While I’m Brooklyn born and bred, Israel holds a huge piece of my soul. Israel is the place where my parents met and married. It’s also the place where all four of my grandparents lived and are buried. We grew up eating Israeli food and often speak Hebrew to each other when we can’t quite find the word in English that meets our needs. So I was more than a bit excited when I heard about Shuk: From Market to Table, the Heart of Israeli Home Cooking by Einat Admony of Balaboosta and Taim restaurants fame and & Janna Gur, author of The Book of New Israeli Food. I wasn’t disappointed. Actually, I was giddy! Enraptured! I also relived a lot of my childhood reading (drooling) through these pages.
In case you’re wondering, Shuk is the Hebrew/Israeli word for Souk, or marketplace. In Israel as in much of the Middle East you’ll find great big bustling outdoor markets packed with delicious prepared foods or desserts like blocks of halva or baklava dripping with syrup. One of the more famous shuks in Jerusalem is Machne Yehudah,which is definitely having a moment, despite being around pretty much forever. You can find anything there from food to trendy restaurants and bars to collectibles and kitschy tchotchkes.
Shuk the cookbook is visually stunning with absolutely magnificent photography that makes you want to almost lick the pages. The recipes also meld classic Israeli fare with the sensibility of the modern home chef.
There are also explanations of classic recipes and explanations about the whys and hows. I haven’t had a chance to try the recipes yet, but I am salivating and plan on trying the Sabich Salad on page 106 in the near future. I’ll post about it when I do. Since Israel holds a melange of cultures, races and faiths, you’ll also find Moroccan, Syrian and Palestinian recipes among others.
If you’re looking for a cookbook on a similar vein, Jerusalem (the cookbook) is a joint effort by celebrated chefs Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi who were both born in Jerusalem in the same year—Tamimi on the Arab east side and Ottolenghi in the Jewish west. The two combine their heritage and history in a stunning tour de force cookbook.
I added a few snippets to this story from one I originally wrote for Parade.com about Prince William’s visit to Jerusalem in 2018. These images taken by me in various souks/shuks in Jerusalem and around Israel also appeared in that article.