Saba­ba: Fresh, Sun­ny Fla­vors From My Israeli Kitchen

  • Review
By – February 10, 2020

Adeena Sussman’s Saba­ba: Fresh, Sun­ny Fla­vors from My Israeli Kitchen is more than just an Israeli cook­book. It’s also a love let­ter to the food and atmos­phere of Israel, in par­tic­u­lar Tel Aviv’s icon­ic out­door mar­ket­place, Shuk HaCarmel. Suss­man uses this loca­tion to explore the ingre­di­ents she uses in her kitchen.

The begin­ning of the book gives us a per­son­al insight into who Suss­man is and where her ingre­di­ents come from. Israeli chef Michael Solomonov had the plea­sure of vis­it­ing Sussman’s apart­ment in Tel Aviv and pro­vides a detailed account in his fore­word of what it’s like to be in her kitchen. Solomonov writes, all the sens­es are engaged” as soon as he steps into her home; from Sussman’s warm embrace, to the smell of fresh­ly baked bread, to her kitchen coun­ter­top laden with a boun­ty of tasty delights.”

Sussman’s intro­duc­tion is an engag­ing nar­ra­tive about her expe­ri­ence shop­ping for ingre­di­ents, which under­pins her love for cook­ing. Shuk HaCarmel is her hap­py place and culi­nary inspi­ra­tion. She relays her cap­ti­va­tion with the shuk through vibrant pho­tos that flood the pages with its pro­duce and ven­dors. Suss­man describes the sounds, aro­mas, sights, and peo­ple she encoun­ters dur­ing her morn­ings — illus­trat­ing how her recipes, no mat­ter how elab­o­rate, are still made from the sim­ple nat­ur­al gro­ceries of the marketplace.

She teach­es us inno­v­a­tive ways to use sta­ple Israeli ingre­di­ents like tahi­ni, date syrup, and za’atar, which are inspired by the mul­ti­cul­tur­al pop­u­la­tion of peo­ple who call Israel their home. We first get a com­pre­hen­sive chap­ter on spice blends and condi­ments, from the Yemenite spice blend Hawai­ij to labaneh (and six ways to use it!). She gives us the option to make them our­selves, but also pro­vides a shop­ping guide at the end of the book that lists store-bought options.

Start­ing with break­fast recipes, which includes two kinds of shak­shu­ka and Lachuh (Yemenite crum­pet pan­cakes), and a brief guide to Israeli cheeses, we’re drawn to the col­or­ful full-page pho­tos that accom­pa­ny almost every recipe.

Suss­man takes us on a culi­nary and cul­tur­al jour­ney through­out sev­er­al chap­ters. She also adds per­son­al anec­dotes and back­ground infor­ma­tion for many of the recipes she intro­duces. In Bread and Savory Snacks” she presents Erez’s Wed­ding Lamb Focac­cia,” which comes with both a mouth-water­ing pho­to and a sto­ry behind the dish and its name. As she explains how the focac­cia was made at her wed­ding by a leg­endary bak­er who lives near the Lebanese bor­der, she describes the dish hav­ing an aro­ma so allur­ing it seduced peo­ple off the dance floor.”

She explores both sim­ple and intri­cate ways of cook­ing veg­eta­bles and soups, from the Lebanese-inspired Mush­room Arayes with Yogurt Sauce,” to Russ­ian Jew­ish Chilled Beet and Cher­ry Borscht.” Suss­man pro­vides an array of Ashke­nazi, Sephar­di, Mizrahi, and Mid­dle East­ern recipes from sala­tim to pas­ta, grains, poul­try, meat, and fish. She adorns ordi­nary foods with Israeli fla­vors, like pap­pardelle pas­ta with roast­ed toma­to and labaneh, and Za’atar Roast­ed Chick­en Over Sumac Pota­toes.” But don’t be alarmed, Suss­man still brings clas­sic Israeli recipes to the table, like Crispy Sesame Schnitzel,” Tahi­ni-Glazed Car­rots,” and falafel and egg­plant steaks.

Along­side flavour­ful morn­ing bev­er­ages, like Car­damom-Cin­na­mon Cold Brew,” she sug­gests fun Israeli cock­tails like Pomegroni” and Water­mel­on Arak Grani­ta.” Before even enter­ing Sussman’s world of Israeli desserts, we’re drawn in by an invit­ing glimpse of pis­ta­chio-crust­ed lemon bars, with bright yel­low and green hues laid on a lus­cious pink back­drop. She pro­vides sweet clas­sics with a Suss­man twist, like Tahi­ni Blondies” and choco­late-orange bab­ka, to sim­ple yet rich recipes like olive oil choco­late spread to Arab-orig­i­nat­ed desserts like knafeh and a labaneh mal­abi pan­na cotta.

The recipes range from quick and easy to more elab­o­rate, but they all remain acces­si­ble, unique, and deli­cious. They’re valu­able not only for their fla­vors but also for their sto­ries and culi­nary his­to­ry, which add a spe­cial and mean­ing­ful lay­er to the cook­ing expe­ri­ence. Suss­man includes recipes from all Israeli walks of life, which gives an addi­tion­al col­or to her already vibrant cookbook.

Michelle Zau­rov is Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s pro­gram asso­ciate. She grad­u­at­ed from Bing­ham­ton Uni­ver­si­ty in New York, where she stud­ied Eng­lish and lit­er­a­ture. She has worked as a jour­nal­ist writ­ing for the Home Reporter, a local Brook­lyn pub­li­ca­tion. She enjoys read­ing real­is­tic fic­tion and fan­ta­sy nov­els, espe­cial­ly with a strong female lead.

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