Linger at the table with a make-ahead meal of trending tastes—meat and veggies singing with fragrant spices, rich tahini, and showers of fresh herbs.
March 08, 2016
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1 of 10Photo: Christopher Testani
Throw an Israeli Dinner Party
Serve your friends like the Israelis do: family-style, with every dish laid out at once in a truly vibrant display. Israeli cuisine continues to emerge and enthrall in the United States, thanks to chefs like Michael Solomonov in Philadelphia (author of Zahav, out now) and Alon Shaya in New Orleans. The recipes here take inspiration from Israel's many cultural roots (Africa, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and Eastern Europe) with bold, veggie-forward dishes that plate well and keep beautifully. And you can forget the centerpiece roast: A platter of silky-smooth hummus is the sun around which the rest of the meal revolves.
2 of 10Photo: Christopher Testani
Quinoa Salad with Pistachios and Currants
Grains, nuts, and dried fruit are typical in the Sephardic community—Jews who immigrated from Spain, Yemen, and the Mediterranean. (Ashkenazic Jews brought bread and potatoes from Eastern Europe.) Quinoa is a modern twist. Dried currants are smaller and less sweet than raisins, but either will work in this dish.
While not Israeli in origin (chermoula is actually a Moroccan condiment), this dish speaks to the many culinary influences of Israel's North African and Middle Eastern neighbors. The sauce is wonderfully complex—bright, herbaceous, and spicy. Israel has a vegetable-centric cuisine (they are eaten at every meal); cooking vegetables over an open flame until deeply charred is a favorite cooking method.
Kufta is the Hebrew word for meatball, similar to Lebanese kofta or Greek kefta. Ground sumac has a reddish-purple color and lemony flavor, a great addition to spice rubs and vinaigrettes. If you can't find it, substitute 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind.
The longer this Mediterranean-inspired cucumber salad sits, the better it gets. A fine dice allows the salt and lemon to penetrate the vegetables and draw out their juices. Serve this with a stunning grilled leg of lamb or as a cooling side to grilled flank steak.
The za'atar we know (available at Whole Foods) is a blend of ground sumac, sesame seeds, salt, and the dried, ground za'atar plant. It's slightly sour and slightly earthy, a bit like dried marjoram but completely unique. You can also sprinkle it over hummus, roasted chicken, or grilled flatbread. Labne is Greek yogurt to the extreme, drained of almost all its liquid until very thick. Serve with the carrots for a cool, creamy, tangy contrast.
A little baking soda softens the chickpeas for an ethereally smooth texture. Israelis like a strong tahini presence in their hummus, but you can use less if you like. The tahini will seize up when added to the lemon juice mixture—this is perfectly normal. Thin out with ice-cold water, stirring well with a whisk. The hummus will have the best flavor and will thicken considerably once cooled.
We suggest building a hummus bar for your guests and enjoying the Israeli way: Spread in a shallow bowl, and piled with toppings. The next three recipes are a great place to start.
After just one bite, it's easy to get hooked on this flavorful, 5-ingredient, hummus topper. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with toasty baked pita chips, if desired. Simple, yet impressive, soon you'll be topping mashed potatoes and steaks with this versatile mushroom side too.