An Israeli Brunch Feast, from Shakshuka to Israeli classic rock with lots of tahini and laughs in between.
Brunch Made Special
As our midday feast came to a close, L remarked, “I’ve made Shakshuka so many times that it feels very standard, but when making it for you guys today, and explaining the recipe and background, it really feels very special.”
I loved hearing it said that way because it captures some of the undercurrents of this project. The foods of our homes are at once profound and so simply a part of our fabric that they can blend into the background. And yet certain things in life can remind us how unique they are and how much they mean to us. Certainly, we experience this when there is a void (like when life takes us away from our homeland or that special person who had cooked the foods of your childhood is no more), but I think if we take the time to share with others the foods that make our family unique, we can simultaneously be reminded of why they move us so deeply. This is especially true when the friends we are sharing it with are unfamiliar with that food, because the diners will come with open eyes and hearts, and will ask questions about the food and traditions that perhaps, you hadn’t considered. The resulting conversation can thus enhance the memory and depth of importance to your family. And when children are involved, both on the part of the hosts and guests, their curiosity will likely take things even deeper.
L is a friend and neighbor I have known for about 5 years and had become closer with when our sons were in the same PreK class. A notoriously good cook, when we would recount our weekends, I drooled over the dishes she would have made for dinner parties (Israeli, or any other cuisine of the world). I also loved hearing about their visits back to Israel.
When I first asked L about doing an Israeli meal together for this project, she was immediately sure she wanted to participate. However, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to make. She diligently polled friends to confirm whether there was something specific she “should” make. She even compared her search for the “right dish” to Michael Solomonov’s quest in the “In Search of Israeli Cuisine” documentary (which, admittedly, is part of what made me even more hungry at the prospect of Israeli brunch, chez elle.)
In the end, she chose Shakshuka as the centerpiece of the meal because it is so common on Israeli tables, as well as hers, specifically. Of course, it was paired with some of her wonderful Challah bread (prepared 2 ways) and served alongside salad w/ tahini sauce. As full as we were after all that, we made space for delicious tahini cookies, hot mint tea, and Turkish coffee. What a feast! They paired it with Israeli classic rock because that was what they would likely have had on when welcoming guests for brunch.
Each and every bit of it was a treat for our senses, and our souls.
Start on the Challah. If you can, make the dough the night before and let it proof in the fridge to save time in the morning.
By the time you get to the stage of sectioning it off (but not yet shaping), that’s when you can start the Shakshuka.
While the tomatoes for the Shakshuka are cooking down, between infrequent stirs, you probably have time to make the salad, tahini sauce, and cookies quickly (especially if you have help).
Set the table if you haven’t already.
Just minutes before you’re ready to serve, you can put eggs in to finish the Shakshuka, and bring the pan over to the table for a lovely presentation, as well as for the eggs to complete their final, gentle setting.
Gather your friends/family and feast! YUM.
Israeli Classic Rock
We enjoyed some Israeli classic rock while we prepared and ate our delicious Israeli brunch at the home of our friends Y & L (and kiddos J & S). Arik Einstein was a favorite that morning, and they joked that he is like the “Israeli Frank Sinatra.”
It was – and will be for you – the perfect soundtrack, upbeat but also chill.
L has adapted her Challah recipe from the Breaking Breads cookbook. It was absolutely delicious and was quickly devoured by all. It was less egg-y than the Joan Nathan version we tried last Rosh Hashanah. She likes to experiment with different flours. Of the 7 total cups of flour required, up to 1/3 is whole wheat or sometimes spelt or Teff flour. She also likes to make the dough the night before she wants it, allowing it to proof some in the fridge to save time in the morning. There are so many fun ways to braid it and plenty of how-to videos or photos a quick Google away. That day, she cut the recipe in half and we split the dough into 2 loaves. You can divide the dough as you please, depending on the shape and/or the number of loaves you want. For reference, the loaf pictured with nigella seeds is about 1/3 worth of the dough from this recipe. I have to say it was so good that I would always make the whole thing and save some for later or gift it to friends or neighbors. It can be frozen whole or sliced. Or just make French toast if you are lucky to have any leftovers the next day.
Keywordbread, israeli food, israeli recipes
1 2/3cuproom temperature water
3tbsp+2 tsp fresh yeast OR 1 tbsp + 1 3/4 tsp active dry yeast
5cupsall-purpose flour, plus extra for shaping
2cupswhole wheat flour
2extra large eggs
Egg Wash / Topping:
optional: nigella seedspoppy or sesame seeds, or even a combo thereof
How to make the dough the night before:
Fit your mixer with the bread hook and add water to the bowl of the mixer. Add the yeast and dissolve it, whisking if it’s active dry yeast, and mixing with fingers if fresh.
Add flour, eggs, sugar, salt and oil, and mix on low until combined (about 2 minutes). Scrape down the bowl or hook as needed.
Adjust water or flour as needed. Flour types and even your local climate will induce slight variations here. If there are bits of flour, add a tiny bit of water. If it feels too sticky, add a small amount of flour. The Breads cookbook would tell you that now is the better time to adjust the consistency rather than after kneading.
Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead until a smooth, firm dough forms. This takes about 4 minutes.
Lightly dust a clean work surface with some flour. Put the dough in the center and then stretch it out in one smooth motion. Fold it back on itself halfway. Give it a quarter turn and repeat for about a minute, then make it into a smooth ball.
Put the dough in a bowl lightly dusted with flour, sprinkle a bit more flour on top, cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rise. If you leave it at room temperature, let it rise to double the size for about an hour. Or, you can put it in the fridge now and take it out in the morning.
In the morning:
Heat oven to 350°F, and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Processing it as little as possible, divide the dough. It’s usually easier to judge if you pull the dough into a rectangular shape first and then use a sharp knife to divide it. If making 2 loaves, first cut it in half, then divide based on how many strands you would like in that loaf. Once divided, let it rest or come to room temperature if you’ve had it in the fridge.
The Breads recipe has a specific way to get the pieces into cylinders, and we followed it. One piece at a time, use your palm to flatten it into a rectangle, fold the top part over and use your palm to press the edge into the flat part of the dough. Fold and press 3 more times and you will have a cylinder several inches long.
Returning to the first piece, use both hands to roll each into a long rope and aim for 14 inches with tapered ends (if going for 2 5-braids).
Loosely braid according to your preference, leaving a bit of space between the strands to allow them to expand before and during cooking otherwise they will tear up when dough rises.
Once braided, place onto the parchment paper with space for it to expand and allow to rest/rise for 20-30 minutes. It will also rise while baking so it should not rise too much for this pre-baking step.
Whisk the ingredients for the egg wash together, and brush onto your loaves, ensuring it is covered fully, but only lightly covered and not pooling. If adding seeds, do it now so that they stick.
Bake for 30 minutes. Bread should rise and be well-browned, per the photo.
Allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!
3jalapeños or serrano chilies(optional, and per spice preference)
1red bell pepper, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
3cupsworth of roughly chopped fresh tomatoes(or a mix including some canned diced tomatoes)
1tspsalt(more to taste)
optional: 1/4 cup feta cheese for a bit of garnish flavor kick at the end
Wash and dice the vegetables.
Add olive oil and garlic to a large cast iron pan and then turn on the heat. When the garlic begins to bubble, add chilies and cook for 2 minutes (if you're cooking with chilies), then add the red peppers. Cook them for several minutes until they begin to melt into the oil.
Add tomatoes and salt, stirring to combine. Increase heat to medium high and cook for about 10 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and cook slowly for the next 60 minutes or so. To get it to the consistency of a thick soup, you may need to remove the lid to allow more liquid to evaporate.
When it has reached the desired consistency and the vegetables are starting to combine but you can still see the individual pieces – the tomato part is done. Taste and adjust salt, if needed.
If you are ready to eat, move on to the next step. If not, cover and turn off the heat until ready.
Minutes before mealtime remove the cover and return the heat to medium. Have your eggs, a small bowl, and a spatula ready so that you can put all the eggs in at roughly the same time for them to cook together! Note: the small bowl allows you to see and remove any shells, if needed.
One at a time, make a small well in the stewed tomato and peppers just big enough for an egg. Crack an egg into a small bowl and from that bowl, gently pour it into the well you have made. Do the same for the remaining eggs, as fast and as carefully as you can, mindful to space the eggs out as evenly as possible.
Just a moment before you think the white is done setting, turn off the heat and bring the Shakshuka to the table. The eggs will continue to cook in the heat of the pan.
Salt the eggs or top with feta for an alternative salty flavor boost.
Spoon out tomatoes and eggs carefully for each person, hopefully keeping runny yolks intact because when it mixes with the vegetables and Challah, gan eden!
You may enjoy your Shakshuka as is or perhaps with Challah.You might also prefer to add some complexity and/or heat by adding some tahini sauce and/or shuug.
Basic Israeli salad is cucumber, tomato, and red onion, dressed with a simple vinaigrette of olive oil and lemon. Y likes to kick it up a notch by adding more color and flavor per below. It's gorgeous and delicious. We used about 1/2 – 3/4 cup of each vegetable and the feta but there are no rules.
Keywordisraeli food, israeli recipes, salad
1tbspfresh lemon juice
salt to tastewill also depend on use of feta
black pepperto taste
Wash and dice the vegetables, placing them in a medium bowl once done. Add/crumble feta, if desired.
Make a simple vinaigrette with the mustard, oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust per preference.
Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and toss, if desired. Serve with Tahini sauce (see below).
Makes about 30 cookies. L notes that this recipe seems to be affected by the weather/humidity and you may need to add a bit of flour or tahini if you are not getting a smooth dough that is moist and soft.
1/3cupslices of bleached almonds, for decoration(30g)
Heat the oven to 320°F (160 °C) and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a mixing bowl, whip the butter with the sugar for 2-3 minutes until slightly puffed. Add the vanilla and tahini and mix just until combined.
Sift the flour with the baking powder and fold into the mixture with a spatula until you get a smooth dough, moist and soft, slightly oily, and barely clinging to the hands, if only a few crumbs. If the dough is dry and crumbs add 1-2 teaspoons water. If the dough is too wet, add 2 teaspoons of flour.
Make balls about 1-inch in diameter, processing the balls as little as possible.
Place the balls an inch apart on cookie sheets and gently push an almond slice down on each one, which flattens it a bit.
Bake for about 14 minutes until the cookies are ever-so-lightly golden.
Mint tea is as easy as it sounds! Just pour boiling water and a bunch of washed mint. You don’t need sugar but some people like to add a bit. I won’t add any specific recipe for Turkish coffee, either. It’s also simple – just use finely ground coffee (to the amount of your taste), and boil on the stove, with optional sugar. Pour it directly into cups and as it cools, any coffee grounds will be at the bottom (…which is another whole story, for another time).
… and now it might be time for a nap after all that delicious food! That’s how we felt after this Israeli brunch feast! We look forward to hearing about your experience of this Israeli Brunch Feast Cultures Capsule.
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