Prepare fare of new Israel, old traditions

One of the most memorable dishes I enjoyed in Israel was Chicken-Stuffed Figs in Tamarind Sauce, at chef Moshe Basson's Eucalyptus restaurant in Jerusalem. Tamarind concentrate is sold in blocks at Asian markets in the Bay Area. Basson provided a more extensive recipe, with eggplants and stuffed onions, to cookbook author Joan Nathan for "The Foods of Israel Today" and also has an easier version on his own Web site, which I've edited below. To save time, you could use ground chicken or turkey. The recipe and others are at www.the-eucalyptus.com

The specialty of the well-known Dr. Shakshouka restaurant in Jaffa, known for the Jewish cuisine of Tripoli, is the egg and tomato dish that gives the establishment its name. I enjoyed this dish on my last night in Israel, a perfect finale. This recipe, which is easy to prepare, is adapted by Nathan from Sarah Gambsor, the main cook at Dr. Shakshouka. Serve it as a first course, or with salad and bread as a lunch or supper dish.

MOSHE BASSON'S CHICKEN-STUFFED FIGS

Serves 4

2 Tbs. olive oil

2 medium onion, finely chopped

2 chicken breasts, finely chopped

3/4 tsp. freshly ground cardamom

1 tsp. ground allspice

1 tsp. cinnamon

salt to taste

1 to 2 Tbs. tamarind concentrate

2 cups water

2-1/2 Tbs. brown sugar

24 fresh or dried figs

In a wok, heat the onion in the oil until golden brown. Add the chopped chicken breast and half of each spice, stirring well and turning until white (about 3 minutes). Turn out into a bowl and cool.

In the same wok, without cleaning it, add the tamarind, sugar and the remaining spices in water; stir well and bring to boil. Lower the heat and stir until sauce is smooth and velvety. Set aside.

With fresh figs, make a small incision in the upper part, so it can be closed back after stuffing. With a very small spoon, dig out the flesh and stuff the fig with about 1 Tbs. of the chicken mixture. With dried figs, make a small indentation with your finger and push in a small amount of the chicken breast mixture.

Place the figs into the sauce in the wok, cover and bring to boil. Lower the heat and boil gently for 15 minutes. Serve with white rice or couscous.

Janet Silver Ghent
Janet Silver Ghent

Janet Silver Ghent is a retired former senior editor at J. She lives in Palo Alto and can be reached at ghentwriter@gmail.com.