Oct 5, 2020  By Cindy Silvert  Category: Travel,

Israel’s Story Through Food

“Israel is composed of so many fascinating nationalities and ethnicities, and they all have such distinct food,” said Cindy Silvert, author of the cookbook ALIYAH—a collection of personal histories and recipes from around the world.

Born in Toronto, Canada, Silvert studied and lived in Israel for two decades before moving to New Jersey, where today she is president of Jewish National Fund’s Southern New Jersey Board. “I interviewed dozens of Israelis from all walks of life. This book tells their stories and honors the cultures that make up the diverse, cool collaboration that is Israel. Each story is a treasure,” she said.

We sat with Silvert to learn more about her and the Israeli and Jewish food scene:

In your research for the book, were there similarities or di  erences between variations of Jewish foods that surprised you?
I was blown away by the range of breads—no wonder Jews are always on a diet!

What’s one ingredient you can’t live without?
A
n Ethiopian spice mix made by Shoshana Sohelo, chef of Tzlal restaurant in Be’er Sheva. (Featured in the Summer 2020 issue of B’Yachad)

How has the Israeli food scene evolved since you lived there?
The ingredients were always better, but the convergence of cultures and creativity are just exploding now.

What advice would you give Jews who want to try foods from other traditions?Invite yourself over. It worked for me.

What’s your favorite Israeli dish?
Dinner at a Tunisian grill. The endless salads and meat dishes are like manna from heaven.

In your opinion, why is food such a powerful lens to view Jewish culture through?Judaism is all about elevating the physical, and food plays a major role in it. How did we keep Shabbat in Iran? How did we celebrate Passover in Morocco? The recipes and traditions passed down teach us how we preserved our identity as we integrated into cultures around the world. The unique scents and spices are a homing device that connect us to our heritage and generations past.

Could you beat Bobby Flay in a cooking showdown? What about Jamie Geller or Rachael Ray?
Nobody beats Bobby. Jamie, Rachael, and I are all home cooks. Jamie rocks Jewish dishes, Rachael does Italian, and I’m a free agent. I won’t lie, it’s hit or miss.

For more information on “ALIYAH,” visit jnf.org/aliyahcookbook.

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Moqueca de Peixe 
(Brazilian Fish Stew)Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

·2 lbs. fresh fish (cod, snapper, or salmon), cut into ½ inch wide strips
·2 tbs. vegetable oil
·1 large onion, chopped
·1 large tomato, chopped
·1 red pepper, chopped
·1 hot green pepper, chopped
·2 garlic cloves, minced
·1 tbs. salt
·1 tbs. turmeric
·1 can (13.5 oz) of coconut milk
·2 threads of saffron
·1 bunch of cilantro, chopped (for garnish)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Sauté onion, tomato, peppers, and garlic in a pot until translucent.
  2. Add salt and turmeric and stir.
  3. Add the coconut milk and stir for 1-2 mins.
  4. Purée mixture until well blended.
  5. Add saffron and stir.
  6. Add the fish into the pot, cover, and simmer for 3-5 mins.
  7. Serve on a bed of white rice and garnish with cilantro.
A recipe from Johnny Stern of Stern Winery.

Read more from the 2020 Fall issue of B'Yachad.