My favorite new cookbook is Danielle Oron’s Modern Israeli Cooking: 100 New Recipes for Traditional Classics.
I’ve been following Danielle’s blog I Will Not Eat Oysters for a while now, and I’m thrilled that she finally published her first cookbook. Danielle creates recipes with an incredible array of flavors. Her cooking has been compared to Yotam Ottolenghi, but she deserves to be seen in her own right. Modern Israeli Cooking is a vibrant, passionate culinary exploration inspired by ancient food traditions with a wonderful modern take. Each dish is clean, fresh and, in a way, new again—or at least uniquely Danielle’s.
While not all the recipes are kosher, there’s plenty to kvell over: Schnitzel and Sumac Slaw Sandwiches, Lemon and Kale Harira Soup, Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls, Everything Challah, Buckwheat and Eggplant Salad (recipe below), Roasted Garlic and Apricot Chicken, Roasted Tomatillo and Poblano Shakshuka, Chocolate Babka French Toast, and so much more. (It was easy for me to make adjustments with many of the recipes. For example, I Ieft out the labane from the unstuffed cabbage and the spiced burgers were delicious without the yogurt sauce. I plan to make the brisket but will do without the creamy grits.)
Danielle and I chatted a few weeks ago.
Where are you from? Tell me about your background.
I am originally from Tel Aviv, Israel. My family moved to New Jersey when I was about three years old. At the age of 18, I moved to New York (City) and spent most of my early adult life there. After two years double majoring in Film & TV and Photography at NYU Tisch, I found love for cooking. I was lucky enough to find this passion early on and graduated from The French Culinary Institute (now The International Culinary Center). I moved to Toronto, where my husband is from, and at the age of 25 I opened my own milk and cookie bakery called Moo Milk Bar, which, after a long and successful three-and-a-half years, we were forced to close since we had to move to Atlanta for my husband’s job. I never thought I would end up here, but it’s a growing city that has a young and incredible food scene. We really love it here! I’ve been writing, cooking, consulting, photographing and eating lots!
Did you grow up in a family of cooks? What or who inspired you to get involved in cooking and blogging?
My whole family cooks. Like…everyone…well, except my brother. My grandmothers on both sides were incredible cooks—one Moroccan and the other Greek/Italian. My grandfather on my mother’s side had a Milk Bar of his own in Tel Aviv, which inspired me to open the one I had in Toronto. My mom constantly cooks and cooked for us every day growing up. My dad is the creative cook who throws together a meal when there is literally nothing in the fridge. Every one of them was inspiring in their own way. I’ve learned so much from them and continue to call them and ask how it was they made this or prepared that. They’re all to thank for my love (obsession) for food.
What came first—your blog or Moo Milk Bar?
My blog came first. When I moved to Toronto, I couldn’t be employed since I was an American in Canada. I couldn’t just sit around. It’s not in my nature. To keep busy, I started the blog and fell in love with it. Then I started making really damn good cookies. After talking to my mom about my grandfather’s milk bar, I decided that it was time to sell those really damn good cookies. Luckily, you don’t have to be Canadian to open a business there. So I employed myself! I took a break from blogging when the bakery took over my life. Once moving to Atlanta, I was able to dive back into it.
What are some of your favorite recipes in the book?
LOVE the Roasted Radish recipe (recipe below). I have a strange obsession with radishes. My other favorites are the Schnitzel & Sumac Slaw Sandwiches, the Hummus recipe, the Pomegranate Short Ribs…ugh. I could go on…the Middle Eastern Beef Fried Rice, the Salted Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Pita Pizza…okay, I’m done.
For an easy weeknight recipe, I love making shawarma-spiced chicken with a quick salad or anything with eggs.
I wrote this book for the home cook. It’s a cookbook that you will actually cook from, unlike the beautiful restaurant cookbooks which I love dearly, but it’s hard to want to actually cook from them knowing that each thing will take over a day to make. This is an actual cookbook. I’m really proud of it.
Roasted Radishes with Sumac and Balsamic Vinegar
Courtesy of Danielle Oron, Modern Israeli Cooking
6 large or 12 small radishes, cut in half lengthwise
1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
Salt and fresh pepper
Preheat the oven to 450˚F (230˚C) and lightly grease a baking sheet.
Toss the radishes with the olive oil and season with salt and fresh black pepper.
Place them, cut side down, on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle them with balsamic vinegar.
Roast in the oven for 15–18 minutes until cooked through and the cut side is slightly crisp.
Season with sumac and Maldon salt and serve warm or at room temperature.
Buckwheat and Eggplant Salad
Courtesy of Danielle Oron, Modern Israeli Cooking
You’ll find eggplant in all dishes in Israel from time-consuming stews and sauces to salads, like this recipe. It’s easy to make ahead of time and tastes great cold or at room temperature, which is why it would be enjoyable on a hot day at the beach. Buckwheat has an intense earthy flavor and is balanced out with the labane in this dish. Either way, buckwheat’s still pretty intense, so if you feel like you would be turned off to making this salad because of it, feel free to swap it for farro or even brown rice.
1 eggplant, cut into 1” (2.5cm) cubes
1/3 cup (80ml) olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
fresh black pepper
1/2 cup (85g) buckwheat groats
3 tbsp (45ml) lemon juice
1 tbsp (15ml) olive oil
salt to taste
2 tbsp (3g) chopped mint
1 cup (250g)
labane (or labane)
Pre-heat the oven to 400 ̊F (205 ̊C). Toss the eggplant with the olive oil, salt, and fresh pepper. Spread the eggplant out on a greased baking sheet and roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes turning the eggplant halfway through roasting.
Cook the buckwheat in a large pot of salted boiling water or 10-12 minutes. Drain and immediately toss with the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt while still warm.
Combine the buckwheat, eggplant and chopped mint in a large bowl and taste for seasoning.
Spread the labane on the bottom of each serving dish and top with the buckwheat and eggplant mixture. Drizzle with a good amount of olive oil. Garnish with lemon zest and Maldon salt.
Danielle took all these beautiful photos. (Thanks for sharing, Danielle.) Be sure to check out her blog I Will Not Eat Oysters. You’ll find more information on her book as well as more terrific recipes.