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Adeena Sussman is the co-author of 11 cookbooks, including Cravings and Hungry for More by Chrissy Teigen.
Sababa by Adeena Sussman.
Melted green cabbage from Sababa.
Our cookbook of the week is Sababa by Adeena Sussman. To try a recipe from the book, check out: Melted green cabbage , oven-roasted artichokes and garlic , and za’atar roasted chicken over sumac potatoes .
Until recently, Adeena Sussman looked for any excuse to put Tel Aviv’s Shuk HaCarmel on her daily route. Boisterous and loud, and right by the beach, a stroll through the market wasn’t merely habitual. When she relocated to Israel from the U.S. five years ago, shopping at the shuk quickly became a way to immerse herself in her new home — its food and its people.
The co-author of 11 cookbooks — including Cravings and Hungry for More by Chrissy Teigen — Shuk HaCarmel set the stage for Sussman’s latest solo work, Sababa (Avery, 2019). From her produce-driven recipes to Dan Perez’s sun-drenched photographs and its vibrant honey-hued endpapers, the dazzling warmth of Israeli flavours permeates every page.
When I first spoke with Sussman on March 12, daily visits to the shuk were still integral to her cooking. But on March 22, the Israeli government shuttered such open-air markets in an effort to contain COVID-19. Unable to make her regular jaunts, she started compiling a list of local producers offering delivery for a resource she has since posted on her website.
“It’s a time when you generally feel powerless,” Sussman told me when we talked again last week. “The one thing that we can control is human interactions and trying to have meaningful connections, whether they’re in person or virtual. And (the resource) is something that people can really use, so that makes me feel extra good.”
She’s been cooking a lot from Sababa since the pandemic started, inspired in part by her followers, who are more engaged than ever and seeking ideas for achievable meals. And although undertaking some more labour-intensive staples — preserving lemons and roasting peppers — she’s primarily been keeping it simple following a first in, first out philosophy.
Having just ordered a raft of spices, nuts and beans, Sussman was in the midst of making the most of a recent produce delivery. For dinner the night before, she had married leftover ground beef with corn tortillas from the freezer, an avocado and a few ears of corn for Mexican tostadas. Lunch was a salad of oil-packed tuna, niçoise olives, tomatoes and a lemony dressing, and she was just about to oven-roast some artichokes.
“I feel very fortunate that I have a food supply and the ability to cook, and the ability to feed myself and my husband,” says Sussman. It’s natural for people to gravitate towards frugal meals right now, she adds — such as soups, roasted vegetables and salads — but it’s also time to enjoy anything you may have set aside, waiting for the right moment to splash out.
“We’re going to crack open a bottle of Champagne that we’ve been saving for who knows what. Maybe we’ll use it at Seder (which marks the beginning of Passover on April 8). The aged balsamic and all those kinds of things that you’re holding onto for a special occasion, just use them. Enjoy them. Make your life good. Don’t save — savour,” she says, laughing.
Besides potentially popping open a bottle of Champagne, Sussman intends to take a pared-down approach to Passover. Her husband’s 60th birthday is on the first night of the holiday, and the family gathering they had planned in Jerusalem has been curtailed by COVID-19. Because she’s always contributed to family feasts in the past, this will be her first time making a full Seder for two in Tel Aviv.
She might roast a chicken or brisket, which will yield plenty of leftovers. And though she’ll still make matzo ball soup, it will be a small pot. Instead of representing the global influence of Jewish cooking by preparing a variety of charosets (a ceremonial Passover food made of fruit and nuts), she’ll likely make just one: her mom’s recipe. Given the pandemic, the holiday has different significance this year, Sussman says. And while an elaborate feast would be out of place, stripped down does not preclude celebratory.
“There are always a lot of metaphors associated with Passover and freedom, as something that Jewish people use to think about different issues that are going on in the world. Whether it was the Soviet Jewry (movement) or LGBTQ rights, or a million different things,” says Sussman. “I think this year we’re all going to be thinking about very basic freedoms including health and health care. Those are basic rights and in a way, those are basic freedoms that a lot of people take for granted. The holiday is more meaningful than ever.”
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