Ep #036
Jay’s 4 Questions
A Conversation with
Chef Alon Shaya


James Beard Award-Winning Chef Alon Shaya joins Federation President & CEO Jay Sanderson on the podcast to discuss how food led him on a journey of exploring who he is and finding his identity. Chef Shaya highlights the impact food has had on him and how his memories of food have shaped almost every decision he has made throughout his entire life. He shares his experience cooking Israeli food in New Orleans, which led to the opening of Saba, Pomegranate Hospitality’s flagship restaurant.

Tune in for the secrets to the best hummus and to hear how cauliflower was the “gateway drug” to all other Israeli foods he began cooking. This is one conversation you won’t want to miss!

Chef Shaya recently published Shaya: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel. If you ask him, his cookbook-storybook fusion is about “identity, finding yourself, and letting your passions drive you in positive ways. As people read the stories, I hope they are inspired to make the recipes, and that the food and recipes resonate with people.”

Chef Shaya and Pomegranate Hospitality will be opening their latest restaurant Safta in Denver this summer! Tune in for a glimpse into the chef’s inspirations, motivations, passions, and more.

Photograph by Rush Jagoe.



  • 4 ½ quarts water, divided
  • 3 teaspoons baking soda, divided
  • 1 ½ cups dried chickpeas
  • 7 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
  • ¼ cup raw tahini
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Morton kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • ¾ cup prepared tahini (page 392), optional
  • ¼ cup lightly packed fresh parsley leaves, chopped teaspoon
  • ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper

  1. In a large bowl, combine 11⁄2 quarts water and 1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda; add the chickpeas and soak overnight.
  2. Heat the oven to 400 ̊F. Drain the chickpeas, and toss with 2 teaspoons baking soda, then spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, and roast until the beans have visibly dried, 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Move the chickpeas to a large sieve or colander; with cold water running over the chickpeas, start roughing them up with your hands to loosen the skins. You can grab a small handful and briskly run them between your palms, or pinch them between your fingers (don’t worry about removing and discarding the skins yet). The more you do now, the more will come off during cooking, so take some time here and don’t worry if they split. It’s good to be thorough— this is like giving them a deep-tissue massage to loosen everything up.
  4. Combine the remaining 3 quarts water with the remaining 1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda, this time in a pot. Add the chickpeas, and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium. With a small sieve or slotted spoon, skim away the foam and loose skins from the top of the water and discard. It may be helpful for you to reserve the discarded skins in a bowl to track your progress; with enough persistence, you’re aiming to have about 3⁄4 cup of skins by the time you’re finished.
  5. Every couple of minutes during the cooking process, strain away the skins by plunging your sieve deep into the pot and giving a good stir, then using the sieve to catch the swirling skins, as you would fish for minnows. It’s okay to beat the chickpeas up a little against the side of the pot to speed this along. Repeat this process as much as you have the patience to do (you won’t get them all, so don’t drive yourself insane), until the chickpeas are just becoming tender, in 20 to 25 minutes.
  6. When the chickpeas are still sort of “al dente,” give them one last skim to trap any skins, then add the garlic. Cook for another 25 to 30 minutes, until the beans are super-creamy. Drain, and let them sit in the strainer for a few minutes, so any extra moisture can evaporate.
  7. Combine the chickpeas in a food processor with the raw tahini, lemon juice, salt, and cumin. Process for several minutes, until the mixture is incredibly smooth. With the machine still going, stream in the canola oil, hot water, and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Let it rip—there’s no way to overprocess this stuff, and you want it to be as light as air.
  8. Serve the hummus at room temperature. I like to spread it in a wide, shallow bowl, where I can smear it up the sides and show off the topping. Use the back of your spoon to make a well in the center, and fill it with prepared tahini if you’re using it. Drizzle with the last 3 tablespoons olive oil, and scatter the parsley and Aleppo pepper on top.




  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 ½ cups raw tahini
  • 1 teaspoon Morton kosher salt
  • 1 ¼ cups ice water, plus more as needed
  1. Combine the lemon juice and garlic in a nonreactive bowl; set it aside for 30 minutes to steep.
  2. Meanwhile, whip the tahini with a stand mixer or an electric mixer on high speed for about 10 minutes, until it’s glossy and light, like cake batter. It’s nearly impossible to overwhip it, so feel free to spend a little time here.
  3. Strain the lemon juice. Decrease the mixer’s speed to medium, and add the juice and salt; the tahini will seize up at first, but don’t freak out! Keep whipping it at medium speed and it will be incorporated.
  4. When the tahini has a uniformly tacky, almost fudgy consistency, add the ice water, about 1⁄4 cup at a time, and increase the speed to high. At first, the sauce may seize up again and look almost curdled, but keep adding the ice water, whipping well after each addition. It will smooth itself out and should look like a thick mousse. Every tahini is different; if, after you’ve added all the water, it’s still too thick, keep adding water by the tablespoon until it lightens up.
  5. Prepared tahini will stay good for about 2 days in the fridge. If you’re making it in advance, let it warm up just slightly on the counter, and whip in 1 to 2 tablespoons ice water to restore some of its lightness.

Excerpted from Shaya by Alon Shaya. Copyright © 2018 by Alon Shaya. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Photograph by Rush Jagoe.

Jay’s 4 Questions is the place where Jewish thought leaders from the worlds of entertainment, politics, food, tech, and more come to discuss and celebrate the Jewish experience.

This episode is brought to you by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. Jay’s 4 Questions is hosted by Jay Sanderson and edited by Ariel Aboody. Episodes 1-82 were produced by Alana Weiner. You can listen to individual episodes or subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Spotify, and SoundCloud.

The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are solely those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.