Ron and Leetal Arazi are on a mission to share the vibrant traditional Sephardic and Middle Eastern Jewish food they grew up eating.
With their artisanal food company, New York Shuk, they hope to bring the flavors of Middle Eastern cuisine into all our kitchens. Their line of homemade harissa has been praised by everyone from food magazines to chefs, food bloggers and home cooks. Gabriella Gershenson in the Wall Street Journal said “Ron and Leetal’s harissa is jammier, fruiter, and riper than any you’ve tasted before.” It’s also become one of my favorite pantry staples.
Ron and Leetal host various classes, pop-up dinners, and events throughout the year that let participants experience authentic Middle Eastern cooking and culture first hand. Their homemade couscous class is always a sell out.
Ron grew up in a Jewish Moroccan-Lebanese family in Israel where he was introduced to a world of vibrant, flavorful food prepared from scratch. He went on to attend culinary school and gained professional experience traveling through France and working in some of Israel’s and New York City’s most established kitchens.
Leetal, also from Israel, was influenced by her maternal grandfather, a professional bread baker from Eastern Europe, and her paternal Turkish grandmother. She was inspired to study pastry and then worked as a pastry chef.
I chatted with Leetal last week:
What inspired you to start NY SHUK?
I love condiments.
Whenever I have the chance to travel, the first place I go to explore is either the markets or the supermarkets. I love finding out about new products and condiments from foreign lands.
We are very passionate about helping home cooks whip up easy, simple and flavorful dishes, and we want to give them the right tools to do so.
High quality Middle Eastern products are not an easy find, even in a city like New York. We felt the need to do something about it. To bring the abundance, flavor and quality of the shuk to New York.
While we currently have only five harissa-based products, our hope is to build a whole Middle Eastern pantry!
How has NY SHUK evolved over the years from the beginning to where you are now?
We’ve lived in New York four years now. During that time we definitely realized even more the importance of the journey we are on for our culinary culture and heritage, and it helped evolve our thinking throughout the process.
Tell me about your cooking classes.
As most of our business is online, the cooking classes (and the events which we have once in a while as well) are our way of meeting our community and building upon the existing New York Shuk community, and that is by far the best part. They are our way of meeting the people who enjoy cooking with our products already, so we can give them further tips on how our products can enrich their cooking repertoire with new and exciting Middle Easter flavors. Or we get folks who aren’t using our products, and we can really introduce them to the New York Shuk family in the best way.
Tell me about the name NY SHUK.
The word shuk means “market” in Hebrew, and for us the marketplace represents the center of a community, the meeting point where commerce and culture come together. We try to bring this communal energy, as well as the freshness of a bustling outdoor market, to everything we do. That is why we say NY.
Where can readers buy the line?
Either at our online shop NY SHUK or at select stores around NY (Kalustyan’s, Epicerie boulud, R&D Foods, Dépanneur, and more.)
Gravlax with Rosey Harissa
Courtesy of Ron and Leetal Arazi
From Ron: Might look and sound fancy but making gravlax is easy! The floral and sweet notes in the Rosey Harissa complements the gravlax in a very unexpected way. The only part of it that is trickier and needs practicing is slicing it very thin. I would recommend getting a good slicing knife if you can- and just keep eating the trimming until you get it right.
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup kosher salt
10 tablespoons Rosey Harissa, divided
2 ½ lb good quality salmon filet
1. Stir the sugar, salt, and 5 tablespoons harissa together in a bowl. Spread the mixture thickly all around the top and bottom of the salmon filet. It should be completely covered with the curing mixture. Place salmon in a wide baking dish, cover dish with plastic wrap and let cure in the fridge for 50 to 60 hours. The longer you let it sit, the firmer the fish will become.
2. Rinse salt and sugar cure from the salmon and pat it dry with a clean dishtowel. Rub the remaining 5 tablespoons harissa on top of the cured salmon before serving and slicing.