Shaya: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel

Shaya: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel

by Alon Shaya


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An exciting debut cookbook that confirms the arrival of a new guru chef . . . A moving, deeply personal journey of survival and discovery that tells of the evolution of a cuisine and of the transformative power and magic of food and cooking. From the two-time James Beard Award-winning chef whose celebrated New Orleans restaurants have been hailed as the country's most innovative and best by Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Saveur, GQ, and Esquire.

* "Alon's journey is as gripping and as seductive as his cooking . . . Lovely stories, terrific food."
--Yotam Ottolenghi, author of Jerusalem: A Cookbook
* "Breathtaking. Bravo." --Joan Nathan, author of King Solomon's Table

Alon Shaya's is no ordinary cookbook. It is a memoir of a culinary sensibility that begins in Israel and wends its way from the U.S.A. (Philadelphia) to Italy (Milan and Bergamo), back to Israel (Jerusalem) and comes together in the American South, in the heart of New Orleans. It's a book that tells of how food saved the author's life and how, through a circuitous path of (cooking) twists and (life-affirming) turns the author's celebrated cuisine--food of his native Israel with a creole New Orleans kick came to be, along with his award-winning New Orleans restaurants: Shaya, Domenica, and Pizza Domenica, ranked by Esquire, Bon Appétit, and others as the best new restaurants in the United States.
These are stories of place, of people, and of the food that connects them, a memoir of one man's culinary sensibility, with food as the continuum throughout his journey--guiding his personal and professional decisions, punctuating every memory, choice, every turning point in his life. Interspersed with glorious full-color photographs and illustrations that follow the course of all the flavors Shaya has tried, places he's traveled, things he's experienced, lessons he's learned--more than one hundred recipes--from Roasted Chicken with Harissa to Speckled Trout with Tahini and Pine Nuts; Crab Cakes with Preserved Lemon Aioli; Roasted Cast-Iron Ribeye; Marinated Soft Cheese with Herbs and Spices; Buttermilk Biscuits; and Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Whipped Feta.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780451494160
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/13/2018
Pages: 440
Sales rank: 202,286
Product dimensions: 7.10(w) x 9.60(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

ALON SHAYA was born in Israel, raised in Philadelphia, and calls New Orleans his home. The three celebrated restaurants he started and ran as executive chef/partner--Domenica, Pizza Domenica, and Shaya--reflect his culinary journey and love of Israeli and Italian cuisine. In 2017, Alon Shaya formed Pomegranate Hospitality to foster opportunities for colleagues, partners, and friends in a comfortable and professional environment where cultural differences are celebrated. Alon Shaya has been nominated for five James Beard Awards. In 2015 he was named "Best Chef, South" while at Domenica, and a year later, 'Shaya' was hailed as "Best New Restaurant". He was called one of the "50 People Who Are Changing the South" by Southern Living magazine, and by The Forward as one of the "50 Most Influential Jews in America". He is the author of a cookbook, Shaya: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel, published by Alfred A. Knopf, and with Pomegranate Hospitality he is opening two new restaurants: Saba in New Orleans and Safta in Denver.

Read an Excerpt

Marinated Soft Cheese with Herbs and Spices
YIELD: 6 to 8 servings

This dish was a revelation when Emily and I ate it in Milan: when you start with great ingredients, you’re wise not to mess with them. It’s a perfect moment of simplicity; at the right temperature, olive oil and cheese can be as flawless as anything that costs you far more time, money, or energy. Any brand of soft aged cheese will do—I like La Tur, a flawless mixed-milk cheese that’s as creamy as goat, with just a little sheep-y funk that’s softened by the cow’s milk. Have fun with the spices: throw in a couple cloves instead of the star anise, add a sprig of rosemary instead of the bay, or use lemon instead of orange.
8-ounce wheel of soft goat or mixed-milk cheese, like La Tur
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 teaspoon whole allspice berries
½ teaspoon whole coriander seeds
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 dried árbol chile or ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 star anise pod
Two 1-inch strips of orange peel, divided
A crusty baguette
Maldon or other flaky sea salt to finish

   1. Heat the oven to 325F. Put the cheese in the bowl or rimmed plate from which it’ll be served so that it can soften.
   2. Use the side of a knife or a rolling pin to lightly crush the garlic, just so it starts to open up in its skin. Lightly crush or roughly chop the allspice and coriander and add them with the garlic to a small ovenproof saucepan along with the olive oil, bay leaves, árbol chile, star anise, and 1 strip of orange peel. Cover with a lid and bake for 40 to 45 minutes; the garlic will be very golden and the orange rind will have darkened quite a bit.
   3. Once the sauce has come together, remove the saucepan from the oven and increase the heat to 425F. Take the second strip of orange peel and give it a little twist over the pan to release the oil, then drop it into the pan and let the oil cool down.
   4. Cut the baguette on a bias into ½-inch slices and arrange them on a baking sheet. Toast at 425F for 6 to 8 minutes, until they’ve built some nice color along the edges.
   5. Pour the oil over and around the softened cheese, letting the spices run free, and sprinkle the salt just before serving. Slather the toasts with cheese and encourage your friends to dab up every last drop of the infused oil.


YIELD: 4 to 6 servings
Plenty of water, for the Jerusalem artichokes, fava beans, and an ice bath
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons Morton kosher salt, divided
½ pound Jerusalem artichokes
1 pound fava beans in their shells
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 small green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced

One 28-ounce can peeled whole tomatoes

1 egg per person

¼ cup zhoug (page 395)
Eggs poached in a spicy, savory tomato sauce: this dish serves itself. It’s my go-to when I show up at someone’s house and everyone is hungry. Chances are, there are eggs and a can of tomatoes on hand. Outside of that foundation, you can be as creative or as simple about adding anything else as you like.
Jerusalem artichokes, if you’ve never had them, taste and feel like a cross between potatoes and artichoke hearts; along with the fava beans, they make this dish special. They do need to be pre- pared separately, but you can do that in advance if it makes your life (and cooking timeline) easier. If you have trouble tracking either ingredient down, substitute any root vegetable—turnips, potatoes, even beets—for the Jerusalem artichokes, and a cup of shelled fresh or frozen beans, such as limas, for the fava beans.
Once you put pan to stove, the rest of the dish comes together quite quickly, so, for the sake of the vegetables’ flavor and texture, make sure everything is prepped and ready to go. Dress it up or down with your favorite vegetables or meats—whatever’s on hand—along with any herbs and spices you like. Tomatoes are the perfect backdrop. You’ll need one egg per person, as few as two or as many as six. Part of the fun is making this dish your own, but one word of advice: try it with the zhoug, a spicy Yemeni green chile sauce, like the Middle Eastern approach to pesto. Its fresh, herbal heat is the perfect finishing touch.

   1. Fill a large pot with the water and 1 tablespoon salt, and bring to a boil. Thoroughly scrub the Jerusalem artichokes; if they’re large or unevenly sized, cut them into even chunks. Boil for 30 to 35 minutes, until they’re about the consistency of a cooked potato, easily pierced with a knife but not falling apart. Drain, and when they’re cool enough to handle, slice into little coins.
   2. Fill another pot with water and bring it to a boil; meanwhile, prepare an ice bath. Cook the fava beans for 5 minutes, or until the outer shell puffs up and pulls away from the bean. The water in the pot will turn reddish, but don’t freak out—that’s normal. Shock the beans in the ice bath to stop the cooking, then shell them when they’ve cooled down. You should have about 1 cup beans.
   3. Add the olive oil to a large enameled or stainless-steel skillet that has a lid (but don’t use the lid just yet). Turn the heat to high, and when the oil is shimmering, pull the skillet off the heat and carefully add the cherry tomatoes; they’ll give off
a lot of smoke and may splatter. Place the pan back on the heat, and don’t stir; you want the tomatoes to char lightly in a few places.
   4. After a couple of minutes, when the tomatoes are starting
to blister, stir in the bell peppers, onion, and garlic.
Cook, stirring frequently, for 4 minutes or so, until all the vegetables are a little golden around the edges and the cherry tomatoes are melting into everything else.
   5. Decrease the heat to medium, and add the Jerusalem artichokes, favas, and remaining 2 teaspoons salt. Roughly crush the canned tomatoes between your fingers, or chop them, and add them to the pan with their juice. Cook the sauce for a couple of minutes, until it thickens slightly.
   6. Decrease the heat to medium-low, and use your spoon to make little divots in the sauce, one per egg. Crack an egg into each, cover the pan, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the egg white is set but the center still jiggles. Dollop a spoonful of zhoug over each egg before serving.

Tabbouleh with Preserved Lemon and Almonds
YIELD: 4 to 6 servings
This simplest of salads always surprises people at Shaya. “How can parsley salad be so complex?” they ask. The answer is twofold: preserved lemon and baharat (page 000). Take the time to find (or make) these ingredients and it will pay off with flavor, although ¼ teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice is a pretty good replica of the baharat and freshly grated lemon zest can stand in for preserved lemon. Bear in mind, tabbouleh is a parsley salad—even the bulgur plays a supporting role—so it is only as good and fresh as the parsley you get. Find bunches with crisp, bright green leaves at the grocery store or farmer’s market.
¼ cup water
⅛ teaspoon plus 1 teaspoon Morton kosher salt, divided
2 tablespoons bulgur wheat
5 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced preserved lemon
½ teaspoon Baharat (page 000)
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 quarts lightly packed fresh parsley leaves (from about 4 bunches)
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
A quarter of a red onion, finely chopped
   1. Bring the water to a boil with ⅛ teaspoon salt (this won’t take long since there’s so little of it). Put the bulgur in a small heatproof bowl, cover it with the boiling water, and cover with plastic wrap or foil until all the water is absorbed, 15 minutes or so. Fluff it with a fork and let it cool.
   2. Whisk together the lemon juice, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, preserved lemon, baharat, and allspice. Stream in the olive oil while you whisk to finish the dressing.
   3. Finely chop all the parsley and toss it in a large bowl with the bulgur, almonds, and onion. Drizzle in the dressing and mix by hand. Serve right away.

Table of Contents

Preface xi

Notes on Cooking xiii

I Echoes of Israel

1 My Grandmother's Peppers and Eggplants

Lutenitsa 8

Watermelon and Feta Salad with Harissa 10

Fried Eggplant with Caramelized Tomato and Goat Cheese 12

Tomato Soup with Rice 15

Bulgarian Lamb Kebabs 16

2 Show-and-Tell Borekas

Boreka Dough 22

Everything Borekas 24

Potato and Egg Boreka Tart 25

Sweet Tahini Borekas 26

3 Solo Hamantashen

Peach and Mascarpone Hamantashen 30

Israeli Salad 33

Schmaltzy Potatoes 34

Mom's Leek Patties 35

Labneh Dip with Peppers and Radishes 38

Yemenite Stewed Chicken 39

4 Fishing with My Father

Pan-Fried Whole Fish with Brown Butter 46

A Good Turkey Sandwich 48

Hungarian Paprikash 51

Tarragon Dumplings 52

Fennel Sausage 54

II Rebellion and Redemption

5 A Butcher and a Baker

Kibbeh Nayeh 63

Malawach 64

Spicy Scallop Rolls 69

Yogurt Pound Cake with Cardamom-Lemon Syrup 71

Blueberry Rugelach 72

6 Arrested for the Munchies

Pastrami Scrambled Eggs 80

Za'atar Toad in the Hole 83

Shakshouka 84

Special Sandwiches 87

Green Butter 88

7 Home Ec Hero

Linguine and Clams "Carbonara" 91

8 Wood Ovens and Butterflies

Caesar Salad, 1990s Style 98

Caesar Dressing 99

Simple Cured Salmon 100

Labneh Cheesecake with Pomegranate Caramel and Candied Nuts 102

Pomegranate Caramel 104

Orange Blossom Candied Nuts 105

9 Trayf and Tribulation

Kugel in Crisis 111

Classic Hummus with Tahini 114

Shortcut Hummus 116

Shaved Cabbage Salad with Orange Blossom Vinaigrette 118

Bright Green Falafel 121

10 Vegas or Bust

Roasted Marrow Bones with Gremolata and Brioche 126

Lobster Green Curry 129

Lobster Stock 132

11 Steak for My Saba

Cast-iron Ribeye 137

Za'atar Chimichurri 138

Brussels Sprouts with Caraway and Tahini 141

Creamy Baked Fennel 142

Vegetable "Pot Roast" with Duqqa 145

12 Boss Man

Five-Onion Soup with Provolone Toast 151

Gnocchi with Fast Tomato Sauce 152

Fast Tomato Sauce 155

Chicken Milanese with Watercress and Lemon 157

13 Safta's Last Lutenitsa

Tzatziki 162

Chilled Yogurt Soup with Crushed Walnuts 163

Cherry, Jalapeño, and Cilantro Salad 165

Roasted Beets with Tahini 167

Salmon Roe Ikra 168

Collard Spanakopita 169

Stuffed Cabbage with Tomatoes and Onions 171

Safta's Stewed Strawberries and Ice Cream 174

III Finding Home in the South

14 The Lost Crab Cakes of Katrina

Crab Cakes with Preserved Lemon Aioli 185

Preserved Lemon Aioli 186

Roasted Speckled Trout with Tahini and Pine Nuts 187

Israeli Couscous with Summer Vegetables and Caramelized Tomato 190

15 Red Beans to the Rescue

Emily's Famous Red Beans and Rice 197

Green Salad with Green Dressing 200

Green Dressing 200

Arugula with Citrus, Olives, and Za'atar 203

Tomato and Peach Panzanella 205

Farro and Kale with Saffron Vinaigrette 206

Apple and Fennel Salad with Candied Pecans 208

16 Manischewitz for Willie Mae

Buttermilk Biscuits 214

Stewed Okra and Bacon over Grits 216

Za'atar Fried Chicken 219

How to break Down a Chicken 220

Jim Core's Kale and Andouille Jambalaya 222

17 Day Off for Dates

Date Pancakes with Rose Tahini 227

Ricotta with Date and Pecan Pesto 229

Chicken Liver Pâté with Celery and Dates 231

Dates, Turnips, and Bacon with Gorgonzola Dressing 233

18 Not So Semplice

Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Caprese 237

Pesto 237

Smoked Chicken with Harissa 239

Roasted Chicken with Harissa 240

Schmaltzy Cornbread with Gribenes 243

Banana Bread with Carob Molasses Butter 244

IV An Italian Sojourn

19 A Bed by the Dough Mixer

Slow-Roasted Lamb Shoulder 254

Creamy Polenta with Taleggio 257

20 A Real Live Nonna!

Marinated Soft Cheese with Herbs and Spices 263

Pickled Shrimp 264

White Asparagus with Eggs and Speck 267

Sea Bass in Cartoccio with Tomatoes and Olives 268

Spiced Couscous 271

21 My Italian Guardian Angel

Tortelli d'Erbetta 277

Fresh Pasta 280

Pork and Mushroom Risotto 283

Blackberry Torta della Nonna 286

Chocolate-Hazel nut Semifreddo 289

Chocolate-Candied Hazelnuts 290

22 Enzo the Pizzaiolo

Dough for Pizza and Pita 297

Pizza Enzo 299

Pita 302

23 From Sunday to Domenica

Bagna Cauda 308

Bresaola Salad with Arugula and Parmesan 310

Ricotta Cavatelli with White Bolognese 313

White Bolognese 314

Cherry and Pistachio Cookies 317

Chocolate-Espresso Cookies 318

V Homecoming

24 Family Meal

Smoked Goat Tacos 329

Brussels Sprout Salad with Mustard and Toasted Almonds 333

Parmesan and Nutmeg Stuffing 333

Cranberry Sauce with Rosemary and Orange 335

Curried Sweet Potato and Leek Pie 336

Flaky Pie Crust 338

Sous Vide Turkey 341

Turkey Stock 344

Gravy 345

25 The Reluctant Israeli Chef

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Whipped Feta 350

Charoset 353

Tahini Chicken Salad 354

Matzo Ball Wedding Soup 356

26 An Israeli Restaurant in New Orleans

Tabbouleh with Preserved Lemon and Almonds 365

Moroccan Carrot Salad 366

Baba Ganoush 368

Avocado Toast with Smoked Whitefish 371

Charred Cabbage with Olive Oil 372

Matbucha 374

Hazelnut and Pomegranate Muhammara 376

Malabi with Strawberries, Rose, and Pistachio 376

Halvah Iced Latte 378

Halvah Syrup 379

Moroccan Mint Tea 381

VI Essentials

Baharat 387

Duqqa 388

Harissa 389

Hawaij 390

Herb Salt 391

Prepared Tahini 392

Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette 393

Rose Tahini 393

Schmaltz and Gribenes 394

Tahini Mayo 395

Zhoug 395

Acknowledgments 397

Recipes by Category 399

Index 403

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