Updated: Oct 3, 2022
As we all have been trying to rediscover and find new hobbies during quarantine, many have taken to special interest cooking.I defaulted to an Israeli cookbook that I borrowed from the library a week before the shutdown. My return deadline was extended by months, so I was able to take my time in making recipes. The basic ingredients involved ensured they would be in stock, even during a period of chaos in the grocery store.
Sababa takes on the meaning that everything is good. The author, Adeena Sussman, made me jealous describing how she gathers her fresh ingredients at the local shuk in Israel daily. The ingredients used are simple and my shopping list kept me in the produce section. My cart held a variety of foods that I do not normally bring home like swiss chard, apricots, and turnips. I found myself buying in excess tomatoes, herbs and lemons. It wasn’t until I made my shikshuka recipe, of creamed greens, that I realized why my refrigerator was buldging. Adeena wrote a warning that the fridge would be “albeit tight”, referencing all of the spinach, swiss chard and kale I purchased.
The book introduction leads into recipes of the staples, first suggesting you build up the spices, sauces and preservatives that would need to be used as ingredients in other recipes later. I gravitated to making honey harissa used in soups, marinades and to top off a meal. The flavorful spice Haaji had me creating a blend of cardamom, allspice, and cumin. I made pickles and preserved lemons that would be used as a pasta sauce base, on fish and a spread for toast.
After I built up the staples, I began to cook off entrees, rarely having to dial up or down the flavors used for my taste. Each recipe leads with a description. Adeena makes sure credit is given, whether she is complementing her local vendors or identifying the Northern African and European countries that have had influence.
The first entree I cooked, Roasted Tomato and Labaneh Paperdelle, had me question my Italian genes and reconsider how to make cream sauces for pasta. The pasta was tossed with roasted cherry tomatoes, cumin and yogurt only finishing it off with a few tablespoons of heavy cream. After some of my initial successes, I even began to cook things that my pallet would not normally like, as I was confident that in the end, the flavors would combine to be satisfying.
This book has been an escape for me being stuck at home and has immerse me in the cuisine of another culture. Since I started, I have doubled recipes over like the Salt Brind Pickles. I encourage vegans and meat eaters to give some recipes a try. As you can imagine after experiencing these tastes, venturing to Israel has moved up on my list of places I need to experience.
If you are interested in giving some of her recipes a try, check out Sababa: Fresh Sunny Flavors from My Israeli Kitchen.
Luckily, for those that want to try before they buy, the recipe for Adeena’s Cardamom Kissed Shrug was already shared in an article from the Wall Street Journal.