This week we talk to James Beard Award-Winning Chef Michael Solomonov, Co-founder of CookNSolo Restaurant Partners, Executive Chef and Co-owner of Zahav, and Co-owner of Philadelphia’s Federal Donuts, Dizengoff, Abe Fisher, Goldie, and the philanthropic Rooster Soup Company. Chef Solomonov shares his improbable and interesting journey to becoming a world-renowned chef and restaurateur, his transatlantic travels from Israel to the United States, and the intersection between Judaism and food.
Chef Solomonov discusses the creative journey of Israeli Soul, his new cookbook (with Steven Cook), which he wrote with his team after eating 82 meals in eight days in Israel. He also shares his spiritual journey and the power and impact of wrapping tefillin and saying the Shema.
Chef Solomonov’s journey is absolutely inspiring! Tune in to this week’s episode to hear about some of his favorite recipes, his favorite restaurants in Israel, and his passion for food and spirituality.
Photography by Michael Persico.
Recipes from Israeli Soul
Lamb Shoulder Shawarma
Makes 32 Cookies
Rugelach With Date Filling
Makes 32 Cookies
Makes 1 Loaf
Most of us don’t have vertical roasting spits in the backyard, but we can still apply the principles of good shawarma at home. Forget about the theatricality of a revolving tower of meat: What matters is the right cut with a good amount of fat to prevent it from drying out as it cooks. A butterflied lamb shoulder, cured with spices, then rolled and tied, is a perfect example. Gentle roasting tenderizes the meat while it luxuriates in its own rendering fat—just like real shawarma!
When it cools down, thin slices are quickly seared in a hot cast-iron pan. Instead of the wrap, serve thick slices of that lamb alongside Rice Pilaf with Peas and Pistachios (page 103) and Caramelized Fennel (page 103) as the hero of your next dinner party. Or roll it all up in your own Druze Mountain Bread (page 116).
- 2½ tablespoons Shawarma Spice Blend #1 for Red Meat (page 150)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 (4-pound) boneless lamb shoulder, butterflied
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- Mix the Spice Blend and salt in a small bowl. Rub this mixture all over the lamb, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, preheat the oven to 450°F.
- Roll up the lamb and tie it with butcher’s twine. Put the lamb on a baking sheet or roasting pan and roast for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 275°F and roast for another 2½ to 3 hours, rotating every 30 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the center of the lamb registers 160°F. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.
- Wrap the lamb tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or, preferably, overnight to make the lamb easier to slice.
- To serve the shawarma, unwrap the lamb and slice it against the grain as thinly as you can. Place a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. Fry the sliced lamb for about 3 minutes, or until it’s hot and slightly crispy.
Shawarma Spice Blend #1 For (Red Meat)
Makes about 1 cup
- ½ cup ground sumac,
- ¼ cup smoked paprika,
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder,
- 2 tablespoons onion powder,
- 1 tablespoon cayenne
Combine ½ cup ground sumac, ¼ cup smoked paprika, 2 tablespoons garlic powder, 2 tablespoons onion powder, and 1 tablespoon cayenne in a small bowl and mix well. Store in a covered jar.
LAMB SHOULDER SHAWARMA is excerpted from ISRAELI SOUL © 2018 by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook.Photography © 2018 by Michael Persico. Reproduced by permission of Rux Martin Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
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Rugelach are a classic Ashkenazi Jewish cookie consisting of a triangle of dough rolled into a crescent shape around a sweet filling. They reached their pinnacle of fame in America, where cream cheese–enriched dough became the standard-bearer. But yeasted versions of rugelach are at least as old as their unleavened cousins and tend to be more common in Israel today. What is fascinating about this recipe is how it combines the Middle Eastern tradition of saturating pastries with sugar syrup with an Ashkenazi dough, producing a result that can truly only be called Israeli.
- ⅔ cup sugar
- ¾ cup warm water
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 5 tablespoons labneh
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅓ cup heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons labneh
- 4 tablespoons almond butter
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- Make the dough: Whisk the sugar with the water until the sugar is completely dissolved, then pour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, or use a large bowl and a hand mixer. Stir in the yeast by hand and let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the oil, labneh, salt, and vanilla. Mix to combine, then add the flour. Mix on low speed until the dough comes together and is smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Cover the bowl and set aside at room temperature until it doubles in volume, about 1 hour.
- Make the filling: Mix together the chocolate chips, cocoa, sugar, salt, cream, labneh, almond butter, and butter in a large bowl.
- Assemble the rugelach: Preheat the oven to 375°F and position racks in the top and bottom thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll both pieces into large rectangles about ⅛ inch thick. Spread both rectangles with the filling.
- For both log – and crescent-shaped rolls, carefully lift one rectangle of dough and place it on top of the other so you have two layers of dough and two layers of filling.
- For log-shaped rolls, beginning at one long end, tightly roll up the dough into a skinny log and cut it into 16 slices, about 1 inch thick.
- For crescent-shaped rolls, use a sharp knife to cut the layered dough into 16 triangles. Starting with the widest edge, roll each triangle into a coil.
- Arrange the rolls on the prepared baking sheets and let rise at room temperature for 1 hour. Bake until light brown, 8 to 10 minutes, rotating at the halfway point from top to bottom and back to front.
- Meanwhile, make the syrup: Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir every few minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat.
- Pour the syrup over the rugelach when they come out of the oven.
- Let the rugelach cool on a wire rack before serving. They will keep for 2 days at room temperature.
YEASTED RUGELACH is excerpted from ISRAELI SOUL © 2018 by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook. Photography © 2018 by Michael Persico. Reproduced by permission of Rux Martin Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
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While dried fruits and nuts are traditional, you can fill rugelach with pretty much whatever you like. The possibilities are endless, once you get the dough down. And the dough freezes so well that you can make big batches and use it when you need it. This master recipe has a date filling. Variations follow for peanut butter and Marshmallow Fluff filling, and one I love with apricot jam and pistachios.
- 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 3 sticks (¾ pound) unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup sugar
- Pinch salt
- ½ cup sour cream
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup dried dates
- 1 cup hazelnuts
- 6 tablespoons brown sugar
- For the dough: Combine the cream cheese, butter, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment (or use a hand mixer and a big bowl). Mix on low speed until just combined, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add half the sour cream and half the flour. Mix again on low speed until just combined. Add the remaining sour cream and flour and mix once more again until just combined. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
- For the filling: Put the dried dates in a bowl and cover with boiling water by an inch. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 10 minutes. Drain the dates.
- While the dates are soaking, combine the hazelnuts and brown sugar in a food processor and process, scraping down the bowl as needed, until it reaches a wet-sand consistency, about 5 minutes. Add the dates and ¼ cup water and puree until a sticky, smooth, spreadable paste has formed.
- To make the rugelach: Preheat the oven to 350°F, with a rack in the middle. Line two baking sheets with oiled parchment. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. (Refrigerate the dough you’re not working with.) Roll one quarter of the dough into a 10-inch circle about ⅛ inch thick. To neaten the edges, I like to invert a 10-inch bowl and cut around it. Spread one quarter of the filling evenly over the dough, leaving a ¼-inch border around the edge. Slice into 8 wedges. Roll each wedge into a coil, starting at the thick edge. Arrange on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining 3 portions of dough and filling. Bake until light brown, about 35 minutes. The rugelach will keep in a covered container at room temperature for about 2 days and frozen for up to 2 weeks.
Rugelach With Peanut Butter And Marshmallow Fluff Filling
- 1 cup peanut butter
- ½ cup Marshmallow Fluff
Combine the peanut butter and Marshmallow Fluff in a bowl and stir to blend. Continue with the last step of the rugelach recipe.
Rugelach With Apricot Jam And Pistachio Filling
- ¾ Cup Apricot Jam
- ¾ Cup Pistachios, Toasted And Chopped
Combine the apricot jam and pistachios in a bowl and stir to blend. Continue with the last step of the rugelach recipe.
RUGELACH is excerpted from ZAHAV by MICHAEL SOLOMONOV and STEVEN COOK. Copyright © 2015 by MICHAEL SOLOMONOV and STEVEN COOK. Photos by MICHAEL PERSICO. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
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This babka is so easy, baking it almost feels like cheating. Sweet and rich yeasted dough is stuff ed with chocolate, then rolled up and baked. It has the kind of balance of sweet and savory that lures you into consuming way too much of it—I have a hard time not eating it as it comes out of the oven. We gild the lily by serving the babka with cardamom-flavored Turkish Coffee Ice Cream (page 354). The sweetness of the cardamom is excellent with the bitter notes of the coffee and chocolate. You can bake the babka in a single loaf or in muffin tins for individual servings. If there are any leftovers (doubtful!), babka makes excellent bread pudding or French toast.
- ⅔ cup sugar
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- Pinch salt 6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
- ⅓ cup chopped dark chocolate (at least 60% cacao)
- 2 tablespoons active dry yeast (from three ¼-ounce packages)
- 2¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- Pinch salt
- 6 tablespoons milk
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ¼ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 2 large eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk
- 6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, softened
- For the filling: Combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, and salt in a food processor. Pulse until evenly mixed. Add the butter and chocolate and pulse until a crumbly, coarse mixture forms. (It should be chunky, not powdery.) Set aside.
- For the dough: Combine the yeast with 6 tablespoons warm water in a small bowl and let stand until frothy, about 5 minutes.
- Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook (or use a hand mixer and a big bowl) and mix to combine. Add the yeast mixture, milk, vanilla, and lemon zest. Mix on low speed until combined. Add one of the eggs, the yolk, and the butter. Mix until the dough comes together in a smooth, pliable ball, about 8 minutes. (If the dough seems too wet and resists forming a ball, add a little extra flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.) Turn the dough out into a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until it doubles in size, about 1 hour.
- On a well-floured surface, roll the dough into a rectangle as wide as your loaf pan is long and about ¾ inch thick. Set aside ¼ cup of the filling. Sprinkle the remaining filling onto the dough and roll up like a jelly roll. Freeze until firm and sliceable, about 3 hours.
- Line a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with enough oiled parchment so that the parchment extends over the edges of the pan. Cut the frozen babka into 1-inch-thick rounds and reassemble the loaf in the prepared loaf pan. Cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise again until doubled in size, about 90 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly beat the remaining egg. Remove the plastic wrap and brush the babka with the egg and sprinkle the reserved filling on top. Bake until the loaf is golden brown and springs back when you press it, 60 to 70 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack before serving.
CHOCOLATE BABKA is excerpted from ZAHAV by MICHAEL SOLOMONOV and STEVEN COOK. Copyright © 2015 by MICHAEL SOLOMONOV and STEVEN COOK. Photos by MICHAEL PERSICO. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
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