Despite its Biblical association with milk and honey, Israel lacks a long-
standing culinary heritage. Only a few years ago, Israelis even doubted the
existence of their own authentic cuisine.
Today, most people agree that there is a distinctive Israeli cuisine, though
like many aspects of the society, it is uniquely multifaceted. It reflects
the various communities in the country and their diverse geographical and
cultural origins. The Israeli kitchen is home to the multitude of foods and
recipes which have accompanied the Jewish people's return to the "Land of
Milk and Honey."
Historically, the Jewish
holidays are accompanied by customary dishes linked to the traditions
and stories of each festival. The recipes for special dishes, such as
blintzes (eaten on Shavuot)
and latkes (eaten on Hanukah),
have been passed down from generation to generation, and are now part
of Israeli cuisine.
In the years since Israel achieved independence,
new culinary traditions have crystallized. There is the practice of
picnicking in the countryside, where the usual menu consists of shishlik,
kebob (an Eastern version of American hamburger), or steak. First courses
in these outdoor meals are invariably tehina and hummus, foods stemming
from our Arab neighbors which have been incorporated into the Israeli
A second custom is the large Israeli breakfast. It
is composed of salads, a variety of cheeses, olives, distinctive Israeli
bread, juice and coffee. The loaded-down tables which characterize Israeli
hospitality have their basis in Jewish antiquity. The Bible relates the story of the three angels who visited the tent of the patriarch Abraham and his wife Sarah and were treated to a lavish meal.
The order and content of meals in Israel differs from that of the United
States. The principal meal of the day is generally served in Israel at
noontime, when the children return home from school. Very few families
follow the American pattern and have their large meal in the evening. The
evening meal is usually a light one consisting generally of dairy products,
salads and eggs.
There are a number of Jewish dietary laws stemming from the Bible which are
integral to Israel's culinary heritage.
According to these laws (Kashrut),
only certain types of meat and fish may be eaten. Pork and rabbit, for
example, are excluded, as are shellfish.
In addition, dairy dishes must be cooked and eaten separately from meat
dishes. Foods such as fish, eggs, fruits and vegetables ("pareve" foods) may
be eaten with either meat or milk. Two sets of dishes, for milk and meat
meals, are used, stored and cleaned separately.
No cooking is permitted on the Sabbath,
the day of rest, except for food prepared in advance that can simmer
for a long time under a low flame. The traditional cholent, a robust
stew, and kugel, a vegetable and noodle pudding, are two such examples.
In the following, we have compiled a sampling of dishes served in the homes
of Israel's varied ethnic population. You will find that there is no single
Israeli cuisine in the sense that there is a French or Italian cuisine.
Native Israeli cooking depends on the land of origin of the cook.
Nonetheless, Israel has developed an authentic food culture which offers a
wealth of colorful, rich, and delicious choices.
- The recipes were all tested and tasted in order to bring you the special
flavor of Israel.
- We have been careful to choose only "strictly kosher" recipes - meat and
milk products have not been mixed.
- The quantities given in the recipes are all intended
for four to six persons, unless otherwise indicated.