Dining in Israel – A Personal Story

Food as Culture

By Elissa GoldbergBelle – Springfield, Ill

On my visit to Jerusalem earlier this year, I was booked into a hotel called Prima Kings, located at 60 King George St. Not knowing exactly what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised to discover very comfortable accommodations, a helpful hotel staff, and wonderful filling and nutritious meals with both a Mediterranean and European palette.

Photo: Israeli Light Meal - Israel Ministry of Tourism

Through a translator, I had the opportunity to interview the head chef, Ateaf Chader. Although the kitchen was licensed as a “glatt kosher” kitchen, meaning all the food and its preparations follow Jewish law precisely, Ateaf is a Muslim chef trained to be a chef at the Church of Notre Dame, where he was instructed in the dietary laws and preferences of the Jewish, Islamic and Christian faiths.

In addition to cooking professionally and at-home for 11 hours a day, Ateaf is participating with several other chefs in a volunteer project aimed at teaching poor women of all religions how to cook and sell French, Italian and Mediterranean foods to small shops, so that they can earn a little money for themselves and their families. Donations are accepted for food supplies and to pay two primary chefs. At times Ateaf even donates part of his own salary to the project.

Ateaf does all the cooking at home so his wife doesn’t have to. This does not represent a typical family!  He has three sons – 7, 6 and 4 years old. When asked if he likes to cook he said “the kitchen is my father. If I don’t cook, I can’t sleep, I can’t be a nice person or around people and I wouldn’t be able to sit here and talk with you.” And do your children like to cook, I ask? To them, says Ateaf, their father is the kitchen!

Shakshukah by Ateaf

This is the perfect recipe for a summer breakfast or light lunch and a great way to use your fresh tomatoes. There are many varieties of Shakshukah enjoyed all over Israel. Add Garlic and onions, hot peppers, spinach, herbs, sweet peppers, paprika etc and make it your own family favorite. I’ve had it with a white sauce and spinach as well.

2 lbs fresh tomatoes cut into cubes or I 28 oz can of stewed tomatoes.

White pepper and salt to taste

Olive oil

Basil

1 TBS  Tomato paste for thickening. (More if necessary)

4-6 eggs

In a large frying pan over medium heat put in the cubed tomatoes and a little water and simmer for 20 minutes stirring all the time. Add the tomato paste to thicken the sauce a little. Add the basil to taste (you don’t want the sauce too runny or to thick).

Break the eggs into the sauce, sprinkle some olive oil on top and bake for 7-10 minutes at 325 degrees until the eggs are set. Alternately, break the eggs into the sauce as for poaching and simmer gently on the stove top. Serve Shakshukah with a Greek Salad with a dressing of lemon juice and olive on the side and some feta cheese.

Greek Salad

Lettuce leaves

Cucumbers sliced

Tomato cubes

Black Olives

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