Traditional Israeli Dishes: Healthy, Versatile, Flavorful


When restaurateurs Tal Zarom and Itamar Ben-Amat set about creating an authentic Israeli hummusiya, they went right to the source.

They hired Israeli chef and restaurateur Micha Moskovich, who traveled from Tel Aviv to Philadelphia in November 2016, bringing along traditional recipes, ingredients and a concept. He remained onsite for three months, created an authentic Israeli culinary experience, trained the staff and then returned to Israel, leaving Hummusology (1112 Locust St.) in the capable hands of Charles Secallus.

“We have a huge clientele from Israel who come here and routinely tell us that our food tastes like ‘home,’” Secallus said. “We source our ingredients from Israel — the chickpeas, tahini, even the pita dough is imported, and then baked here.”

The chefs allowed me to spend some time in their kitchen, and I was lucky enough to score some of their recipes.

falafel | Photo by Keri White

Baked Falafel

Makes 20 patties

Falafel is one of those foods that everybody loves. Traditionally it is fried in oil, and these days many of us are avoiding deep-fried foods. This version, which is baked, delivers all the flavor with a fraction of the fat.

Secallus serves these on freshly baked pita, topped with hummus, schug (a green hot sauce, recipe follows), pesto, tahini, lettuce, tomato and pickles, but you can adorn these as simply or as elaborately as you like.

Because this is a restaurant recipe, the resulting quantity is large, but it could easily be halved or quartered for a small group.

2.2 pounds chickpeas soaked overnight, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 onion

1 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoons salt

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth.

Line two baking sheets, with parchment (or spray lightly with oil). Heat your oven to 360 degrees.

Form the mixture into patties, about three inches in diameter and ¾-inch thick.

Bake for 20 minutes and serve as desired.

Israeli salad | Photo by Keri White

Israeli Salad

Moskovich’s original recipe for this ubiquitous and oh-so-simple dish used cabbage, but the restaurant has altered the salad and now uses romaine lettuce. According to Secallus, the romaine holds the dressing better and therefore delivers more flavor.

This is a “throw it together” type of dish and the amounts used are up to the cook.

Adjust to your tastes, and feel free to add/subtract according to your preferences. The only rule is that the ingredients should be chopped rather finely.

Romaine lettuce




Lemon juice

Olive oil



Place all the vegetables in a shallow bowl and toss.

Spritz the top of the dish with a thin coating of lemon juice and olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to your taste.

Toss well and enjoy.

schug | Photo by Keri White


Makes about 3 cups

This all-purpose spicy sauce is my latest addiction. It offers a zesty kick, but it brings more than just heat. The fresh, herbal burst of cilantro and parsley counter the spice of the “pepper water” and the citrus of the lemon, and the result is pretty darn great.

In addition to traditional Israeli dishes, schug is delightful on grilled fish, poultry and meat, can be swirled into yogurt as quick dip, stirred into tuna salad, or used as a marinade, salad dressing or sandwich spread. I have not tried it on vanilla ice cream yet. Stay tuned.

1 pint olive oil

1 cup lemon juice

1 cup “pepper water” (this is the equivalent of pickle juice for pickled hot peppers)

1 bunch parsley

1 bunch cilantro

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

½ teaspoon cumin

Puree all the ingredients in a blender. Store it in your refrigerator for up to three weeks.

In Israel, hummus is considered a meal. It is typically served warm in a shallow bowl, often with toppings, accompanied by freshly baked pita and some pickles and/or Israeli salad.

Here in the U.S., hummus tends to be more of a snack or dip, typically served with crackers, bread and crudité as an appetizer. But this is changing as hummus has become increasingly popular in this country.

Secallus recommends the following toppings to broaden your hummus experience:

  • Sautéed mushrooms
  • Meatballs
  • Fava beans
  • Roasted eggplant (or any roasted vegetable)
  • Schwarma (grilled, marinated chicken, lamb, beef, veal or turkey)
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Whole chickpeas
  • Schug
  • Shakshuka (eggs poached in spiced tomato sauce)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here