings. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
  3. When you’re ready to cook the turkey, place a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Sear the turkey pieces for 5 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Let the turkey rest, then slice thickly on the bias.

Goldie Falafel 

Makes about 30 pieces

Based on the master recipe we developed for Goldie [their restaurant in Philadelphia], this version is not too spicy and lets the subtle chickpea taste come through. Herbs and vegetables help keep the falafel balls moist; pulsing in a food processor creates the crispy exterior..

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 pound dried chickpeas, soaked in water overnight and drained
  • Big handful fresh parsley
  • Big handful fresh coriander
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons cold water, plus more as needed
  • Canola oil, for frying
Goldie Falafel ingredients

Method

  1. Mix together the baking powder, salt, cumin, and turmeric in a small bowl.
  2. Layer half the ingredients in a food processor in this order: chickpeas, fresh herbs, vegetables, garlic, and the mixed dry seasonings. Repeat with the remaining ingredients in the same order. Add the water and pulse until very finely chopped and the mixture holds together when pinched between two fingers. If necessary, add a bit more water and pulse again to get the right consistency.
  3. Scoop the batter into a colander set over a large bowl to drain while you make the balls. Squeeze out the liquid from the batter with your hands until the dough stays together, then shape into 1-inch balls. Set the balls aside on a plate.
  4. Heat a couple of inches of canola oil to 350°F in a large pot. Lower the balls into the hot oil with a long-handled slotted spoon and raise the heat to high to maintain the temperature of the oil. Fry in batches for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the falafel balls are brown and crispy (but not burnt!).
  5.  Immediately transfer the falafel with a slotted spoon to a paper towel–lined plate to drain. 

Serve hot.

Jerusalem Grill Rice Pilaf with Pine Nuts

Serves 4

Much loved in the American South as dirty rice, this is a soulful one-pot meal. The livers are puréed before cooking and dissolve into the rice, leaving behind their deeply savoury shadow.

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1½ tablespoons plus a pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 cup chicken hearts, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
  • 1 teaspoon baharat
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups jasmine rice
  • 1 cup chicken livers, cleaned and pureed in a food processor
  • 4 cups hot water
  • Chopped fresh coriander, for topping
  • ½ cup pine nuts, toasted, for topping

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring until the onion is caramelised, 20 to 30 minutes. Lower the heat if the onion begins to burn; add a splash of water if it seems too dry. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. Toss the chicken hearts and thigh pieces with the turmeric, cumin, fenugreek, baharat and cinnamon in a large bowl. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the skillet is very hot, add the hearts and thighs and sear, without stirring, for a minute or two. Transfer to the saucepan, then add the rice. Cook for one minute over medium heat, stirring constantly, then stir in the puréed chicken livers.
  3. Dissolve the remaining 1½ tablespoons salt in the hot water and pour over the rice mixture. Cover tightly and bake for 30 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Remove from the oven and top with the caramelised onions and a scattering of coriander leaves and pine nuts.

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