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Kosher Sushi Place Firebombed in Paris

Courtesy of Zekaï

Hours after the attempted arson of a Paris kosher restaurant, a group of French teenagers assaulted a Jewish adolescent outside a school.

Unidentified vandals tried to burn down the Zekaï sushi restaurant in the 17th arrondissement located 4 miles west of the school, according to a report of the incident by the National Bureau for Vigilance against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA.

The vandals hurled stones at the restaurant’s armored glass door late at night but failed to punch a hole through it, the news website of the Tribune Juive newspaper reported. They also tried to set off a firebomb before fleeing, according to BNVCA, a nongovernmental watchdog.

Putting Janna Gur's ‘Jewish Soul Food’ to the Test

Photograph by Daniel Lailah

This is a sporadic column by Bay Area personal chef Alix Wall, in which she evaluates a new cookbook by making some of its recipes, sharing them with friends and asking what they think of the results. This time, she cooks her way through Israeli food authority Janna Gur’s new book.

When Janna Gur’s “Jewish Soul Food: From Minsk to Marrakesh” arrived, I knew right away that I had a special book on my hands.

Gur emigrated to Israel from Riga, Latvia, as a teenager. The author of The New Book of Israeli Food, she championed Israeli cuisine before Yotam Ottolenghi; before Einat Admony. Together with her husband, Ilan Gur, she founded and still edits Al HaShulchan, an Israeli food magazine. She is frequently sought out to speak to groups about Israeli cuisine, and at one dinner with some visiting journalists, she was asked why so little traditional Ashkenazi food was to be found in Israel. Part of preserving a people’s culture is preserving its food, this journalist argued. Gur didn’t disagree. Rather than seeking out Israeli versions of old favorites, with this book Gur goes back to the diaspora, while at the same time updating many classics.

Juicy Semolina, Coconut and Pistachio Cake

Photograph by Daniel Lailah

When semolina cakes come out of the oven, they are not so sweet and are very crumbly, but once they are doused with hot and fragrant syrup, they turn moist and very sweet. The syrup also prevents them from drying out so they keep for a long time. The following version, from Ruth Oliver’s kitchen, is the best I have ever tasted. Ground coconut and pistachio nuts add crunch, and cream renders the pastry richer.

Makes one 15 x 0-inch (40 x 5-cm) cake

For the cake

¾ cup (6½ fluid ounces/180 ml) vegetable oil
1½ cups (12 fluid ounces/350 ml) half-and-half (single cream)
1 cup (3½ ounces/100 g) shredded or flaked coconut
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5½ ounces/160 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1¼ cups (9 ounces/250 g) semolina (cream of wheat or cream of farina)
½ cup (2 ounces/55 g) ground pistachio nuts
4 teaspoons baking powder
6 eggs
1½ cups (11 ounces/300 g) sugar
For the syrup
1½ cups water
1½ cups sugar
1 scant teaspoon ground cinnamon

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

2) Combine the vegetable oil and half-and-half in a large bowl.

3) Combine the coconut, flour, semolina, ground pistachios, and baking pow¬der in a separate bowl. Stir into the oil mixture.

4) Beat the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on high speed for 8 minutes until pale and fluffy. Gently fold the beaten eggs into the semolina batter.

5) Pour the batter into a deep rectangular baking pan approximately 15 x 10 inches (40 x 25 cm). Bake for 35 minutes, or until the cake turns golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out dry with a few crumbs adhering.

6) While the cake is in the oven, prepare the syrup Bring the water, sugar, and cinnamon to a boil in a small saucepan. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Cool slightly.

7) Take the cake out of the oven and pour the syrup evenly over the warm cake. Cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

VARIATIONS

For a nondairy version, substitute the same amount of coconut milk for the half-and-half.

BASBOUSA DESSERT

Cut the cake into small squares and top each square with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream, crème fraîche, or thick yogurt. You may also add a spoonful of tart fruit preserves, or serve it with fruit compote or with wine-poached pears.

Excerpted from JEWISH SOUL FOOD by Janna Gur. Copyright © 2014 by Janna Gur. Excerpted by permission of Schocken Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Georgian Eggplant Rolls With Walnut and Herb Filling

These look like Italian involtini, but the filling is unique and typically Georgian: pureed walnuts perfumed with fresh herbs (parsley and cilantro), garlic and vinegar. When pomegranates are in season, add fresh pomegranate seeds for crunch and flavor. I got this recipe from Marina Toporiya, a Georgian cook who used to own a modest restaurant in downtown Tel Aviv, where she turned out wonderful and unusual dishes from the old country.

Makes 12 to 14 rolls

For the eggplants

Unbleached all-purpose flour, for dredging
Salt
Vegetable oil for frying
2 to 3 eggplants, very thinly sliced lengthwise (you should have about 14 long, thin slices)

For the filling

12 ounces (350 g) walnuts
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon (or less) cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water
Salt
Seeds from ½ pomegranate (optional)

1) Prepare the eggplants Put some flour in a shallow bowl and season with salt.

2) Heat a frying pan over medium heat and coat with a ½-inch (1½-cm) layer of vegetable oil. Dip each slice of eggplant into the flour mixture, then put in the pan, being careful not to crowd the pan (work in batches, if necessary). Fry the slices for about 2 minutes per side, until lightly browned. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate and allow to cool.

3) Prepare the filling Put the walnuts, garlic, onion, cayenne, turmeric, red pepper flakes, paprika, parsley, cilantro, vinegar, water and salt in a food processor and puree until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the pome¬granate seeds (if using).

4) Spread a heaping spoonful of the filling on a fried eggplant slice and roll up the slice tightly. Place, seam-side down, on a plate and continue with the remaining filling and eggplants. Serve promptly.

TIP

Certain eggplants, especially those with lots of seeds, tend to be bitter. To get rid of the bitterness, sprinkle the sliced eggplants with coarse salt and set in a colander for an hour. Wash, pat dry with paper towels and fry as directed.

Excerpted from JEWISH SOUL FOOD by Janna Gur. Copyright © 2014 by Janna Gur. Excerpted by permission of Schocken Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Moroccan Spicy Carrot Salad

Photograph by Daniel Lailah

To make this simple and tasty meze salad you will need two typical North African condiments — pickled lemons and harissa. Both can be made at home or bought at specialty food stores or Middle Eastern groceries, and both will prove useful and versatile additions to your pantry.

Serves 6 to 8

6 medium carrots, sliced into ¾-inch (2-cm) coins
3 cups water
1½ teaspoons sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 to 2 tablespoons harissa
1 tablespoon pickled (Moroccan) lemons, finely chopped (see below or store-bought)
5 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt
¼ cup fresh cilantro or mint leaves, chopped

1) Put the sliced carrots in a saucepan and add the water, sugar, salt, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 10 to 12 minutes, until the carrots are tender but still have some bite.

2) Transfer the carrots to a bowl (save some of the cooking liquid). Add the harissa, pickled lemons, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, olive oil, salt, and about ¼ cup of the cooking liquid and mix. Let cool. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

3) Refrigerate for a few hours, preferably overnight, to let the flavors meld. The salad will keep for 3 to 4 days in the fridge. Before serving, bring to room temperature and toss with the cilantro.

Pickled Lemons | MOROCCAN

For me, pickled lemons define the concept of a “secret ingredient.” Less sharp than fresh lemons; soft, aromatic, and spicy, they perform miracles in vegetable and grain salads and are a great addition to chicken and fish braises. I also use them in pasta sauces, especially those with tuna. Preparation is easy, but the curing process takes about three months.

Makes 2 pounds/1 kg

2 pounds (1 kg) lemons, thinly sliced or cut into small wedges, pips removed
1 cup coarse salt
5 garlic cloves
2 small hot chile peppers (red or green)
4 to 6 allspice berries
4 bay leaves
Sweet and/or hot paprika
Fresh lemon juice, to cover
Vegetable oil, to seal

1) Dip the lemon slices or wedges in the salt to cover all sides and arrange in layers in a sterilized glass jar. Place the garlic, chiles, allspice, and bay leaves between the layers of lemon. Press down hard until the juice begins to run out and pour the lemon juice on top. To seal, pour a generous layer of vegetable oil on top of everything.

2) Refrigerate for 3 weeks and up to a month. When the curing process has been completed, discard the garlic, chiles, allspice, and bay leaves and keep refrigerated.

Excerpted from JEWISH SOUL FOOD by Janna Gur. Copyright © 2014 by Janna Gur. Excerpted by permission of Schocken Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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