In Search of Israeli Cuisine

It may be surprising to learn that a major culinary revolution is taking place in Israel, a country so frequently associated with political drama. In just thirty years, Israel has gone from having no fine food to call its own to a cuisine that is world-renowned.

A portrait of the Israeli people told through food, In Search of Israeli Cuisine profiles chefs, home cooks, vintners and cheese-makers drawn from the more than 100 cultures—Jewish, Arab, Muslim, Christian, Druze—found in a nation only the size of New Jersey.

Our chef/guide is Michael Solomonov, the James Beard award-winning owner of Zahav and several other restaurants in Philadelphia and New York, as well as author of the book, Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking. Mike was born in Israel and grew up in the States. He’s smart, funny, self-deprecating and very knowledgeable about the traditions and foods of Israel.

Mike enters peoples’ lives, and their kitchens, and discusses their roots, inspirations, what their grandmothers cooked, how they’re preserving traditions and updating recipes with global influences. Delicious!

Film Chat With Michael Solomonov

The film In Search of Israeli Cuisine, featuring Chef Michael Solomonov, is being screened from March 31 to April 6 at the Ritz 5 in Philadelphia. In light of this special screening, we offer the following review of the film, written by Philadelphia Jewish Voice contributor Hannah Lee. This review was originally posted on Lee’s blog, A Cultural Mix, in March 2016, and also includes an overview of the post-film discussion. [Read more…]

One Book, One Jewish Community 10th Anniversary Kickoff Celebration

“ZAHAV: A World of Israeli Cooking” is the One Book, One Jewish Community 2016-2017 selection. To kick off the upcoming year of Jewish programming in the Philadelphia area that will be centered around this book, the co-authors, Chef Michael Solomonov and his business partner, Steven Cook, will be the featured speakers at an exciting event. This kickoff event will also include a book signing.

Register here for the kickoff, which is free and open to the public. At the registration site, you will also find information about various levels of sponsorship available to further support life-long Jewish literacy in Greater Philadelphia.

The kickoff event begins at 7 p.m., with a 6 p.m. reception for sponsors.

Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival: ‘In Search of Israeli Cuisine’

A portrait of the Israeli people through food, “In Search of Israeli Cuisine” is a mouth-watering documentary that follows Michael Solomonov, the James Beard award-winning chef and restaurateur behind the Philadelphia dining establishment Zahav, as he returns to his homeland to discuss his culinary heritage.The screening will be followed by a conversation with Solomonov and director Roger Sherman, moderated by the senior editor of New York Magazine’s Grub Street, Sierra Tishgart. After the talk, Solomonov will be signing his cookbook, Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking, during a separately ticketed book signing/reception featuring hummus by Dizengoff (and other tasty treats) and Israeli wine.
Cost
$15 (film and post-film discussion)
$30 (film, post-film discussion, reception and book signing)
$60 (film, post-film discussion, reception, book signing and copy of the cookbook)

In Search of Israeli Cuisine at the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival

— by Debbie Fleischman

The Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival kicks off its CineMonday series on Monday, March 28 at 7:30 PM at the Gershman Y with the Philadelphia Premiere of In Search of Israeli Cuisine, directed by Robert Sherman.

A portrait of the Israeli people through food, In Search of Israeli Cuisine is a mouth-watering documentary that follows Michael Solomonov, the James Beard award-winning chef and restaurateur behind the Philadelphia dining establishment Zahav, as he returns to his homeland to discuss his culinary heritage. From Tel Aviv’s most exclusive eateries to street bazaars and simmering pots in family kitchens, Solomonov travels the length and breadth of Israel, meeting with an eclectic group of professional and amateur chefs, cheese makers, vintners, farmers, and fisherman, to define the ever-growing lexicon of Israeli cuisine. As Solomonov immerses himself in the local flavors of the myriad cultures that make up the Israeli people – Jewish, Arab, Muslim, Christian and Druze–Oscar-nominated documentarian Roger Sherman offers a behind-the-scenes look at a dynamic Israeli food scene rooted in centuries-old tradition. Sherman shines a light on the sectarian conflict when Palestinian cooks chafe as their savory secrets are adapted by Jewish chefs, and the story behind the ingredients that Israel produces using both ancient farming techniques and high-tech innovations.

The screening will be followed by a conversation with celebrity chef and restaurateur Michael Solomonov and director Roger Sherman, moderated by the Senior Editor of New York Magazine’s Grub Street, Sierra Tishgart. After the talk, Michael will be signing his cookbook, Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking, during a separately-ticketed book signing/reception featuring hummus by Dizengoff (and other tasty treats) and Israeli wine.

Tickets to the Opening Night Film only are $15; $30 if attending the post-film book signing and reception; $60 for the film, book signing/reception, and Zahav cookbook. Tickets are available online or by calling 215-545-4400.

Food Chat With Michael Solomonov

Remember a few years back when Americans thought Israeli food meant hummus (which they mistakenly pronounced as hum-mus, as in soil or decayed plant matter)?  Michael Solomonov was amongst the individuals who changed the public’s perception of Israeli cuisine.  On Sunday, Main Point Books in Bryn Mawr welcomed superstar chef Solomonov and his partner, Steve Cook to speak about their new cookbook, Zahav, which has been selling like the proverbial hotcakes.  The cookbook is fine for kosher households, because the recipes do not call for shellfish and do not mix meat and dairy ingredients.  If you cannot get a table at the restaurant, do get the gorgeous book and have fun trying the recipes!

Before Solomonov won the James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic in 2011 and he became a national celebrity through the pages of Bon Appetit and Food and Wine, Michael was a youngster who moved between Israel and the United States with his parents.  He was a picky eater and he had no ambition in life.  When he got a job at a bakery in Israel, working 14-hour days for $2.50 an hour, his family was simply relieved that he was not in jail.  However, the pivotal moment for Michael’s life was the death of his younger brother, David, who was killed while on volunteer duty during Yom Kippur of 2003, just days before his release from the Israeli Army service.

The search for meaning eventually led Michael to a sober life, focused on presenting the best of Israeli cuisine, applying Middle Eastern techniques and spices to locally sourced produce.  When it’s not sustainable to import tomatoes in January, he can simulate the taste of Israeli food with local pumpkin and persimmon.  What is particularly inspirational about his journey is that he and his family could not have predicted his career trajectory.  With much hard work and learning on the job — they were on the brink of closing the currently wildly popular restaurant Zahav — Michael can serve as a poster child for the late bloomer, one who was not engaged by school.

Solomonov and his partner will soon launch the Rooster Soup Company, a deli-style place that serves only sandwiches and soup, the latter made from the bones and parts of the 1,000-plus chickens used in their Federal Donuts operation (that serves only donuts in the morning and fried chicken in the afternoon).  All the proceeds from Rooster Soup will benefit the Broad Street Ministry to their work in providing meals and services to vulnerable and homeless Philadelphians.  It is set to open at 1526 Sansom Street (in the former home of Sansom Street Kabob House).

Another exciting project of his of note to foodies is the January release date of his documentary, >The Search for Israeli Cuisine, which will be picked up by PBS in the spring.  Solomonov was followed around Israel by two-time Academy Award nominee and James Beard Award-winning filmmaker Roger Sherman.  They filmed each day at five locations and Michael marveled that each food venue was new to him, who’d lived there.  So imagine the novelty to us Americans, who are merely visitors to the Holy Land.


It may be surprising to learn that a major culinary revolution is taking place in a country so frequently associated with political drama. In just thirty years, Israel has gone from having no fine food to call its own to a cuisine that is world-renowned.

Chef Michael Solomonov, a young, inspiring Israeli born American grew up in Pittsburgh. Solo, as he's known, travels all over Israel, eating and talking about how ethnic traditions from across the diaspora have been incorporated into one diverse Israeli cuisine.
This is the story of cultures coming together, foods that are brought from far and wide and become Israeli cuisine. Our cameras follow Solo as he shows Americans a cuisine whose time has come.

Israeli Cooking Book, From Philadelphia With Love

Philadelphia’s own Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook just published their first book, Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking.

Solomonov and Cook hope to familiarize Americans with some of their restaurant Zahav’s famous dishes. If you loved Jerusalem-born, London-based Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s book Jerusalem as much as I did, then this book will be a treat.

The spices and techniques of Israel’s myriad ethnic groups are reflected in the book’s recipes. Familiar Eastern European Ashkenazi foods such as rugalech, kugels and latkes are presented along with more exotic foods such as kibbe and fillo cigars from the Levant. All of these recipes have been adapted to ingredients that are easily accessible to the American cook. Below is a recipe for Zahav’s Ottoman-inspired eggplant salad.

Photo by Sofia Gk https://www.flickr.com/photos/sofiagk/

Photo by Sofia Gk.

Zahav’s Twice Cooked Eggplant Salad

  •  2 eggplants
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup minced parsley
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  1. Slice the eggplants.
  2. Sprinkle with salt.
  3. Allow the eggplants to rest for 30 minutes in a colander.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet.
  5. Fry the eggplant slices over medium heat, until almost charred on both sides.
  6. Place the eggplant in a bowl.
  7. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy pan.
  8. Stir in the onion, pepper, coriander, and paprika.
  9. When the vegetables are soft, add the blackened eggplant and sherry vinegar to the pot.
  10. Stir for a few minutes.
  11. Remove the pot from the heat.
  12. Squeeze the lemon into the eggplant.
  13. Sprinkle the minced parsley into the pot.
  14. Stir and serve at any temperature.

Citron And Rose Grand Opening!

— by Jennie Hatton

On Wednesday, November 7 at 5 p.m., restaurateurs Steven Cook and Chef Michael Solomonov and owner David Magerman will open Citron and Rose (368-370 Montgomery Avenue, 610-664-4919), a glatt kosher restaurant and catering company.  The kosher food will transcend tradition: Chef Solomonov, a rising star who is at the forefront of an elite group of chefs bringing Jewish food to new heights, has crafted a dynamic menu of genre-defying kosher dishes.

“Steve and I traveled across Europe, eating in kosher restaurants from Paris to Budapest, and we wanted to bring that culinary culture to America,” says Israel-born Chef Solomonov, a 2011 James Beard Award winner who catapulted modern Israeli cooking into the national spotlight at his and Cook’s award-winning Philadelphia restaurant, Zahav.  “At Citron and Rose we will be reinterpreting the dishes from our Jewish ancestors with modern techniques and fresh ingredients.”

More after the jump.
Working closely with Chef de Cuisine Yehuda Sichel, Chef Solomonov designed a dairy-free menu, in keeping with the rigorous limitations of kosher cooking, eschewing butter and cheese in favor of meat-centric offerings that reinvent classic Jewish dishes. Chef Solomonov’s menu will highlight a variety of the best-known dishes of kosher cooking, including:  

  • Chopped Liver with sour cherry, chocolate and pumpernickel;  
  • Mushroom Knish with smoked kasha, tsimmes and carrot-mustard;  
  • Salmon Gravlax with everything bagel spice, walnuts, radish and smoked bagel;  
  • Baked Whole Fish en papillote, parsley potatoes, sweet peppers and riesling;  
  • Roast Chicken, featuring honey-paprika glaze, schmaltzy potatoes and baby arugula; and
  • Pecan Praline Challah French Toast with non-dairy coffee ice cream, fried pecans and maple syrup.  

Appetizer prices range from $9 to $12;  Entrée prices range from $14 to $28;  Desserts are $9.  

Traditional dishes, such as Sholet, or Cholent, a meat-and-potatoes stew that is meant to be prepared before sundown on Friday and left in the oven overnight to be eaten during Shabbat, the day or rest, are made new with exceptional ingredients: in this case, crispy duck breast replaces beef or chicken, along with confit duck leg, kishke, haminado and flageolet beans.

Executing the menu day-to-day will be Chef Sichel, who has worked with Chef Solomonov at Zahav since 2010.  Prior to joining the team at Zahav, Chef Sichel worked in notable kitchens in Los Angeles and Philadelphia.  Although he attended culinary school in Israel, his training in kosher cooking began much earlier: at his first restaurant job, a kosher sandwich shop, and in his Orthodox Jewish childhood home in Baltimore, MD.

“I’m thrilled to prepare and serve authentic-yet-original kosher dishes to a new audience,” says Chef Sichel.  “It’s inspiring to share the foods I have known my entire life and bring a new energy to kosher cooking.”

To complement the food, the team has created a menu of kosher cocktails, including:  

  • The Cosmonaut, vodka with beet juice syrup and fresh grapefruit juice;  
  • The Lower East Side, gin with cucumber and dill;  and
  • Reb Roy, a twist on a classic Rob Roy with scotch and Manischewitz.

The restaurant will also feature a variety of kosher wines, craft beers and an extensive list of scotches.

Citron and Rose’s central open kitchen will offer diners a close-up look at the kitchen in action.  The 75-seat space is divided into two sections, with the bar and chef’s counter, both topped with white marble, separated by a row of windows from the airy main dining room, where comfortable banquette seating is the backdrop for the exceptional food and drink.  White subway tiles cover the walls, while stained ebony oak floors, natural wood wainscoting and molded walnut barstools lend a natural aesthetic.  Highlights of robin’s egg blue further brighten the welcoming space, and a black-and-white graphic floral motif is echoed throughout, including the 15 seat private dining room, where custom wooden wine racks also cover the walls.  Located behind the main dining area, it is perfect for intimate gatherings on any occasion.  Weather-permitting, Citron and Rose will open its outdoor seating for al fresco dining.

“We’ve been committed from the very beginning to creating a traditional-yet-elevated dining experience at Citron and Rose,” explains Magerman, a food enthusiast and philanthropist who created the Kohelet Foundation, which supports Jewish day-school education in Philadelphia and across the United States.  “This is, in my opinion, the finest kosher restaurant possible.”

The restaurant will be under the kosher supervision of Community Kashrus of Greater Philadelphia.   Citron and Rose will follow the every tenet of kosher cooking, including being overseen from open to close daily by a mashgiach and not serving on Fridays and Saturdays, as work is forbidden between sunsets on Shabbat.
Citron and Rose Catering will also include a full-service catering company for on- and off-site events.  For any occasion, from bar and bat mitzvahs to elaborate weddings, Citron and Rose Catering will bring the finest glatt kosher cuisine to make any event more special — and more delicious.

Citron and Rose will be open for dinner Sunday through Thursday.  Citron and Rose Catering is already available to cater events.  For more information, please visit their website and follow them on Twitter @citronandrose.  To schedule an appointment with Citron and Rose Catering, please email events@citronandrose.com.    

Hazon’s Culinary Celebration Of Tu B’Shvat In Philadelphia

— by Ronit Treatman

Hazon, the United States’ largest Jewish environmental group, is hosting its first Tu B’Shvat dinner in Philadelphia.  The Philadelphia community is invited to “a culinary adventure benefiting the Jewish sustainable movement.”

On February 7, 2012, at 5:45 PM, the National Museum of American Jewish History will be transformed into a springtime celebration of rebirth and renewal.  James Beard Award winning Chef Michael Solomonov, of Zahav Restaurant, and Jon Weinrott of Peachtree Kosher Catering are donating their skills to create a meal featuring organically grown produce and dishes integrating such Tu B’Shvat staples as almonds, figs, dates, carobs, and raisins.  

Nigel Savage, executive director of Hazon, will teach the customs and meaning of Tu B’Shvat throughout the evening.  Some of the most creative new music being produced in the Jewish community will be showcased.

This event is honoring Mark and Judy Dornstreich, owners of Branch Creek Farm in Perkasie, PA.  Mark and Judy are pioneering urban, Jewish organic farmers.  They paved the way for the current generation of young Jewish urban farmers.  Judy has taught yoga at Hazon’s gathering at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center. The Dornstreichs hosted Hazon’s Harvest Supper in a sukkah at Branch Creek Farm last year.  When I asked Judy why she is involved with Hazon, she responded, “I feel like a Havdalah candle when I am with Hazon.  The three strands of my life are woven together: Judaism, organic farming, and yoga.”  

Mark Aronchick, of Hangley, Aronchik, Segal, Pudlin & Schiller is being honored as well.  “I am no organic farmer,” he told me.  “I became involved in Hazon to participate in their incredible bike ride from Jerusalem to Eilat.”  He loved this strenuous ride so much, that he has participated in it for the past five years.  “But I am an environmentalist,” he continued.  “I am thrilled that Hazon is involved with the Arava Institute in Israel, and that they introduced me to it.”  Mark feels that Hazon has a unique and exciting mission that has captured the attention of the younger generation of the Jewish community.  “They are health conscious, and they are searching spiritually,” he told me.  “Hazon is a catalyst that brings wonderful people together, and creates a community.”    

Hazon collaborates with four Community Supported Agriculture sites in the Philadelphia area.   These CSAs provide nearly 500 homes with fresh, seasonal produce from local farms.  Nigel Savage hopes that Hazon will expand its programming within Philadelphia’s Jewish community.  For tickets to this event please register online.