Za’atar has had a very big couple of years. Heard of za’atar? Love to say the word “za’atar”? Do you rub your grilled chicken with za’atar? The foundational Middle Eastern spice mix, a blend of sumac, sesame seeds, hyssop, thyme, and oregano, has been featured in recipes for flat breads, spreads, roasted vegetables—and evangelized by everybody from Joan Nathan, Azhar Hashem, and Alton Brown to Yotam Ottolenghi and Melissa Clark.
The rise of za’atar in mainstream recipe development, as well as the way it has charted a course straight into restaurant dishes that don’t necessarily identify as strictly Middle Eastern, is one of a growing number of examples of how Israeli food—with all its excitement and complexities—is coming into focus on the global stage. For this special issue of TASTE, we’ve looked closely at a few topics we think you will enjoy reading about. We’ve investigated the origins of Israeli couscous, fizzy gazoz, and a crispy potato bread called toch. There are stories from Tel Aviv, Akko, and Ramallah—and a deep look at Palestinian cooks in America. We hope these stories colorfully, and accurately, bring into a focus a culture we both feel so much love—and appetite—for. Matt Rodbard & Adeena Sussman
Palestinian Cooks Plant Their Flag in America
For Palestinian cooks in America, food is a way of tracing identity through a messy past.
1,000 Balls a Day at the Busy Tel Aviv Falafel Shop
“You can’t call it falafel in Israel if it isn’t all chickpeas.” Or so it goes one evening at a busy Tel Aviv shop.
The Bearded Chef of Akko
For nearly 20 years, Uri Jeremias has been cooking fish and spreading the gospel of Israeli cooking. It’s about time the world listened.
The Musakhan Queens of Ramallah
In the West Bank, a story of fresh bread, spiced chicken, and deeply gracious Palestinian hospitality.
Zahav at 10 Years
No restaurant in America has brought Israeli cooking to the front burner more than Zahav in Philadelphia. A decade in, a co-owner looks back at the highs, lows, and 134,409 orders of pomegranate lamb shoulder.
The Truth About Israeli Couscous
A story of starch, political will, and mistaken identity.
How to Win a War
The commander of an Israel Defense Forces mess hall is not a man to mess with.
The Fizz That Time Forgot
Sweet, bubbly, and chemically colorful, gazoz quenched Israel’s thirst for much of the 20th century. Now, thanks to a new generation of chefs and tinkerers, it’s being reimagined for a new generation.
Ottolenghi Wants You to Put Za’atar on Whatever You Want
TASTE editors spoke with Ottolenghi about the legacy of his book Jerusalem and what it feels like to have been so many home cooks’ gateway to the city’s food.
Thank You, WhatsApp. Or, How to Crowd-Source an Israeli Family Recipe.
A writer searches for the golden euphoria of toch, a potato-bread recipe lost in a family’s history.
The Kohlrabi Quotient
At Tel Aviv’s Dok, chef Asaf Doktor attempts to define Israeli cuisine through the many fruits of the land.
It’s Not Just Salad, It’s Salatim
Meaning “salad” and served at most meals, salatim are Israel’s connective tissue.