Cookbook Review: Sababa: Fresh Sunny Flavors from My Israeli Kitchen by Adeena Sussman

If Labor Day is meant to be a celebration of the end of summer and vacation, then the day after Labor Day should be the celebration of a return to routine. If you’re a mother like I am then the day after Labor Day might also be a call to celebrate because your kids return school, and you can finally get back into the rhythmic schedule of lunch packing, carpool, and evening homework. When I dropped off my youngest for his first day of school last week I marked the occasion with a stop by one of my favorite bakeries for a freshly squeezed orange juice and a buttery chocolate croissant. As I headed towards home I called my local Barnes and Nobel to ask if they had Adeena Sussman’s book Sababa, Fresh, Sunny Flavors from My Israeli Kitchen, available for purchase. It was being released that day and I realized I had never bought a book on the same day that it came out. As a gift to myself, (for surviving the summer and it’s my birthday month and I’m an adult and don’t need to justify buying something nice), I picked up a copy of the book to fully mark the festive nature of the day.

How do I translate sababa? It’s one of the first Hebrew slang words I learned so many years ago. And like so many other Hebrew slang words, it’s borrowed from Arabic, used to fill in the 2000 year gap between the ancient Biblical language and the modern spoken lexicon. In short, sababa means “it’s all good”. Usually used in response to, “How are you?”, or “What’s new?”, sababa is the catch all phase that translates to, “I can’t complain”.

I planned my Shabbat menu around the book and dove into the vibrant Israeli flavors that I’ve come to know and love since I first discovered them as a young bride so many meals ago. For starters I added the Cabbage, Apple and Pomegranate Slaw with Cumin Dressing to our regular lineup of appetizer salads. Crunchy, nutty, sweet and tart with a Dijon dressing, this recipe checks all the boxes of what makes up a great slaw.

For the second course I used salmon to make Herbed Fish Kababs. Coated in a chimichuri like paste of cilantro, parsley and mint, this dish was a perfect compliment to the starter salads.

As a side dish to our main course I made the Tahini-Glazed Carrots. I added sweet potatoes to the mix to beef it up. Laced with silan, the glaze would also make a great dipping sauce for fried cigars or to be used as a salad dressing. Per Sussman’s recommendation, make double, it will not go to waste.

As part of Shabbat lunch I served Shawarma Pargiyot to accompany the chulent. I grilled them the day before and they were still so tender and juicy.

For dessert I made the Pistachio Crusted Lemon Bars. As someone who does not care so much for baking, I really appreciated the details that this recipe provides. The crust is delicate yet holds together and the curd didn’t run out when slicing the bars. Not to mention the recipe is dairy free, so no need to substitute anything if serving them after a meat meal. Definitely a recipe I’m going to add into the rotation as lemon is one of my most favorite dessert flavors.

I didn’t stop with my Shabbat menu. On Monday I made the Chickpea and Spinach Hirira. A hearty Moroccan vegetable lentil soup, this recipe has everything to make a fabulous one pot meal. I served it with a crusty baguette on the side and enjoyed the leftovers for lunch the next day.

It was my husband’s birthday so for dessert I made one of his most favorite recipes, Fluffy Israeli Cheesecake. I’ve been making a version of this recipe that I got from my mother-in-law for years. What I really appreciated about Sussman’s version is the very technique specific instructions that yielded a perfectly well done cake. This Israeli style version of the classic New York dessert is a cross between a cheesecake and a souflée. Thus the light fluffy consistency that will leave you asking for seconds. This recipe alone is worth purchasing the book. My bets are that once you try the Israeli version, you might never to be able to enjoy a slice of the classic version again.

But I wouldn’t worry about not wanting to eat dry, dense, cake any longer. Once you start cooking with Sussman’s recipes you’ll find that everything is sababa, it’s all good.

*This is NOT a sponsored post. I am not being compensated in any way for references made to specific products or brands. All opinions are my own.

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