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A Sustaining Super Stew For An Amazon

We asked four-time James Beard-award-winning Israeli-American chef and restaurateur Michael Solomonov what he would serve Wonderwoman. For the main dish, he settled on a modernized version of siniya, an Arab main dish. His version uses barbecued beef cheeks cooked with tomatoes, cinnamon and tahini.

“It’s usually braised meat or kabob stewed in tahini, which is very, very rich in protein. I feel that would be very useful. Ironically, this dish is all over Lebanon,” he said, referring to the Middle Eastern country that officially announced a ban against showing the movie.

An Israeli chopped cucumber-and-tomato salad would accompany the entree. “It’s the way to go,” said Solomonov. “It’s what a lot of the laborers in Israel eat.” Thus, he said, it represents the ordinary people Wonder Woman fights for. “It’s kind of breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s not only healthy but not a lot of work.”

This meal would be perfect for one of two occasions: during our Wonder Woman’s down time as museum curator Diana Prince, or for a celebration after fighting the Germans.

“And you know what else?” Solomonov asked. “Those smoked turkey legs at Renaissance festivals. The smoking preserves the meat so Wonder Woman can probably carry them with her. But I feel like she could kick some ass and then eat a turkey leg.”

For desert, he first imagined — “from a pragmatic point” — that she needed peanut butter and chocolate to be in fighting form. “On the other hand, I envision a bowl of grapes and apricots. She’s Israeli, so she would probably like this,” Solomonov said.

The chef had suggestions for the meal’s setting, too. In the background, the “mysterious and haunting sounds” of the British band Portishead would be playing. If given the opportunity, what would the great chef discuss with Wonder Woman? “I would see where the conversation went,” he replied. We agreed this would be the right move.

— Rachel Ellner

Hearty Sinaya Beef-Cheek Stew

Serves 4-6

3 tablespoons hawaij (Yeminite spice blend)
4 tablespoons salt
3 pounds beef cheeks
4 beefsteak tomatoes
2 Spanish onions, sliced
1 head of garlic, minced
3 large carrots, chopped
2 quarts chicken stock
¼ cup tomato paste
8 sheets of matzo
2 cups water or prepared coffee
1 cup of prepared tahini
1 lemon
¼ cup olive oil
1 bunch chopped parsley
1 bunch chopped cilantro

1) Mix the salt and hawaij together in a small bowl and rub into the beef cheeks to coat. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

2) The next day, preheat a stovetop grill on high. Grill the beef cheeks until the exterior has a good char on both sides — about 2–3 minutes per side. Take beef cheeks off the grill and set aside.

3) Preheat the oven to 300º F. Warm 1 teaspoon of the olive oil in a medium-large stock pot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots and garlic and let sweat (sauté slowly), stirring occasionally until the vegetables have softened but not browned, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook until it breaks down and just begins to burn on the bottom of the pot. Increase the heat to high and add the chicken stock. Cook until the stock has reduced by a third, then add the beef cheeks to the pot. Turn the heat down to low, place the pot in the oven, and braise until the meat is ultra tender – about 3–4 hours.

4) Remove the beef cheeks from the pot and shred gently with a fork. Simmer the cooking liquid on low on the stovetop until it reduces to the point where it coats the back of a spoon and you can draw a line through the sauce with your finger without the line disappearing.

5) Turn the oven up to 450º F. Soak the matzo in water (or coffee) for 1–2 minutes in a large baking dish. Remove when the matzo is still sturdy but moist. Line the bottom of a 9”x13” baking dish with the matzo. Then add the beef cheeks and spoon the reduced cooking liquid over top. Finish by covering with a layer of matzo. Bake in the oven for 8–10 minutes.

6) Remove the dish from the oven and drizzle with tahini. Place the dish back in the oven for five more minutes or until the tahini is golden brown.

7) Garnish with a drizzle of the remaining olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and fresh herbs and serve immediately.

Michael Solomonov is the James Beard-award winning chef/co-owner of Zahav and co-owner with Steve Cook of Abe Fisher, Goldie, Federal Donuts, Rooster Soup Co. and Dizengoff.

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