Israeli Flavors for the Weekend


This weekend is Memorial Day which marks the official start of the barbecue season and unofficial start of the summer.  While there won’t be any parades, you might be able to catch some sort of tribute to our war dead on a webinar or in a classic movie.

But back to barbecue. If you are looking for something different for a Memorial Day meal, try the following recipes with a Middle Eastern twist.

The following recipes have been tested in my kitchen so I know they work in New Jersey.

Don’t be put off by the main ingredient in the following recipe especially when it’s hard to find. I’ve suggested substitutions. As with many chopped salads, amounts are flexible. This dish is featured in SHUK by Einat Admony.

IMG_1988Kohlrabi, Cucumber and Avocado Salad (Serves 4)

1 large cucumber, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 medium Kohlrabi,chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1/2 c. cilantro, chopped
1/4 c. fresh mint
1/4 c.  fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 avocados cut into 1/2 inch chunks
lemon wedges


  1. In a large bowl mix together the cucumber, kohlrabi, onion, jalapeño pepper, cilantro and mint.
  2. Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper
  3. Just before serving, chunk and add the avocado so that they don’t turn brown.

NOTES: Don’t like or can’t find kohlrabi, substitute jicama, sliced celery or radishes or another crunchy vegetable. Lime could be substituted for lemon. This remains crunchy for at least 2 days. And a little za’atar or sumac can’t hurt.

The following two recipes are adapted from those presented by Rob Eshman, national editor at The Forward. Each Friday, he gives a cooking demonstration from his California kitchen. Recipes are posted on Thursday and you are invited to cook along with Rob. Rob uses lots of fresh vegetables like the artichokes that grow in his front yard and the grape leaves foraged from a neighbor’s vines.

Going along with the Middle Eastern Flavor profile is the next recipe from Israeli chef Erez Komarovsky via Rob Eshman. You’ll be surprised how versatile cauliflower is and how simple this recipe is. 

IMG_1985Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini and Silan (date syrup) (serves 4-6)

2 large whole cauliflowers
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 cup tahini
1/8 c silan (date syrup)
salt and pepper.


  1. Preheat oven to 450.
  2. Wash and dry cauliflower. Trim any dark spots off the stem but leave the leaves.
  3. Stand the cauliflower on its base and with a long, sharp knife, cut into 1/4 inch slices. Don’t worry if some slices break.
  4. Coat a large pan with some olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  5. Lay the cauliflower in a single layer on the sheet pan.
  6. Roast for about 30 minutes until a deep golden brown with some crisp spots.
  7. Remove from pan to a large platter. Drizzle with tahini and then the silan. Serve warm.

NOTES: Markets with Middle Eastern food sections will carry both tahini and silan. Aaron’s and Seasons always have it and it’s also available from Amazon. Choose a tahini that is mixed such as Lior brand. Be careful opening the jar. There may be oil on the top. You can also lower the roasting temperature for the cauliflower if cooking it at the same time as something else. Just leave it in a little longer.

The centerpiece for the Middle Eastern style meal is chicken also from Rob Eshman.

Middle eastern Chicken Thighs  (serves 4-6)

12 chicken thighs, bone-in or boneless
2 T. soy sauce
1 T. balsamic vinegar
3 T. olive oil
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2/3 c. silan (date syrup)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
minced ginger (optional)
1 tsp. paprika
scallions for garnish (optional)


  1. Mix everything except scallions in a large bowl and let marinate for at least 1 hour.
  2. Preheat grill, broiler, or oven (425 for oven).
  3. Broil for about 7-10 minutes; flip and cook another 5-7 for boneless . The thighs should be light brown with some dark spots.
  4. Or roast at 425 for 20 minutes (boneless) or 40 minutes (bone-in)
  5. Garnish with chopped scallions.

NOTES: The date syrup gives a sweet but not too sweet flavor and a nice rich color to the chicken. The leftover sauce ( boil it first because raw chicken was marinating in it) is perfect for pouring over rice.

Lastly, for the lazy ones among us – or those tired of cooking – purchase a  roasted chicken from your favorite store and use that chicken to make this unusual chicken salad from Epicurious. It’s lighter than mayonnaise laden chicken salad and has a nice nutty flavor. Perfect for a Memorial Day picnic with some Israeli dips and pita bread.

chicken-salad-with-tahini-dressingChicken Salad with Tahini (serves 4-6)

6 chicken breast halves with skin and bones (4 to 4 1/2 lb total) or 6-8 cups of cooked chicken cut in cubes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup well-stirred tahini (Middle Eastern sesame paste)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon sugar (I left it out)
1/2 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed and blanched (optional)
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips
1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted
chopped celery (optional)
cilantro, chopped,  (optional)


  1. To cook chicken, rub with olive oil and season with 1 tsp.salt and pepper. Roast at 450 for 40 minutes or until cooked through.
  2. For dressing, mix together tahini, water, lemon juice, garlic,1 tsp. salt.
  3. Chunk chicken. Add chopped celery if using, sugar snap peas, red pepper, cilantro.
  4. Add dressing and mix well.
  5. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

NOTES: Don’t have red pepper, use green or orange. Chopped cucumber and a sprinkle of za’atar are good additions. Don’t skimp on the garlic. Nice with pita bread or pita chips.



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Aileen Grossberg

Aileen Grossberg

Aileen Grossberg, a professional librarian, is a long-time congregant and serves as volunteer librarian for Shomrei's Lampert Library. The library, one of the best-kept secrets at Shomrei is used by the Rabbi, congregants, students and teachers of the JLC (Hebrew School) and Preschool. It's a tremendous resource completely supported by your donations and gifts. Aileen also heads the Shomrei Caterers, the in-house food preparation group. Can there be any better combination…good food and good books!
Aileen Grossberg

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