Category Archives: Israeli

Baklawa: Something Sweet for the New Year

From the Great

“Balkava (from the Farsi for “many leaves”), a pastry perfected by royal bakers in the sultan’s palace in Istanbul, consists of layers of phyllo filled with nuts and spices and drenched in a syrup.

It has become a traditional Middle Eastern Rosh Hashannah and Purim treat but is enjoyed at celebrations throughout the year. There are numerous variations of baklava, many a closely guarded secret passed down within families. A walnut filling is more prevalent in the Levant, while pistachios and pistachio-almond fillings are preferred in Iran. Blanched almonds are traditional on Rosh Hashannah to produce a light color so that the year should be dulce y aclarada (“sweet and bright”).

Sephardim refrain from serving dark-colored pastries such as those made from walnuts on Rosh Hashannah, which would portend a dark year. Although purists disdain anything except the classic nut filling, some cooks innovated by adding such items as dates and chocolate chips. Hungarians make an apricot version. This very rich treat is usually served in small portions.

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Filed under Iraqi, Israeli, Links, Middle-Eastern

Shimon’s Rice

Shimon*, a master Jeweler from Tzfat, came to stay with me in Brooklyn, sometime in 2004. As it turned out, he was also a master cook. I sat with him one day and took notes as he prepared a Shabbat feast for us. Since then, I have lost the notes but try to prepare his dishes on occasion from memory. I know there is a step about lining the bottom of the pot with very thinly sliced potatoes for a crunchy bottom – but I fear I am forgetting something important so I’ll leave it out for now. As usual, I do not know the exact amounts of anything – unless of course, it’s something you can learn from a package (i.e. rice). Here is one of many to come, thanks to Shimon.

[*Shimon and I met in 1995 in Tzfat. I was on crutches due to the sprained ankle I acquired while climbing through a window and I would run (or whatever you call it when you rush by on crutches) by his Jewelry store and he’d yell, “Savlanut! Savlanut!” (Hebrew for patience)]

This should serve 4-6 people.


1. 1 cup of rice (I use sushi rice but your choice here)
2. 1 ½ cup water
3. ¼ white onion, finely chopped
4. Salt
5. Freshly ground pepper
6. Olive oil
7. A handful of pine nuts [This is my variation – you can use any nut. Cranberries are delicious.]

8. A dash of love (this, I remember Shimon being very specific about!)


Sauté the onions in olive oil until glassy, adding a dash of salt and pepper
Add 1 cup of RAW (this is important) rice and stir over very low heat for about 10 seconds

Pour 1 ½ cup of water and give it a little stir
Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes

Meanwhile, in a small pan (or in a toaster oven on foil), heat pine nuts for about 5 minutes (or until they are dark) over a low flame

Once rice is ready, stir in pine nuts and serve!

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Eli Shem-Tov’s Chummus

Be sure to eat lots of this before you go visit Eli Shem-Tov in the dentist’s chair, and breathe your thick garlicky breath on your friendly dentist. You can visit Eli’s website at:

TO know more about the man behind the chickpeas, see below:

Dr. Shem-Tov as a child

Dr. Shem-Tov was a patient at North York Dental since he was a young boy and was inspired by his childhood dentist, Dr. Tom McKean (past President of the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario), to pursue a career in dentistry.

As an undergraduate, Dr. Shem-Tov studied neuroscience at the University of Toronto. In 1988, he entered the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario and received his DDS. He then returned home to North York and became the dentist at his boyhood practice.

2 Dr. Shem-Tov at the University

Dr. Shem-Tov is currently a clinical instructor at the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Toronto. He has volunteered his dental skills in his travels to Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Central America.

Dr. Shem-Tov lives in the Annex and is a passionate cyclist, avid skier and horrible golfer. He is more than happy to swap recipes and stories about his two children, Levi and Zoe.

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  • one can of chickpeas (CEDAR is the best brand); reserve juice from can
  • 3-6 cloves of garlic – depending how garlicky you like it
  • 4-6 tablespoons of tahina (sesame seed paste); preferably Middle Eastern
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil – preferably a Middle Eastern brand
  • sprinkle of cumin
  • the juice of 1 fresh lemon
  • optional: za’tar


  1. Crush garlic in a garlic press & put it in food processor
  2. Add tahina, sprinkle of cumin, olive oil, lemon juice and 3-5 tablespoons of the chick pea juice reserve to food processor; blend until texture is light and smooth
  3. Add drained chick peas – in portion, and pulse to maintain a chunky texture; if you like it smoother, blend until desired texture is reached
  4. You’re done; nice to place it on a dish and use tablespoon to “shmear” around a plate; drizzle a little olive oil, paprika and parsley and eat with a brown egg.
  5. Best served at room temperature, with warm pita.

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