Bringing the new Middle East into the kitchen

Bringing the new Middle East into the kitchen

By Dikla Tuchman, Jewish Sound Correspondent

To just look at Adeena Sussman’s résumé of food writing over the last 13 years is enough to make your mouth water. Sussman, invited to Seattle to cater a young-women-focused Hadassah event earlier this month, brought a wealth of knowledge and Israeli cooking experience. The food writer, cook, recipe developer, cooking instructor, and restaurant critic has been published in publications that range from Food & Wine and Martha Stewart Living, to Sunset and Hadassah Magazine.

Sussman grew up in a kosher home that she said was “food focused,” and she learned to cook from a very young age.

“My mom taught me how to do things like bake challah and roast a chicken when I was quite young,” she said.

Through her mother’s long-time association and membership with Hadassah in northern California, she also became a lifetime member by the time she reached Bat Mitzvah age.

“My family has always been involved in Israeli institutions, so it makes sense that Hadassah is part of that picture, too,” said the Israeli-born Sussman.

As the Hadassah Magazine food columnist for the past eight years, Adeena writes for the monthly publication that reaches over 300,000 Jewish women. Her column is “a food column with a Jewish spin,” focusing on food, Israeli ingredients, recipes and techniques.

On May 7, visited Seattle from New York to participate in an event for Hadassah Plus, which reaches out to women from their 30s to early 50s, the second of three such events. More than 50 local current and potential members came to the event at the Mercer Island home of Judy Schocken.

“The Hadassah plus series was designed to attract a vital new segment of activists and supporters through interesting and modern programs, i.e., art, Israeli cuisine and wellness,” said Naomi Newman, co-chair of the Seattle area’s Hadassah Plus program. “Our ultimate goal is to build renewed interest in Hadassah among younger women and promote interest in Hadassah’s mission.”

The event itself focused on highlighting many new, diverse foods from all over Israel. Inspired by both Sussman and the popular cookbook, “Jerusalem: A Cookbook” by Yotem Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, Sussman presented both unique and slightly modern takes on classic Israeli favorites. The buffet included assorted cheeses with a fig pomegranate preserve, orange date salad in mint rose water, bourekas, roasted eggplant hummus, faro pilaf, and more.

“Cooking is very elemental just using really good ingredients,” Sussman said. “I tried to grab some of the modern ingredients in modern Israeli cooking — date syrup, sumac, and I made an alcoholic spin on mint lemonade with arak,” the traditional anise-flavored spirit popular across the Middle East.

Sussman pointed out that when people just equate Israeli food dishes with hummus and falafel, they miss out on the staples that are important to any Israeli meal.

“There’s a lot of salad dishes; it’s very light and vegetable-based,” she said.

One of Sussman’s twists on classic Israeli basics was her use of both a white and black tehina, the sesame paste she made and incorporated into a few of her dishes that night.

“You can take the classics and twist the ingredients a little bit and make them unique and more modern,” she said. “I felt that went over very well with the guests.”

Read more about Adeena Sussman and find some of her recipes at her website,