Ess, Ess/Eat, Eat

Jewish World Review April 26, 2001/ 4 Iyar 5761

King David Hotel Chef brings
Israeli haute cuisine to New York's Plaza

By Ethel G. Hofman -- "I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS IS KOSHER," exclaimed my religiously observant cousin Lisa as she looked at the haute cuisine menu served at New York's Plaza hotel. "Even the cappuccino?" To which Israeli chef Abraham Steinits, assured her "Absolutely!"

Abraham Steinits, who answers to Avi, is the executive chef at Jerusalem's prestigious King David hotel, the first of eight celebrated international hotels invited to launch the Plaza's gourmet food festival. He and his staff created a week of kosher lunch and dinner menus and Friday night Shabbat feast. New Yorkers ( as well as my London cousin) were thrilled and the gourmet Israeli dishes drew rave reviews. The event runs through September and includes Russian cuisine from St. Petersburg's Grand Hotel, and the cuisine of Austria from the Hotel Sacher, Vienna.

Avi flew into New York, on a chilly January day, along with six chefs, half a dozen dancers and musicians (students at the Hebrew University), and crates of table linens and accessories. In preparation, the Plaza's kitchens had been kashered, new silverware and china were purchased, as well as kitchen utensils and small appliances. On arrival, Avi and staff, were ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work. Brilliant red and gold table runners, placemats with the King David crest, and pottery condiment dishes for sea salt, ground peppers and olive oil reminiscent of ancient kitchen utensils set the tone. Add to that, potted palms, marble pillars, gold-etched freizes and sparkling crystal chandeliers and the legendary Palm Court was transformed into an oasis of Middle Eastern splendor.

Israeli cuisine is now firmly recognized as world class with Israeli wines repeatedly receiving Gold and Silver awards at international competitions. Chef Avi Steinits' enticing all-kosher menu combined ingredients mentioned in the Bible with the latest innovations in global cuisine. He firmly believes that locally produced ingredients make for the best in any cuisine - "...because they are transported within hours from farm to table." His recipes are all delicately flavored with fresh herbs and spices and he insists "…in our country, (Israel) we have everything any chef could possibly need to create the finest dishes." To confirm this, just check the fresh produce aisles in your supermarket. Among the Israeli imports are aromatic fresh herbs, exotic fruits such as sharon fruits (similar in appearance to persimmons without the acidity), Galia melons and flowers all packed to arrive in the freshest condition. And if you want the true taste of tomatoes in winter - opt for those with the Carmel (Israeli) label.

Chefs are notorious for a lack of information when relaying recipes. However, chef Steinits did take the time to discuss ingredients and cooking methods. The dishes below have been adapted to be easily prepared in your home kitchen with tastes and textures intact.




Toss the lamb chunks in the flour. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the lamb. Cook to brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, 4 cups chicken broth, 2 tablespoons coriander and mushrooms. Cover and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Cook 1 hours or until lamb is tender. Stir in the chickpeas. Heat through adding more broth if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with remaining coriander and serve.



*may substitute cooked rice or bulgur soaked 10 minutes in hot water and drained.

In a large bowl, mix the parsley, dill, onion, tomato and couscous. Stir in the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Best served at room temperature



Stir the barley into the boiling water. Reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook 45 minutes until barley is tender but chewy. Drain off any remaining water. Stir in the mint, onion, bell pepper, olive oil, lemon juice and grated rind. Season to taste with cumin, salt and pepper. Stir to mix. Best served at room temperature



Poussin is the French term for a very young chicken, 4-6 weeks old and weighing no more than 1 pounds. Rock Cornish hens may be substituted. If large, cut in half. Za'atar is a blend of herbs but it also refers to thyme.

Preheat oven to 400F. In a cup, mix the olive oil, rosemary and thyme. Set aside.

Tuck a lemon slice inside the cavity of each poussin or each hen. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on a rack. Brush with the olive oil mixture. Roast in preheated oven for 50 minutes or until juices run clear when pierced at thickest part. During cooking, baste several times with pan juices and any remaining olive oil mixture. Serve on a warm pita bread.



There are many versions of this silky milk pudding flavored with orange or rose-water. May be prepared with low fat milk if preferred or a mixture of milk and water.

In a small bowl or cup, blend the cornstarch with cup milk until smooth. Pour remaining milk into a medium saucepan. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Heat over medium heat until beginning to boil, stirring constantly to avoid lumping. Cook for 2 minutes stirring constantly.. Remove from heat and stir in the orange or rose water, and sugar to taste. Pour into serving dishes. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon and chopped pistachios. Serve chilled.

JWR contributor Ethel G. Hofman is the former president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, whose members include the likes of Julia Child. She is the author, most recently, of Everyday Cooking for the Jewish Home: More Than 350 Delectable Recipes.


© 2001, Ethel G. Hofman