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The Book of New Israeli Food

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The Book of New Israeli Food

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The Book of New Israeli Food
A Culinary Journey
By Janna Gur
Phonographs by Eilon Paz
Schocken Books, New York: 2007
ISBN: 978-0-8052-1224-2

Reviewed by Auggie Moore - December 12, 2008

There are cookbooks, and then there are cookbooks. The Book of New Israeli Food: A Culinary Journey, by Janna Gur is the latter. This is more than just a cookbook. It is filled not only with tantalizing recipes, but also insights into Israeli culture and life, mouth-watering photographs of the dishes described, and pictures of Israeli culture in action. The combinations of recipes, descriptive text, and photographs by Eilon Paz, makes this a cookbook, a travelogue on Israel, and a mesmerizing coffee-table book that will fascinate not only you - but your visitors as well!

The Book of New Israeli Food is an oversized book, which begins with a concise overview of the development of the modern Israeli culinary tradition. The recipes themselves are organized into six thematic sections, namely:
  1. Salads, including eggplant, Tahini, Hummus, and Meze.
  2. The Street and the Market, foods you can readily acquire from Israeli street vendors or make in your own kitchen, such as Falafel, Shawarma, Shakshuka, Bourekas, Malabi, and more.
  3. Simple Pleasures, such as Soups, Ptitim, Couscous, Vegetables, Fish, and Chicken.
  4. Grill, covering grilled items such as Pargiyot and Kebabs.
  5. Shabbat, everything you need to serve a complete Shabbat meal from Challah to Cake.
  6. Holidays, dishes for a range of holidays including Rosh Hashanah, Hanukkah, Tu bi'Shvat, Passover, Shavuot, an Ramadan.
Throughout, the recipes are enhanced by the inclusion of short essays on topics ranging from the unique ingredients used in Israeli cooking to Israeli cultural traditions such as insights into what constitutes a modern Israeli Shabbat. Longer essays on topics such as the Israeli breakfast, Olive Oil, Fishing in Israel, the wide variety of Israeli Cheeses, Israeli fruits, and the Israeli Wine industry are also included. A glossary detailing the special ingredients used in Israeli cooking, rounds out this outstanding cookbook.

The recipes found in this book range from easy-to-prepare to some more complicated creations. Throughout the instructions are clear and easy to follow, allowing all but the most novice of cooks to successfully prepare even the most complicated of dishes. Some of the ingredients used in these recipes might be hard to find if you live in smaller towns. However, residents of large towns should have no problem finding the required ingredients at speciality markets. If all else fails, the internet is a wonderful resource for cooks looking for unique or hard to find items.

All the recipes in this cookbook are kosher. This is not, however, a typical 'Jewish' cookbook. Rather it is an Israeli one, and as such it includes both Arab and Jewish recipes, as both have melded together to create the modern Israeli culinary tradition. This is a must-have book for cooks of all skill levels, armchair travelers, and for anyone interested in Israeli culture and cuisine. It is also an excellent book if for nothing else, than to sit back and peruse the hundreds of tantalizing photographs that grace this highly recommended, gift quality, cookbook!

To wet your appetite, here is a list of just a handful of the mouth-watering recipes that you'll find in The Book of New Israeli Food:
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