Adeena Sussman has worn many hats throughout her culinary career, from Gourmet magazine copywriter to caterer to food stylist. “But really, I think what I was born to do was write cookbooks,” she says. Even after Sussman honed in on her calling, her projects were diverse, adding a collage of cuisines to her repertoire. Among Sussman’s 11 co-authoring credits, she has focused on desserts in pastry chef Candace Nelson’s The Sprinkles Baking Book and helped present model Chrissy Teigen’s personal recipes with Cravings, both of which are New York Times best sellers.
But she always felt a pull back to her personal passion: Israeli cuisine. “I’m really attracted to the bright, fresh flavors of Israeli food, the produce-forward nature of the cooking,” says Sussman, who was born and raised in California’s Bay Area. “I just love the focus on fresh, seasonal ingredients and a lot of spice, a lot of citrus and acid. And obviously the mix of different ethnicities and religious traditions that play into the cooking lexicon.”
With her cuisine so heavily dependent on local markets, Sussman held off on producing an Israeli cookbook until she moved from her New York City home to Tel Aviv about four years ago. It was then that “all the stars aligned,” and Sababa—Hebrew slang that roughly translates to “it’s all good”—was published in September 2019.
The recipes reflect Sussman’s ritual of wandering through the nearby Carmel Market, then recreating beloved Israeli foods in her home, often with hints of international influences. Her hawaiij-braised short ribs with a mash of roasted kohlrabi—a relative of cabbage and broccoli that tastes like a milder, sweeter version of them but looks like a turnip—is emblematic of her style. “It has the bones of an American recipe, like a braised short rib or meat, but it has a flavor profile that’s very suggestive of local cuisine here,” Sussman says. That’s thanks to the star of the dish, hawaiij, a currylike spice blend of black pepper, cumin, cardamom, coriander and turmeric closely associated with Israel's Yemenite Jewish community. You can find it online from purveyors like Kalustyan’s and Pereg, but Sussman’s favorite is New York Shuk, a company founded by a Brooklyn couple that sells high quality Israeli staples in select stores around the world. You can also make it yourself in a matter of minutes with Sussman’s recipe, below.
The dish is spot-on for a Passover Seder feast, where dinner follows a (sometimes lengthy) retelling of the Jewish Exodus, so make-ahead, long-cooked meals are ideal. Sussman suggests making the whole thing a day in advance not only for convenience, but also for flavor and tenderization: “Most braised meats are better the next day.” To save time, roast the kohlrabi and braise the meat at the same time.
Since the meat will reduce in size during braising, you’ll start with English-style short ribs, which are cut parallel to the bone into long ribs before being cut into smaller pieces, allowing them to “still feel meaty and substantial” after hours in the pot. They get seared and sprinkled with the hawaiij before being added to the braising liquid, which includes red wine. Sussman says any dry red will do—that means no Manischewitz. Be cautious here: Make sure you don’t add too much liquid, and that the liquid isn’t bubbling too much. “You can end up in a situation where you’re boiling the meat as opposed to braising it, and that really impacts the texture,” she warns. “You just want to make sure that you have an even, low bubble going on, and that the liquid only comes up about halfway to the meat.”
Though this version of the recipe uses a small amount of flour, which is traditionally prohibited during the holiday, Sussman says you can easily swap it for a Passover-friendly replacement like potato starch or matzo meal. And if you’re using kosher meat, which is pre-salted, hold back a bit on the salt.
While the short ribs are in the oven, you’ll prepare the kohlrabi, roasted until tender and then mashed, creating a less starchy alternative to mashed potatoes. “It makes for a nice lighter counterpoint to the rich short ribs,” Sussman notes. “[Kohlrabi] is still a little bit of a specialty item in the United States, but if you look hard enough at farmers markets you can often find them.” Turnips are a suitable substitute.
Sussman suggests accompanying the dish with schug, a Yemenite condiment combining herbs, dried spices and fresh chiles. You can make it at home with her recipe below (it will last up to a month in a jar in the fridge), but it’s also available in certain Trader Joe’s stores in the refrigerated section. If you can’t get to the store or make it at home, any bright green hot sauce would work. “It cuts the richness of the meat, and spice is a really important element in the Israeli kitchen .... I add a little lemon and cardamom to mine, which, again, really grounds it in Israel.”
It’s no surprise that Sussman’s wine pick hails from her new homeland as well: Covenant Israel Blue C Adom, a blend of mostly Syrah with some Cabernet Sauvignon. “Made from grapes grown in the Galilee, it’s got the structure and flavor to stand up to this richly exotic recipe,” she says, adding that “any full-bodied red wine that serves up a spicy note would pair beautifully with this dish.” Below, Wine Spectator selects 10 recently rated kosher red wines that fit the bill.
Covenant produces wines in California as well, and Sussman points to one of those labels as another potential match: Covenant Red C Rosé. “This rosé is a fresh, light and lively wine that offers a lovely contrast to the short ribs,” she says. “And the name—Red C—is a play on the words ‘Red Sea,’ so famously crossed by the Israelites as they fled Egypt long ago. Dare I say, it’s the perfect Passover wine?”
Hawaiij-Braised Short Ribs with Roasted Kohlrabi Mash
Recipes from Sababa by Adeena Sussman, published by Avery, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2019 by Adeena Sussman.
For the short ribs
- 4 pounds English-style, bone-in short ribs, cut across the bone into 3-inch pieces (ask your butcher to do this)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more as needed
- 6 tablespoons hawaiij (store-bought, or recipe follows)
- 2 jumbo onions, cut into thick slices
- 5 garlic cloves, peeled
- 6 medium carrots, halved lengthwise
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose or gluten-free flour of your choice; or to keep kosher for Passover, replace with potato starch or matzo meal
- 2 cups dry red wine
- 10 sprigs thyme
- 1/4 small bunch parsley
- 1/4 small bunch cilantro
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 cups low-sodium beef or chicken broth, plus a little more if needed
For the kohlrabi mash (makes 3 cups)
- 8 large (4 1/2 to 5 pounds) whole kohlrabi or turnips
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- Schug, for serving (optional; store-bought, or recipe follows)
1. Preheat the oven to 325° F. Fit one rack in the oven to accommodate the pot you’re cooking the ribs in, and the other to fit the baking dish for the kohlrabi. (They will cook at the same time.) Arrange the short ribs on a rimmed baking sheet, pat dry with paper towels and season generously with salt and pepper. (You'll need less salt if using pre-salted kosher meat.) Heat the vegetable oil in a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in two batches, brown the ribs until very deeply caramelized, 3 to 4 minutes per flat surface or about 12 minutes total per batch. Move the ribs to a plate and, while still warm, sprinkle both sides with a total of 1/4 cup of the hawaiij.
2. Drain and discard all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the Dutch oven. (If the oil seems burned, drain it all and use 2 tablespoons of fresh oil). Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and garlic, and cook, stirring, until the onions are translucent, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the carrots and cook, stirring, 3 to 4 more minutes. Add the tomato paste and flour (or, to keep kosher for Passover, potato starch or matzo meal) and cook, stirring, until absorbed into the vegetables, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the wine, raise the heat to medium-high, bring to a boil and cook until only about 1/2 cup of wine remains, 12 to 13 minutes.
3. Tie the thyme, parsley, cilantro and bay leaf together with kitchen twine and add to the pot along with the broth, the remaining 2 tablespoons hawaiij, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Nestle the short ribs in the pot among the vegetables; the liquid should come about two-thirds of the way up the sides of the meat. Bring to a boil, cover with a tight-fitting lid and immediately transfer to the oven. Cook until the meat is fork-tender and the sauce is reduced and thickened, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
4. While the meat is cooking, get the kohlrabi started. Use a sharp knife to cut the rind and fibrous white outer membrane away from the kohlrabi to expose the snowy-whitish, jade-green flesh. Poke a few holes in each kohlrabi with a fork and place them in a large glass or metal baking dish. Drizzle the kohlrabi with 4 tablespoons of the olive oil, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and shake the baking dish to coat. Add the broth, cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake along with the short ribs until the kohlrabi are tender and golden in spots, 2 1/2 hours. To test for doneness, pierce a kohlrabi with a fork or toothpick. If it yields easily, it’s ready; if not, cover it back up and return it to the oven for another 20 minutes. Transfer the kohlrabi and any juices collected in the pan to a large bowl. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, then mash the kohlrabi with a potato masher (or process to your desired texture in a food processor, 20 to 30 seconds).
5. Spread the kohlrabi mash on a serving platter. Remove the ribs from the oven, discard the herb bundle and arrange the meat (on the bones or off, it’s up to you), onions and carrot halves on top of the kohlrabi. Use a spoon to skim any fat you can off the sauce and drizzle the sauce over the platter. Serve with schug, if desired. Serves 4 to 6.
- 1/4 cup whole black peppercorns or freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup cumin seeds or ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons cardamom seeds or ground cardamom
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds or ground coriander
- 3 tablespoons ground turmeric
If using whole spices: In a large, dry skillet combine the peppercorns with the cumin, cardamom and coriander. Toast over medium-low heat, stirring, until the seeds begin to pop and the spices are fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool. Place the toasted spices in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Add the turmeric and grind until fine. If using dried spices: Toast the ground pepper, cumin, cardamom, coriander and turmeric in a dry skillet over low heat, stirring constantly until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes, and transfer to a plate to cool. Hawaiij can be stored in an airtight container for up to six months. Makes 3/4 cup.
- 2 cups tightly packed fresh cilantro, leaves and tender stems
- 2 cups tightly packed fresh parsley, leaves and tender stems
- 20 garlic cloves (about 2/3 cup)
- 10 to 12 medium jalapeños (about 6 ounces) or 6 to 8 medium serrano peppers, stemmed and coarsely chopped but not seeded
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to cover
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the cilantro, parsley, garlic, chopped jalapeño, salt, cumin, cardamom, black pepper, lemon juice and oil, and pulse 15 to 20 times, then process until smooth, about 1 minute, stopping and scraping down the bowl once if necessary. The mixture may seem a bit pulpy at first, but it will come together. If you need to, add water by the tablespoonful to get the contents of the processor running. Drizzle in the olive oil and pulse very briefly. Transfer the schug to one 2-cup jar with a tight-fitting lid (or two 1-cup jars with tight-fitting lids) and cover with a very thin slick of olive oil. Stored in the refrigerator, schug lasts for up to 1 month. Makes 2 cups.
10 Kosher Israeli and International Reds
Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good kosher wines from recently rated releases. More options can be found in our Wine Ratings Search, by searching the tasting note text for "kosher."
Petite Sirah Galilee Reserve 2016
Score: 91 | $32
WS review: A concentrated red, backed by fresh acidity that binds the blackberry and currant notes, matched to graphite, savory spice and black tea details. Offers moderate, integrated tannins. Drink now through 2024. 750 cases made. From Israel.—Gillian Sciaretta
Zinfandel Lodi Mensch 2017
Score: 89 | $20
WS review: Opens with supple and expressive currant, dried tarragon and white pepper flavors, building briary tannins toward a slightly rustic finish. Best from 2020 through 2024. 450 cases made. From California.—Tim Fish
Pinot Noir Marlborough 2015
Score: 89 | $29
WS review: Polished fresh strawberry, rhubarb and cherry flavors are fresh and bright on a silky smooth frame, with hints of vanilla, rose petal and clove that linger effortlessly. Drink now. 6,500 cases made. From New Zealand. —MaryAnn Worobiec
LA FILLE DU BOUCHER
Côtes du Rhône 2016
Score: 88 | $18
WS review: The dark cherry, plum, mesquite and licorice root notes work well together. Juicy finish. Drink now. 1,200 cases made. From France.—James Molesworth
Shiraz Galilee Reserve 2016
Score: 88 | $35
WS review: Dried herb and pepper notes line the black currant and dark cherry flavors of this full-bodied, focused red, with welcoming accents of black tea and mineral coming through on the tannic finish. Drink now through 2023. 1,500 cases made. From Israel.—G.S.
Cabernet Sauvignon Galilee Reserve 2016
Score: 87 | $35
WS review: Supple, concentrated flavors of currant and blackberry are marked with mocha, baking spice and herb notes in this full-bodied red. Offers integrated, moderate tannins. Drink now through 2020. 8,000 cases made. From Israel.—G.S.
Cabernet Sauvignon Galil Reserve 2016
Score: 86 | $20
WS review: Cherry compote and raspberry gelée flavors are supple and compact in this licorice-tinged red. Baking spice, fresh earth and olive notes mark the finish. Drink now through 2021. 8,000 cases made. From Israel.—G.S.
Galilee Alma Crimson 2016
Score: 86 | $25
WS review: A broad red, with ripe, supple flavors of cherry reduction and raspberry tart, flanked by licorice, orange peel and herb details. Cedar notes echo on the tannic finish. Drink now. 5,000 cases made. From Israel.—G.S.
Cabernet Sauvignon Galilee 2018
Score: 86 | $17
WS review: Tart currant and cherry flavors are infused with savory spice, fresh earth and cedar notes in this focused, full-bodied red, with graphite and tea accents marking the grippy finish. Drink now through 2021. 12,500 cases made. From Israel.—G.S.
Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot Galilee Yasmin 2018
Score: 85 | $12
WS review: Bright and fresh, this medium-bodied red shows red currant, orange zest and herb notes, supported by moderate tannins. Minerally finish. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Drink now through 2020. 12,750 cases made. From Israel.—G.S.