Israel’s Birthday Celebration – And the “Eat” Goes On!

Let’s celebrate Israel’s birthday by cooking up some scrumptious Israeli dishes and enjoy a delicious culinary connection with Israel! I’ve chosen a few of my favorite dishes from my own personal recipe collection and some of the cookbooks I’ve written. I’ve also included favorites that were shared by some of my “foodie-friends” both in North America and Israel. I hope these recipes become favorites of yours as well!
Bonnie Stern of Toronto is one of Canada’s most popular and beloved food personalities. She has a cooking school in Toronto, is a food columnist, a well-known TV personality and is also the author of twelve bestselling cookbooks, including her latest culinary success, Friday Night Dinners (Random House Canada).

Bonnie was raised in an Ashkenazi Jewish household, so when she went to Israel for the first time, she was surprised to see a menu for Friday night dinner that featured carrot cumin soup followed by chicken with dried fruit and couscous, instead of chicken soup with matzah balls followed by brisket and mashed potatoes.

Stern says: “I really fell hard for those Middle Eastern Sephardic flavors and now Rabbi Elyse Goldstein and I lead culinary tours to Israel to show people how delicious Israeli food can be.”


A few months ago, I received an unusual request from Dafi Kremer asking me to share one of my favorite recipes for a special cookbook she was compiling to celebrate Israel’s 60th birthday. Her book, Melting Pot: Embarking on Israel’s Seventh Decade with Spiritual and Savory Servings, has been dedicated in memory of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, who died while defending their homeland.

Melting Pot reflects the myriad of unique Jewish voices and tastes from Israel and the world over. It includes modern commentaries on the weekly portion and festivals, while savoring the delicious, ethnic recipes served up with each spiritual serving.

Melting Pot is divided into six chapters, one for each of the Five Books of the Torah, with the last chapter celebrating each of the Jewish and Israeli festivals. Each chapter is dedicated to a particular meal course, in addition to commemorating each of the six decades since the State of Israel’s founding. Each recipe in Melting Pot is accompanied by a photograph. (Dafi told me that the photographer could barely wait to finish photographing my recipe and eat it!)
Just as the State of Israel unifies the Jewish communities in Israel and throughout the world, Melting Pot integrates vibrant Jewish voices from the world over, forming a special tribute of our love for Israel.

There is a recipe to match each week’s Torah portion plus an additional chapter for other Jewish and Israeli festivals. Just as Israel has brought together every ethnic group, making for a vibrant and colorful tapestry, Melting Pot has combined well-respected teachers and delicious dishes from across the globe, catering to both the reader’s physical and spiritual needs.

Below you will also find recipes from my niece Merav Barr Matias, an Israeli born Canadian and my friend Cindy Beer, married to an Israeli. I hope you’ll try some of these delicious Israeli dishes I’ve chosen for your enjoyment so you can experience the taste of Israel in the comfort of your own home. Hopefully, you’ll be inspired to visit Israel and taste Israeli food made with real Israeli ingredients! Enjoy in good health – b’tayavon!

Norene Gilletz is a cookbook author, cooking teacher and food consultant based in Toronto, Canada. Her latest book is NORENE’S HEALTHY KITCHEN: Eat YOUR Way to Good Health (Whitecap). For information about her cookbooks, cooking demonstrations and culinary services, call 416-226-2466 or visit her website at



Source: Friday Night Dinners by Bonnie Stern

Falafel are the pin-up Middle Eastern food. They are easy to make as long as you remember to soak the chickpeas the night before. Soak lots of chickpeas and freeze them so that you can have speedier falafel the next time. (You could also used canned, but the texture will not be as good.)
Serve these hot as an appetizer or main course, either on their own in pita sandwiches with tahina sauce and salsa. They also make very cute appetizers served in tiny pitas.

1 1/2 cups (375 mL) dried chickpeas
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
3 Tbsp (45 mL) panko or fresh bread crumbs
1 Tbsp (15 mL) ground cumin (preferably toasted)
1 Tbsp (15 mL) ground coriander
1 tsp (5 mL) kosher salt
1/4 tsp (1 ml) cayenne, hot red pepper sauce or Aleppo pepper
1/4 cup (50 mL) chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup (50 mL) vegetable oil
Tahina Sauce (below)
Tomato Lime Salsa (below)

  1. In a large bowl, cover chickpeas generously with cold water. Refrigerate overnight. Drain well.
  2. In a food processor, chop garlic and onion until very fine. Add uncooked soaked chickpeas, bread crumbs, cumin, coriander, salt and cayenne and pulse on/off until mixture starts to get pasty and holds together when you pinch it. Add cilantro and process on/off until finely chopped.
  3. With a generous tablespoon, shape mixture into about 30 balls and flatten slightly.
  4. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add falafel and cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until crispy. Drain on paper towels. Repeat until all are cooked. Serve with sauce and/or salsa.

Makes about 30 falafel



Source: Friday Night Dinners by Bonnie Stern

In Israel, this dish is very popular and served in many different ways.

2 lb (1 kg) Asian eggplants (about 6)
2 Tbsp (25 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp (5 mL) kosher salt
1/2 cup (125 mL) tahina
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup (50 mL) lime juice or lemon juice
1 tsp (5 mL) kosher salt
Dash hot red pepper sauce
1/3 cup (75 mL) water, approx.


1 tomato, seeded and chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp (15 mL) lime juice
1 Tbsp (15 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp (2 mL) kosher salt
2 Tbsp (25 mL) chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp (25 mL) chopped fresh parsley

  1. Trim eggplants and cut lengthwise into 3 or 4 long slices. Brush with oil and sprinkle with salt. Grill for 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until brown and cooked through. Arrange overlapping slices on a platter.
  2. To prepare tahina sauce, in a bowl or food processor, combine tahina, garlic, lime juice, salt, hot pepper sauce and enough water to turn sauce white and thin it to a pourable consistency.
  3. To prepare salsa, in a small bowl, combine tomato, garlic, lime juice, oil, salt, cilantro and parsley.
  4. Drizzle tahina sauce over eggplant and sprinkle with salsa.

Makes 6 servings



Source: Healthy Helpings (originally published as MealLeaniYumm!) by Norene Gilletz

Canned lentils can be substituted for chickpeas. A 15-ounce can contains 1 1/2 cups chickpeas or lentils after draining.
3 medium onions
1 1/2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, rinsed & drained
2 Tbsp almonds or walnuts, optional
2 hard-boiled eggs (or 1 hard-boiled egg plus 2 hardboiled whites)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp honey

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place unpeeled onions on a baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes, until soft. (Or pierce onions in 3 or 4 places with a sharp knife; place on a plate and microwave on HIGH for 6 to 8 minutes.) Cool slightly; remove peel.
  2. Combine all ingredients in processor. Process 30 seconds, until finely chopped. If mixture seems dry, blend in a little water. Chill before serving.

Yield: about 2 3/4 cups. Mixture keeps for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator. It can be frozen, but season mixture lightly because the pepper’s flavor will become stronger.



Source: Norene’s Healthy Kitchen by Norene Gilletz (Whitecap)

This scrumptious vegetarian soup will fill you up without filling you out! Jackie Toledano of Netanya, Israel, often makes this soup for her family for Friday night dinners. I love the curried version but Jackie prefers it with fresh dillweed (below). Her children go nuts over it!

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 medium sweet potato or 1 medium potato, peeled and chopped
2 lb (1 kg) baby carrots or frozen baby carrots
8 cups vegetable broth
1/3 cup roasted cashews
1 to 2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp chili powder
Chopped cashews, for garnish (optional)

  1. Heat the oil in a large soup pot on medium high heat. Add the onion, apple, sweet potato, and carrots, and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
  2. Add the broth, cashews, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
  3. Using an immersion blender, purée the soup while still in the pot, or purée in batches in a blender or food processor. If the soup is too thick, add a little extra broth or water. (Milk or soymilk are also good choices.) Stir in the curry powder and chili powder and serve hot. Sprinkle with chopped cashews, if desired.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings (about 12 cups). Keeps 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator; reheats well. Freezes well for up to 4 months.

DILL CARROT CASHEW SOUP: Instead of curry and chili powder, substitute with 2 Tbsp minced fresh dillweed, adding it at the end of the cooking process.

NUT-FREE VARIATION: Replace cashews with 1 medium turnip or squash, peeled and coarsely chopped.

Chef’s Secrets –

  • A-Peeling News! Instead of using raw baby carrots or frozen carrots, use 2 lb (1 kg) regular carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped. (Jackie and I both prefer the lazy method—no peeling or cutting required.)
  • Cash in on Cashews: Store cashews in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 6 months or freeze them for up to a year. No cashews? Use blanched almonds.



Source: Norene’s Healthy Kitchen by Norene Gilletz

Everyone will shout “yahoo!” when they taste this terrific tabbouleh. Most recipes call for soaking the bulgar in water, but I prefer the Lebanese method which I learned from Vivianne Barzel, of Israel. She rinses the bulgar, drains it well, and then mixes it with olive oil before adding the other ingredients. This produces a vibrant-green tabbouleh that isn’t watery. Vivi chops the parsley and herbs by hand, but I use my food processor. I like to layer the ingredients, which helps the bulgar absorb the other flavors.

1/3 cup bulgar (cracked wheat)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
4 plum (Italian) tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic (about 2 tsp minced)
2 cups tightly packed fresh parsley (washed and well-dried)
1/2 cup tightly packed fresh mint leaves (washed and well-dried)
1/4 cup tightly packed fresh cilantro
1/2 cup chopped red or green onions
3 Tbsp lemon juice (preferably fresh)
1 tsp grated lemon rind
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Place the bulgar in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water for 1 to 2 minutes. Press down firmly to remove excess moisture. Transfer to a bowl and add the olive oil and salt; mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours (or even overnight).
  2. Top the bulgar with a layer of chopped tomatoes. Mince the garlic, parsley, mint, cilantro, and onion. (This takes 10 to 12 seconds in a food processor fitted with the steel blade.) Spread the minced herbs and onions on top of the tomato layer. Add the lemon juice, rind, and pepper but don’t mix. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours to allow the flavors to blend. Mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. This tastes even better the next day!

Yield: About 4 cups (8 servings). Recipe doubles and triples easily. Keeps for up to 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator.

69 calories per serving, 8.3 g carbohydrate, 1.7 g fiber, 2 g protein, 3.8 g fat (0.5 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 157 mg sodium, 212 mg potassium, 1 mg iron, 34 mg calcium

CONFETTI TABBOULEH: For a more colorful salad, add any of the following: 1/2 cup chopped English cucumber, 1/2 cup chopped red pepper, 1/2 to 1 cup corn kernels, or baby green peas. Basil can be used instead of cilantro. Add an extra drizzle of lemon juice and olive oil.

COUSCOUS TABBOULEH: Omit the bulgar. Combine 1/3 cup couscous with 2/3 cup boiling water. Cover and let stand 10 minutes, until the water is absorbed. Transfer to a bowl and add the olive oil and salt; mix well. Continue as directed in Step 2.

BARLEY TABBOULEH: Omit the bulgar and add 1 cup cooked barley.

QUINOA TABBOULEH: Substitute 1 cup cooked quinoa for the bulgar. Excellent for Passover.



My niece Merav Barr Matias was born in Israel and came to Canada as a very young child. She has very strong culinary connections to Israel but her family wasn’t able to go there this past year because they had a new baby boy a few months ago. When I asked Merav what she would eat if she were able to travel to Israel for a visit, she replied without hesitation, “Hummous, falafel, Israeli salad, chatzilim (eggplant), pitas, borekas and schnitzel!”

Although Merav and Marshall have only been married for 4 years, she is quite a competent cook and is never intimidated about inviting me for dinner. Below is her wonderful schnitzel recipe that she learned how to make from her mother.

Merav says “It’s traditional in Israel to serve schnitzel with potato puree (i.e. mashed potatoes in North America) and Israeli salad! Tayim me’od!”

4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 lbs./750 g)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup bread crumbs (approximately)
Oil for frying

  1. Cut each chicken breast in half crosswise to make 8 thin cutlets. Sprinkle on both sides with salt, pepper, garlic powder and cumin. Dip each breast in beaten egg, then in bread crumbs to which you’ve added additional seasonings.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Brown chicken breasts in batches on each side until crisp and golden, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Do not crowd skillet so pieces will brown quickly and evenly. Drain on paper towels. (If made in advance, reheat uncovered on a foil-lined baking sheet at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes.)

Yield: 8 pieces. Freezes well.



My friend Cindy Beer and her sister Irene Viner of Toronto are both married to Israelis. Cindy got the ingredient list (but not the recipe) for this schnitzel recipe from her brother-in-law Udi Viner a few years ago which he got from his sister, Aya Pode, of Kibbutz Ziqim. The kibbutz is located in the south between Ashkelon and Gaza. Aya is the manager of the kibbutz’s health food store. Everyone in her large family loves her delicious schnitzel. From Israel to North America, with love!

8 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 3 lbs/1.5 kg)
3 eggs
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 tsp prepared mustard
1 to 2 Tbsp soya sauce (to taste)
Paprika to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cups bread crumbs (approximately)
1/3 cup vegetable oil, or more if necessary

  1. Cut each chicken breast in half crosswise; you will have 12 thin cutlets.
  2. In a pie plate, mix eggs with garlic, mustard, soya sauce, paprika, salt and pepper.
  3. Dip each chicken breast first in bread crumbs, then in egg mixture, then again in bread crumbs, coating all sides.
  4. Heat oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Cook chicken in batches for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Do not crowd skillet. Drain on paper towels.

Makes 8 servings.



Source: Healthy Helpings by Norene Gilletz

Bring a small taste of Israel to your table! This is always a favorite at a buffet.

1 head of Romaine or iceberg lettuce
4 green onions
1 medium onion
2 green peppers
1 red pepper
1 English cucumber, peeled
8 firm, ripe tomatoes (preferably Israeli)
4 Tablespoons olive oil (preferably extra-virgin)
4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
Freshly ground pepper, optional

  1. Wash and dry vegetables well. Dice them neatly into 1/2-inch pieces and combine in a large bowl. Sprinkle with olive oil and lemon juice. Add seasonings; mix again. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Yield: 8 servings. Salad tastes best eaten the same day it is made, but leftovers will keep for a day in the refrigerator. Drain off excess liquid in the bottom of the bowl before serving.

Note: This recipe makes quite a lot so either halve the recipe or invite guests over to help eat it!