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Food For Thought: The Cookbook Nancy Leson Says You've Got To Zahav

Nancy leson
From the Zahav: A WOrld of Israeli Cooking. Roasted zucchini with anchovies, feta and hazelnuts

Nancy Leson says it's "My new favorite cookbook.  I just got my hands on it a couple of weeks ago and I can't stop cooking out of it."  Nance adds that she'll be making some of its recipes for the rest of her life. 

That's such a strong recommendation that I'm considering actually shelling out my own money for a copy of  "Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking."   The Pink Lentil Soup with Lamb Meatballs alone looks  worth the price of admission.

Nancy has dined atZahav, the Philly restaurant Chef Michael Solomonov's book is named for. One of her favorite recipes is for Solomonov's flatbread. "This one allows you to make either Iraqi style laffa, a thinner flatbread, or pita," she says. "Yeast,  sugar, an even amount of all-purpose and bread flour, salt and olive oil. Mix, let rise for an hour or overnight in the fridge."

Rather than baking in the oven Nancy prefers the browner result she gets from a dry cast iron skillet with a glass lid (Goodwill!).  Here's a step-by-step pictorial.

Credit Nancy Leson
Nancy's skillet-baked pita.

"Preheat a large un-greased cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, slap a single round into the pan. Cover with a glass lid to provide a steam chamber. Gently flip with a spatula at the first sign of bubbles (this should take about 30 seconds) then cover and continue cooking. Use your nose to tell if the bread is burning and adjust the heat if necessary. Repeat the process, wiping the pan with a damp paper towel to remove flour if need be. Each loaf should take no more than a few minutes to "bake" --  from start to finish."

"There can be no joy without food and drink." –Talmud, Mo'ed Katan

Dick Stein joined KNKX in January 1992. He retired in 2020 after three decades on air. During his storied radio career, he hosted the morning jazz show, co-hosted and produced "Food for Thought" with Nancy Leson and wrote and directed the Jimmy Jazzoid live radio musical comedies and 100 episodes of Jazz Kitchen.