Israeli chef Nir Mesika, of the highly acclaimed East Village restaurant Timna in New York City, said that his meal for Gal Gadot would draw on the sights, smells and memories of his home and the streets in Israel.
“My first dish for her would be smoked eggplant with roasted tahini, lemon preserve with Greek yogurt and roasted tomatoes,” he said. “I think she’s gonna like it.”
Every house in Israel uses eggplants, said Mesika. When he enters the Timna kitchen, his highly acclaimed East Village restaurant Timna in New York City “the smell of eggplant brings me back to seven years old when I would come home from school,” he said. “So that’s for sure what I’m making for Wonder Woman.”
After that, he continued, “I was wondering: does she keep kosher? To be safe, I like grilled red snapper, or grilled striped bass with sunchokes, artichokes and olives in a turmeric butter stew. It’s super Mediterranean and also reminds me of a lot of flavors from Israel,” said Mesika.
“For the main course I was thinking grilled lamb chops with rosemary, mujadara with bahārāt spices, and a lot of fried onions over a black garlic puree.”
Basbousa cake is for desert, and it’s Mesika grandmother’s recipe from Egypt. “It’s a semolina cake with vanilla ice cream and shredded halvah on top. We bake it and cut it in small pieces, put ice cream on top and add lavender honey or date syrup,” he said.
“I wish I could cook for her,” Mesika said wistfully. “I wish it could be in my home.”
Either at home or at Timna there would be the distinctive olive leaf on the table. Israeli 70s music like that of Shalom Hanoch would play in the background. “He’s super famous. He’s like the Israeli Bob Dylan. I’m sure she’d like him,” he said.
Mesika wasn’t ready for his meal with Wonder Woman to end. “I would prepare my beet juice cocktail (“Wicked Red” on the menu), made with vodka liquor, beet juice, orange blossom, honey and lemon.”
We also discuss the appeal of Mesika’s “Peace in the Middle East” cocktail. It would certainly represent a critical mission for Wonder Woman. The ingredients include lavender, lemon, Dolin Dry and blanc de blanc.
—— Rachel Ellner
Rosewater And Orange-Blossom Scented Cake
By Nir Mesika
2 cups of semolina flour
1 cup shaved roasted coconut
1 stick (½ cup) unsweetened butter, melted
⅓ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
⅓ cup of raw almonds
1 teaspoon of orange blossom water
For the syrup
2 cups sugar
1½ cup water
1 tablespoon rosewater
1 teaspoons lemon juice
1) Preheat oven to 400˚ F. Grease an 9”x9” or 8”x8” square pan, or a 9’- round pie dish with butter or olive oil and set aside.
2) Mix the semolina, coconut, sugar, baking soda and butter in a large bowl. Use your hands to mix the butter with the other ingredients until mixed well. Then add the yogurt and continue mixing with your hands until fully combined. The mixture should be fairly thick and easy to press with hands (not thin like cake or brownie batter).
3) Press the mix down into square baking dish or round pie pan. The cake mix should be about 1-inch thick.
4) Cut a diamond or square design in the cake with a butter knife. Place an almond or any other type of nut you have on hand onto each pre-cut square.
5) Bake at 400˚ F for 30–40 minutes until it’s a bronze-brown color.
6) To make the syrup: While the cake is baking, mix all the ingredients for the syrup and place in saucepan on high until it boils. Boil for 10 minutes or until the syrup coats the back of a spoon.
7) Once the cake is ready and fully baked, pour the syrup on top and let sit for 10 minutes before serving. To serve, slice a piece of the cake and place onto a serving plate or platter, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and scatter with shredded halva.
Nir Mesika is chef/co-owner of Timna.