Nowadays, Land of Plenty includes plenty of cuisines

This year we’re celebrating the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel. The evolution of Israeli cuisine has been incredible, going from boring and unheralded to progressive and inventive.

Contemporary Israeli cuisine reflects the diversity of the population. Bear in mind that the Israeli Jewish population has roots in 90 different countries, as well as Muslim and Christian Israelis. This is a cuisine that goes beyond falafel and couscous.

In the early days of the state, meat was hard to get, so eggplant was often substituted and is now very common. Cucumbers have always been plentiful, and are offered at breakfast, lunch and dinner. The North African influence has had perhaps the biggest impact; Shakshouka, from Tunisia, has become a signature dish.

I’ll be speaking at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on Aug. 21 as part of the monthlong “How We Eat” series ( My “Israeli Cuisine at 60” lecture will include a tasting and cooking demonstration and is open to the public.


Serves 8

4 Tbs. olive oil

2 small onions, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

6 cups chopped tomatoes, with juice

2 bell peppers, chopped

3 Tbs. tomato paste

2 tsp. fine sea salt

1 tsp. pepper

2 tsp. sweet paprika

8 eggs

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the onions and garlic, and sauté until the onions begin to brown. Stir in the tomatoes and bell peppers. Mix in the tomato paste. Stir and cook for about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes and peppers begin to soften. Add the salt, pepper and paprika.

Crack the eggs, one by one, into the tomato mixture. Simmer the Shakshouka over medium heat until the eggs are set. Serve warm.

Baked Stuffed Eggplant

Serves 4

1 large eggplant

1 tsp. salt

1⁄4 cup olive oil

1⁄2 medium onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, through a press

2 small zucchinis, chopped

1⁄2 lb. mushrooms, cleaned and chopped

1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1⁄4 cup toasted chopped walnuts

2 tsp. finely chopped rosemary

2 tsp. fine sea salt

1 tsp. pepper

1 Tbs. Parmesan cheese

1⁄2 tsp. Hungarian sweet paprika

Slice eggplant in half lengthwise. Using a grapefruit knife, scoop out the eggplant leaving 1⁄2-inch thick walls. Sprinkle the two halves with salt, and bake in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes.

Chop the scooped-out eggplant. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan, and add the onions, garlic, zucchini, mushrooms and eggplant. Cook over high heat until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the 1⁄4 cup Parmesan cheese, walnuts and rosemary. Mix well, and season with the salt and pepper.

Stuff the baked eggplant shells with the cooked stuffing; sprinkle each one with the remaining Parmesan and the paprika. Return the eggplant to the oven, and bake for 20 minutes, or until nicely browned. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a certified culinary professional. Visit her Web site at She can be reached at [email protected].