The secret to the best Israeli food? It's all 'Sababa'
After co-writing 'Cravings' and 'Cravings: Hungry for More' with Chrissy Teigen, Adeena Sussman's first solo cookbook is a love letter to her home country.
After helping Instagram influencer and model Chrissy Teigen write two cookbooks in the past three years, Adeena Sussman got a taste, if you will, of the life of a bestselling author: book signings, coast-to-coast tours, TV appearances, rapid-fire media requests.
But somehow, it just made her hungry for more.
Sussman, a California native who now lives in Tel Aviv, Israel – "the best food city in the world," she claims – is striking out on her own with "Sababa," a compilation of more than 125 recipes inspired by her recently adopted home country.
"Sababa" is a Hebrew word that is loosely translated to "cool," "it's all good" or "everything is awesome." It's that spirit, she says, with which Sussman cooks and dreams up meals in her Israeli kitchen. Much of her inspiration is drawn from the bustling stalls of the Carmel Market (known locally simply as "the shuk"), which is (thankfully) close to home and where she's become a regular.
“In a city full of night owls, I am among the earliest of risers," Sussman wrote. "Tel Aviv is a place of sizzling days that can leave you wilting, of beach jaunts and afternoon naps and dinners out after the sun slips behind the Mediterranean Sea. But on mornings like this, just after the light begins to drift in through the wispy shades, the city feels like it belongs only to me. So I leave my husband sleeping and sneak out of the bedroom, grab my two-wheeled plaid shopping cart, slip out the door, and make my way the short distance between our apartment and the entrance to the Carmel Market, known in Hebrew as Shuk Hacarmel or, quite simply, the shuk.”
Carmel is a popular marketplace for Tel Avivians craving fresh produce and local goods. (Photo: ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock)
One of the best traits of food in Israel, she explained, is the fact that it's evolved so much over the years. So much, in fact, that it's not always easy to define what Israeli food actually is. And that's a good thing.
"People like to eat globally. That’s the story of Israeli food," Sussman told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Until 10 years ago, there were a lot of French restaurants. Now people realize that Israeli food is worldly, too. There’s a nice balance between a respect for a tradition and a desire to try new things."
It's that global perspective that runs through the pages of "Sababa," with recipes like Freekeh and Roasted Grape Salad, Crudo with Cherries and Squeezed Tomatoes, Schug-Marinated Lamb Chops and Tahini Caramel Tart.
Tahini, she noted, is one of the best ingredients to work with. In fact, fresh produce doesn't always have to be the centerpiece of all Israeli dishes. Condiments deserve their time in the sun, too.
"We have here a lot of punchy things like schug (Yemeni hot sauce), harissa (chili pepper paste) and pomegranate molasses you can add to foods that feel very globe-trotting but also just feel very much of this place,” she said. “I think leaning heavily on condiments in another place or another time might seem like a cop-out, but these are really essential building blocks to the foods, so I use them liberally and as much as possible.”
With a foreword from James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Solomonov, "Sababa" is a veritable love letter to the cuisine that's taken the world by storm. "The pages of this book ooze with [Adeena’s] passion for the romance and beauty of Israeli cuisine," Solomonov, famed owner of Zahav in Philadelphia, wrote. "The recipes are soulful, elemental, and stunningly delicious.”
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