Janna Gur recently visited Toronto, Canada and provided a sneak preview of her magnificent new cookbook, The Book of New Israeli Food (Schocken 2008) for Tu bi’Shvat for the Jewish National Fund. Born and raised in the former Soviet Union, Janna Gur immigrated to Israel in 1974. She now lives in Tel Aviv and is the founder and chief editor of Al Hashulchan Gastronomic Monthly (On the Table), the leading Israeli food and wine magazine.
The Book of New Israeli Food (Schocken 2008) illustrates the sumptuous color, culinary diversity and history of today’s Israeli cuisine. The book offers a unique culinary experience for every occasion, richly spiced and imbued with cross-cultural flavors. It is enriched by Eilon Paz’s vibrantly colored photographs, along with short narratives about significant aspects of Israel’s cuisine, such as the generous and unique Israeli breakfast (which grew out of the needs of Kibbutz life), locally produced cheeses that rival those of Europe and a dramatic renaissance of wine culture in this ancient land.
Janna Gur shares her passion for the new Israeli food and the integrity of using pure Israeli ingredients. In her intriguing introduction to The Book of New Israeli Food, she describes Israeli food as a product of diverse cultures. The Jews of the Diaspora, settling in a homeland that was new to them, brought their varied cuisines to the table and integrated additional ingredients and ideas from their Arab neighbors.
Janna’s delicious, easy-to-follow recipes represent these influences and include some creative interpretations of classics by celebrated Israeli chefs including Beetroot and Pomegranate Salad, Fish Falafel in Spicy Harissa Mayonnaise and Homemade Shawarma. You’ll also find interesting recipes for Jerusalem Mixed Grill, Traditional Chopped Liver as well as Chocolate and Halva Coffeecake.
Here is an excerpt from Gur’s The Book of New Israeli Food about Tu bi’Shvat which falls on February 9, 2009 this year, along with some special recipes featuring fruits to celebrate the New Year for the Trees.
“Originally not a festival at all, Tu bi’Shvat was merely a date on the Jewish calendar, literally ‘the 15th day of Shvat.’ This was the date on which the age of trees was used for the purposes of tithing and taxing. Thus, in Judaica sources it came to be known as the New Year for the Trees. In Biblical times, Tu bi’Shvat was the day farmers brought the first fruits of their trees to the Temple in Jerusalem. When the Temple was destroyed and the Jewish People were exiled from The Land of Israel, Tu bi’Shvat lost much of its original significance, only to be rediscovered in the Middle Ages by Jewish mystics who imbued it with deeper symbolic meaning.
The Tu bi’Shvat Seder Meal was established by the Kabbalists of Safed, modeled after the Passover Seder and featuring the seven species of the Land of Israel: wheat, barley, vines, figs, pomegranates, olive oil and dates, the staples of the Biblical Period…Jews all over the world marked the day by eating fruits of the Land of Israel, mainly dried ones like figs and dates, raisins and almonds…As far as food is concerned – every Jewish holiday must have some culinary aspect – Israelis still feast on dried fruit, even though fresh fruits abound even at the height of winter.”
Norene Gilletz is a cookbook author, cooking teacher and food consultant based in Toronto, Canada. Her latest book is NORENE’S HEALTHY KITCHEN: Eat YOUR Way to Good Health (Whitecap). For information about her cookbooks, cooking demonstrations and culinary services, call 416-226-2466 or visit her website at http://www.gourmania.com
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.