Cook like an expert: Award-winning Philadelphia chef offers up secrets to his mouth-watering dishes
Michael Solomonov’s new cookbook showcases recipes from his popular Mediterranean-themed restaurant.
One of Philadelphia’s most popular restaurants, Zahav, has been winning raves and delighting customers with its Mediterranean menu since 2008. The chef behind it is James Beard Award winner Michael Solomonov, who has put a modern twist on the flavors of his native Israel for the dishes he creates there. But you don’t have to live in Philly to enjoy Solomonov’s recipes for fried cauliflower, hummus and lentil soup with lamb meatballs. With the release of his book “Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking,” everyone can get a taste of his culinary expertise.
“I think it's becoming popular in the U.S. because it's flavorful, healthy and easy to prepare,” says Solomonov of Israeli cuisine. His parents, both cooks as well, introduced him to these dishes as a child in Israel. He remembers enjoying fresh tomatoes year-round and putting tahini on everything. At Zahav, “Our hummus uses the best tahini we can find,” he told From The Grapevine. “I like to keep it simple and use the best ingredients possible and showcase them.”
In addition to the hummus and fried cauliflower, best-selling items include crispy halloumi with dates and walnuts and Yemenite soup, Solomonov’s favorite. “It’s my ultimate comfort food,” he says. “Our signature dish is the lamb shoulder, which you can find in the book. Every dish in the book has been served at Zahav at one point or another.”
Although he was raised in Pittsburgh, where his family moved, Solomonov returned to Israel at 19 and got a job at a bakery. “I decided to go into cooking because I couldn't really hack it in any other field. I had a rough time in college,” he told us. Returning to the States, he went to culinary school in Florida. “I learned a lot from Marc Vetri and Terrence Feury, the chefs I worked for in Philly before going out on my own.”
Solomonov still has family in Israel and goes back often. “I love finding new places to eat,” he says. “We have taken a couple of groups there from the States, including American chefs. I take them to my favorite places, and I never get tired of seeing them discover how much they love Israel and the food.”
Now that his cookbook is out, Solomonov is turning his attention to other things on his to-do list. “We have a lot going on in the next year,” he said. “Hopefully, other restaurants in other cities!”
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