Tabouli Cuisines: Philly’s Israeli Druze Outpost

As I was perusing the Ardmore Farmer’s Market for dinner ideas, a perfectly formed Maqluba, or molded savory cake made with rice, meat, and vegetables, caught my eye. It is so difficult to get this recipe to come out just right that I felt compelled to find out who the skilled cook was! Mona and Mohammed, the proprietors of Tabouli Cuisines, introduced themselves to me in flawless Hebrew.

Mona and Mohammed are from the Druze community of Majd al Shams in the Golan Heights. The Druze are Unitarians, who believe that they descend from Jethro of Midian. Mohammed’s father served in the Druze Battalion of the Israeli Defense Forces, and was killed in combat in the Yom Kippur War. Mohammed’s mother was left alone to care for her ten children. Mohammed was only ten years old. “It has been a very difficult road, but we have built something,” Mohammed told me.

The inspiration for their food stand came from Mona’s homemade Levantine cuisine. When they came to the United States, their children’s classmates would stay for dinner. When they extended these invitations to the adults as well, their guests loved the food so much that they starting placing special orders to cater festive occasions. Mona prepared everything in her home kitchen.

Eventually they decided to open a food stand. They have built up a loyal following, and I must say that after tasting their food I will be returning too. Everything is made from scratch, with recipes that have been handed down over generations. Apart from their incredible Maqluba, there are colorful, freshly cut salads, stuffed vegetables, kibi (bulgur croquets stuffed with meat), falafel, and baklava. There are many vegetarian and vegan options.

You may purchase their delicious foods at their stand at the Ardmore Farmer’s Market. Tabouli also offers a catering menu and delivery.

Tabouli Cuisines
Address: Ardmore Farmers Market,, 120 Coulter Avenue, Ardmore, PA 19003
Phone: (610) 896-3800

Celebrating America’s Pioneer Jewish Congregations

In his latest book, author and documentarian Julian H. Preisler leads readers on a virtual Jewish-themed journey across the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Along the way, he gives us a historical introduction to each of the oldest Jewish congregations still in existence in America today, and wows us with 195 vintage and present-day images of their synagogues. Published late last year, Preisler’s book is aptly titled America’s Pioneer Jewish Congregations: Architecture, Community and History,

The book depicts historic congregations from the earliest days of Colonial America up to the present day. Reflecting the wide diversity found in the American Jewish community, the congregations featured are in large cities, suburban locales and small towns. And they represent many of the largest Jewish communities, as well as some of the smallest. The synagogues portrayed in the book range from small, functional ones to large, architecturally significant ones, with many different styles of architecture represented, from Classical-Revival and Moorish-Revival to Mid-Century Modern and Contemporary.

An excellent choice for summer reading, Preisler’s book combines travel log, photographic essay and historical background to take readers on a comprehensive tour of American Jewish congregations and their synagogues over the past 363 years.

Aunt Katy’s Hungarian Yeast Cake

Photo: Alex Gall.

Shabbat in Israel has unspoken rituals. People eat lunch at around noon, and then rest until 4 p.m. No one calls or rings door bells during those four hours. After the siesta, social life begins again with cake and coffee. The streets fill with people on the way to their friends’ homes for an afternoon visit. Most hosts eschew the convenience of cake mixes or store-bought cakes. They take pride in their family recipes and the pastries they bake themselves. One of my most memorable coffee klatsch experiences was with my Aunt Katy. She baked her family’s Hungarian yeast cake, filled with walnuts from the tree in her garden. [Read more…]

This Is Not Peaceful Resistance

Hamas admitted that 50 of the 62 people killed in the recent violence on the Israel-Gaza border were Hamas members, while others among the dead have been identified as members of Islamic Jihad. In fact, organizers of the violence had laid out their intentions clearly, with the co-founder of Hamas saying unequivocally, “This is not peaceful resistance.”

We should take the organizers of this confrontation at their word. Orchestrated by Hamas, approximately 40,000 rioters gathered at the border and several thousand tried to storm into Israel at 13 locations. The campaign’s title “March of Return” reflects Hamas’ aim: to break the border fence and storm Israeli towns in order to attack and kidnap Israeli civilians. The closest Israeli communities are only half a mile away from the border. Israeli soldiers have been defending the border from what could lead to a successful breach of the fence. In this way, Israel has been acting as any sovereign nation would be expected to.

Israel made relentless efforts to prevent the Palestinian masses from violently breaching the border. These efforts included early warnings by leaflets, direct phone calls, radio and social media in Arabic, and other means.

In contrast, Hamas is taking steps to exacerbate the difficulties faced by its own people, as a play for international condemnation of Israel. Hamas turned back aid trucks containing medical supplies donated by Israel after the supplies had already entered Gaza. Despite the deteriorating health situation in Gaza, Hamas refused this humanitarian aid, returning it to Israel. This happened a week after Palestinians had sabotaged the Kerem Shalom aid crossing multiple times, including blowing up gas pipelines, in an attempt to bring about total chaos.

Israel’s need to defend itself and Hamas’ efforts to aggravate the plight of its own people are fundamental issues at the very core of the current violence. However, the way recent events have been framed does not do justice to the realities on the ground for either Israelis or Palestinians.

Latino Jewish Entrepreneurial Summit

Alan Weisleder, Nelson Diaz, and Wayne Kimmel at theLatino Jewish Entrepreneurial Summit. Photo: AJC

American Jewish Committee and its Latino Jewish Coalition hosted a Latino Jewish Entrepreneurial Summit at Temple University’s Fox School of Business on May 15th. Established in 2013, the coalition works in a collaborative manner to expand interactions and works in areas, such as immigration reform, economic empowerment, civic engagement and homeland/diaspora relations.

[Read more…]

Ten Commandments Surprise Cookies

My favorite inauthentic part of eating at a Chinese restaurant is the fortune cookie at the end of the meal. Many modern Chinese restaurants won’t serve fortune cookies because they are not part of the Chinese tradition. I decided to bake my version of these biscuits for Shavuot. Rather than containing fortunes, each cookie will celebrate the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai by revealing one of the Ten Commandments. My new tradition may be as American as the creation of the original fortune cookies. [Read more…]

Lag BaOmer Orange Infused Buns

In Israel, the arrival of Spring brings with it the smoky smell of Lag BaOmer bonfires. The outdoorsy Jewish holiday falls on May 3 this year, and where there will be fire, there will be creative outdoor cooking. In honor of Israel’s Jaffa oranges, here is a recipe for a truly sabra Lag BaOmer treat. This year you may try buns cooked in orange peels in the embers. If you do not have time to prepare the dough in advance, use refrigerated dough from the supermarket or brownie, cake, or muffin mix. If lighting a bonfire near where you live is completely out of the question, the outdoor grill or fire pit will do.

[Read more…]

Chef Alon Shaya: Philly’s Homegrown Pride

One teacher who cares can change the trajectory of a student’s life. Alon Shaya, an Israeli-American James Beard award-winning chef, credits his success to such a teacher. In his new cookbook, Shaya: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel, he thanks Donna Barnett for guiding him to his track to success.

Alon Shaya came to Philadelphia from Israel when he was a young boy. He grew up in a challenging family situation. Although he was surrounded by love, he did not experience the stability he longed for. Barnett saw the talent and potential within him. She helped Shaya blossom in her Home Economics class at Harriton High School. When it was time to graduate, she found a scholarship and encouraged him to attend culinary school.

Now, Shaya is a famous chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author. He retraces his steps from Israel, to the United States, Italy, and back to Israel in his book. His recipes reflect his love for his maternal grandparents. There are delicious foods from their native Bulgaria such as burekas, kebabs, and a variety of eggplant dishes. These are the staples he learned to cook as a boy while standing on a chair in the kitchen next to his grandmother and mother. Alon Shaya then shares some of the classic dishes he discovered while training in Italy, such as hand-made gnocchi, pizza, and semifreddo. Next, Shaya takes us to New Orleans, where he opened his first restaurant. Some of these recipes are treif (non-kosher), such as those with crab, Andouille pork sausage, shrimp, and bacon. Those of us who keep kosher may adapt by substituting kosher ingredients, or omitting some of the non-kosher elements. He ends the book by circling back to Israel. His newest recipes are infused with Israeli ingredients and flavors such as za’atar (oregano), preserved lemons, pomegranates, and muhammara (red peppers and walnuts).

In the end, despite his fragmented upbringing, Alon Shaya was able to find his way home. In this moving book, which is much more than a cookbook, he shares his journey with us.

Israeli Independence Day or Yom Ha’atzmaut Menu

Picture of pita bread pocket over stuffed with falafel and Israeli salad. Photo: David Weekly https://www.flickr.com/photos/dweekly/

Photo: David Weekly

We have been blessed to merit participation in the celebration of 70 years of the modern State of Israel. The dreams of countless Jews have been realized in our times. After the Holocaust, it was the goal of the survivors who participated in building the new State of Israel to create the “New Jew,” one who would be different than the ones in Europe before the war. This “New Jew” was the Sabra, the Israeli. Sabras were strong, proud Jews. They did not look, act, speak, or dress like their parents. They also did not eat the foods of Eastern Europe. They ate Israeli food such as pita, falafel, hummus, and olives. Lets celebrate this wonderful occasion with an Israeli falafel bar.

Your falafel bar may replicate the experience of going to a falafel stand in Israel. You may purchase most of the components of a falafel ready made. Your guests will be free to compose their falafel any way they like. You will need:

  • Pita bread
  • Falafel balls
  • Tahini
  • Hummus
  • Baba ganoush
  • Israeli salad
  • Olives
  • Pickled cucumbers

For your convenience, the only thing on this list that I recommend that you prepare from scratch is the Israeli salad. This salad is very versatile and open to interpretation. If you like you may add diced radishes, fresh mint leaves, or parsley. You may also omit anything you don’t like and strip it down to the basic tomato, cucumber and pepper salad. You may purchase the rest already prepared either refrigerated, canned, or frozen.

Close up picture of Israeli salad showing diced cucumber and tomato. Photo: Sharon Gefen - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15075904

Photo: Sharon Gefen

Israeli Salad

  • 1 tomato
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 pepper
  • green onion, to taste
  • cilantro, to taste
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste
  1. Dice the tomato, cucumber, and pepper.
  2. Cut up the green onion and cilantro.
  3. Juice the lemon and add to the salad.
  4. Add the olive oil.
  5. Season with salt and black pepper.
  6. Toss well.

Easy Passover Cake Three Ways

Passover is a time of visiting with family and friends, as well as entertaining.

It is easier than you think to make a delicious home-baked dessert to sweeten these encounters: All you need is a torte to form the base, freshly whipped heavy cream, melted chocolate, nuts, and spring berries.

In my family, these cakes were rolled, with the filling on the inside. Something always goes wrong when I try this, so I just serve them like strawberry shortcakes.

For all of these cakes, preheat the oven to 350°F, and oil a 9-inch round cake pan. Note that peanuts, sesame seeds, and poppy seeds are kitniyot (not kosher for Passover).

Nut Cake

  • 2 3/4 cups toasted and ground walnuts, almonds, pistachios, pecans, hazelnuts, pine nuts, cashews, Macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, or coconut.
  • 1/2 cup cane sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 7 eggs, separated
  1. Place the ground nuts, brown sugar, and salt in a bowl. Mix well.
  2. In a separate bowl, whip the egg yolks and the cane sugar for about 5 minutes.
  3. When the egg mixture is fluffy, fold it into the nut mixture.
  4. In a clean bowl, whip the egg whites.
  5. Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture.
  6. Fold the rest of the egg whites into the batter.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.
  8. Bake for 60 minutes.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Sponge Cake

  • 1/4 cup matzo meal
  • 2 tablespoons potato flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 8 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  1. Whip the egg yolks, orange zest, and 1 cup of sugar in a bowl.
  2. In a different bowl, whip the egg whites with 1/2 cup of sugar.
  3. Add the matzo meal, potato flour, and orange juice to the yolk mixture.
  4. Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the yolk batter.
  5. Fold the rest of the egg whites into the batter.
  6. Pour the batter into a prepared cake pan.
  7. Bake for 70 minutes.
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

 


Photo by Tim Sackton. Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.

Chocolate Cake

  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 cups ground almonds (or other nut of your choice)
  • 7/8 cup sugar
  • 10 eggs, separated
  1. Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave.
  2. Whip the yolks and sugar in a large bowl.
  3. Add the melted chocolate and ground almonds.
  4. Whip the egg whites in a separate bowl.
  5. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture.
  6. Pour the batter into a prepared pan.
  7. Bake for 60 minutes.
  8. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool.

All of these cakes are delicious unadorned, and pair very well with coffee or tea. However, you can have fun garnishing them. Here are some easy ideas you may use separately or together:

Whipped Cream

  • heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon brandy
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • nuts
  1. Whip the cream with the sugar and brandy.
  2. Spread the whipped cream over the cake.
  3. Sprinkle some nuts over the cream.

Alternatively, you can sprinkle some powdered sugar over your cake, melt some chocolate chips in the microwave and spread the melted chocolate over it, or garnish it with fresh spring berries.