Bav­el: Mod­ern Recipes Inspired by the Mid­dle East

Ori Menashe and Genevieve Ger­gis with Les­ley Suter

January 13, 2021

From the acclaimed chefs behind award-win­ning Los Ange­les restau­rant Bav­el comes a gor­geous cook­book fea­tur­ing per­son­al sto­ries and more than eighty recipes that cel­e­brate the diver­si­ty of Mid­dle East­ern cuisines.

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST COOK­BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY TIME OUT Ori and Genevieve man­age to pull off a style of cook­ing that is both famil­iar (and there­fore com­fort­ing) but also new (and there­fore fresh and excit­ing). This is the sort of food I could live on.” — Yotam Ottolenghi

When chef Ori Menashe and pas­try chef Genevieve Ger­gis opened their first Los Ange­les restau­rant, Bes­tia, the city fell in love. By the time they launched their sec­ond restau­rant, Bav­el, the love affair had expand­ed to cooks and food lovers nation­wide. Bav­el, the cook­book, invites home cooks to explore the broad and var­ied cuisines of the Mid­dle East through fra­grant spice blends; sub­lime zhougs, tahi­ni, lab­neh, and hum­mus; rain­bows of crisp-pick­led veg­eta­bles; ten­der, oven-baked flat­breads; fall-off-the-bone meats and tagines; but­tery pas­tries and tarts; and so much more.

Bav­el — pro­nounced bah-VELLE, the Hebrew name for Babel — is a metaphor for the myr­i­ad cul­tur­al, spir­i­tu­al, and polit­i­cal dif­fer­ences that divide us. The food of Bav­el tells the many sto­ries of the coun­tries defined as the Mid­dle East.” These recipes are influ­enced by the fla­vors and tech­niques from all cor­ners of the region, and many, such as Toma­to with Smoked Haris­sa, Turmer­ic Chick­en with Toum, and Date-Wal­nut Tart, are inspired by Menashe’s Israeli upbring­ing and Gergis’s Egypt­ian roots. Bav­el cel­e­brates the free­dom to cook what we love with­out loy­al­ty to any spe­cif­ic coun­try, and rep­re­sents a world before the region was divid­ed into sep­a­rate nations. This is cook­ing with­out borders.

Discussion Questions

Through lush pho­tographs, per­son­al rem­i­nis­cences, and deli­cious recipes, Bav­el tells the inter­twined sto­ries of the cre­ation of one of Los Angeles’s hottest restau­rants and the his­to­ry of its own­ers, chef Ori Menashe and pas­try chef Genevieve Ger­gis. Though both were born in the Unit­ed States, their ances­tries link them to the Mid­dle East — Menashe to Israel, where he spent his teenage years, and Ger­gis to Egypt, from where her father, a Cop­tic Chris­t­ian, emi­grat­ed. The sub­tle mix­ing of fla­vors and iden­ti­ties, as well as the effec­tive place-mak­ing that emerge from the pages of this book are an appe­tiz­ing jum­ble, like a pita sand­wich whose com­po­nents meld. The focus is on Bav­el, the couple’s Mid­dle East­ern restau­rant in L.A.’s Art Dis­trict, which they cre­at­ed by weav­ing togeth­er their pro­fes­sion­al expe­ri­ence work­ing in Euro­pean restau­rants with their mem­o­ries of tastes and trav­els through the foods and the coun­tries of the Mid­dle East. The restaurant’s menu is the basis for this evoca­tive col­lec­tion of recipes that are unique but that res­onate col­lec­tive­ly with the cul­tures and cli­mates of Los Ange­les and Tel Aviv, with the food of the past and the trends of the present. The book is a plea­sure to flip through and to cook from. We want­ed to show­case how com­plex these fla­vors can be, how deft use of spices and fire can cre­ate some­thing ten times as pow­er­ful as any French sauce,” they write in the intro­duc­tion. They have succeeded.