Why do you choose to use herbs native to Israel in your cooking?
For me, it is natural. It was a natural thing in the beginning. I try to be very original with the dishes that I create. When I was a child I would go to the mountains with my teacher to pick herbs. She would say, “I will show you what to pick.” At first, I was afraid that some of the herbs were poisonous. However, with confidence, I learned what to pick and found that these herbs were delicious. For me, it is a love of the Bible and a love of the foods of the Bible.
How are other chefs following in your footsteps?
The revival of Israeli cuisine began about 15 years ago. I want to revive Israeli cuisine for myself and my clients. Chefs in New York are now starting to use the herb mallow in their cooking. European chefs were using this herb several years before the U. S. Both Palestinian and Israelis are following in the revival of Israeli cuisine. Both sides are looking at very basic and simple foods with great taste. Foods such as good salads, falafel, humus and shish-kabob. This homestyle cooking is better known as the Slow Food Movement in which I won an award in Sicily several years ago. I see the Slow Food Movement as the glorification of home cooking.
Want to try something new for dessert? Try this simple and tasty recipe.
Tahini and Date Dip
4 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp date syrup
Spread the tahini evenly over a plate. Drizzle the date syrup into a circle about an inch from the edge of the plate. Repeat twice more making smaller circles inside each other moving closer towards the center. To complete the decorative effect, using a toothpick, make lines as if dividing the spread into quarters and then divide each quarter in half. Fresh fruit slices such as bananas or war pita bread can be used for dipping. Vary the quantities according to the size of your plate and the number of people you are serving. This about is great for a 6 inch plate. Date syrup and tahini are available at Middle Easter or specialty food stores.
Be sure to share some of your exotic dessert recipes with us.
Part 2 of the interview with Chef Moshe continues.
How did you become interested in gathering wild herbs?
The love of herbs is in my family. This interest was instilled in me since childhood. My father used to pick wild leeks for omelets. My teacher, Nehama, used to take my class into nature and showed us the mallow herb that her family ate during the time Jerusalem was under siege in 1948. It was natural for me to pick herbs on the way home from school. When you go out into nature with your father and sister and people with more experience, you begin to trust their knowledge.
Who are your influences in the kitchen?
My family. Cooking runs in my family. It is a gift. To be honest, either you have the gift or you don’t. Working in the kitchen is tough work. It can be a prison. It can be intense. I would recommend that if you don’t like being in the kitchen, don’t choose it as a profession. It takes confidence.
If you cannot visit Eucalyptus in person, here is an interesting recipe you can try at home.
Jerusalem Artichoke Soup
1 lb. Jerusalem artichokes, peeled
1tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
pinch of saffron
6 cups homemade or sodium-reduced chicken or vegetable broth
12 blanched almonds
3 tbsp. water
3 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
salt and freshly ground pepper
Prepare Jerusalem artichokes by cutting larger ones into quarters and smaller ones into halves. Set aside. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat; add onion and garlic saute until soft, about 10 minutes. Add Jerusalem artichokes and saute another 4-5 minutes. Add saffron and broth and bring to a boil. Simmer covered for about 25-30 minutes. In the meantime, grind almonds finely in a spice grinder or food processor. Mix together with water in a small bowl. Add to soup with parsley. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and serve hot. Makes 6 servings.
Share your favorite artichoke recipes or try this one and tell us about it.
Welcome to another installation of the Ohev Sholom’s KosherFest Blog. I will be posting a three part interview with Israeli Chef Moshe Basson.
His culinary roots stretch back to approximately 200 C.E. He is know as a food folklorist, a wild and native food activist and also known as “the biblical chef”. Chef Moshe Basson was born in Iraq in 1950. He grew up in an immigrant transit camp in Jerusalem. He opened his first restaurant named Eucalyptus in 1988. The restaurant was named after the tree he planted on Tu Bishvat as a child and his restaurant was built on the same spot in the Talpiot neighborhood in Jerusalem. The restaurant was later moved to Horkanos Street which was a more central location. After the second intifadah began, Eucalyptus had to close its doors. Now, the restaurant has reopened again on Horkanos Street.
Chef Moshe has been involved in the Slow Food Movement and won a Slow Food Couscous competition in Sicily. He is also involved in Chefs for Peace which is a group of chefs from various religious and cultural backgrounds committed to peaceful coexistence and culinary excellence.
Part One of the interview with Chef Moshe Basson
Chef Moshe, can you tell me how you became involved with Ohev Sholom’s KosherFest?
One day I received an email. It did not have a subject and I did not know who it was from. I was afraid to open it. I finally had the courage to open the email. The email was from Meredith Farnan from Congregation Ohev Sholom. The email stated that she and others wanted to help support the economy in Israel. My restaurant was closed because of the intifadah. Meredith invited us to come to the United States to make money to take back to Israel. I decided to come to the United States with my son. Meredith offered her home to me an my son for a month. Eventually, we became like family. I came to make money for myself and Israel but I also helped Congregation Ohev Sholom. It has been a great family relationship.
Have you had a chance to visit Chef Moshe’s restaurant in Jerusalem? If so, tell us about your experience.
Ashkenazic (Eastern Europe) Cuisine
Ashkenazic Jews are those Jews who trace their root to German, Russia, Central and Eastern Europe. Those Jews who lived in these areas often used ingredients in their cooking such as horseradish, root vegetables and grains.
In Medieval Europe Jewish merchants traveled and brought back the cuisine of other countries. Noodles, which were not widely eaten by the general German population, became a staple of German Jewish cooking after being introduced by the merchants who traveled to Italy.
Ashkenazic Jews began immigrating to the United States around the 17th century and brought with them their cuisine. When one thinks of “Jewish Food” it is primarily the cuisine of the Ashkenazi Jews that come to mind such as bagels, kugles and borscht just to name a few.
Sephardic Jews, whose roots come from Spain, Portugal, the Mediterranean, Greece, Turkey and Arab countries, adopted the light cuisine of that area. Cuisine included salads, stuffed vegetables and vine leaves, olive oil, lentils, fresh and dried fruit, herbs, nuts, and chickpeas. Meat dishes often feature lamb and beef with herbs and spices such as cumin, cilantrto and tumeric.
Share your recipes or secret ingredients from Sephardic and Ashkenazic dishes served around your table.
With only 45 days left before this year’s KosherFest, we hope to tantalize your interest by writing about Jewish and Israeli foots. We will introduce you to special foods and spices from the Bible, foods associated with holiday celebrations and the thoughts of our Israeli Chef Moshe Basson.
Join the conversation. We look forward to hearing from you. On behalf of co-chairs Donna Oberstein and Ace Allen and Congregation Ohev Sholom, I am Travis Bellotti, Ohev Blog Administrator, and I am thrilled to share a Jewish food adventure with you.
Also, feel free to join our FaceBook KosherFest fan page. For every fan who becomes a fan of KosherFest on Facebook, we’ll make a cash donation to Mazon, providing food to suffering people in Haiti, Israel, and around the world.
Congratulations to Congregation Ohev Sholom with KosherFest being awarded The Community Program of the Year from the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City. What an amazing honor for all of the congregants who worked so hard to make this amazing festival a terrific success. Our next KosherFest is June 6, 2010. Can’t wait!
We are starting this blog to let you know about KosherFest — Congregation Ohev Sholom’s Kosher Food Festival.
This event is scheduled for June 6th, 2010. The festival will be held at Congregation Ohev Sholom in Prairie Village, Kansas from 12:00 noon until 5:00 p.m. at the corner of 75th and Nall Avenue.
Love Matza Balls? We’ve got ‘em.
Love Blintzes? We’ve got ‘em.
Love Latkes? Yep.
Love Challah? You bet!
How about Pastrami Sandwiches?
How about Brisket?
How about Kugel — WE’VE GOT IT ALL.
Enjoy here or take home. We’ll make it well worth your while to drop by and say hello.
We’ll have a lot of FUN and GREAT FOOD.
Don’t miss the children’s activities, all your Kosher Food favorites, music, entertainment, dancing, and a great afternoon for everyone.
Don’t miss it!
Metro Kansas City’s ONLY Kosher Food event.