By Danielle Crittenden Frum
In the heart of Tel Aviv’s Levinsky market on Zebulun Street, you’ll find a chic, glass door opening in the row of otherwise traditional market stalls selling spices and fresh fruit. This is the entry to Dalida, the restaurant opened by Dan Zoaretz — one of the new chefs leading the rage for Israeli fusion food. Zoaretz, who for the better part of his young career worked in Asian cuisine restaurants, decided to break out and embrace his mixed, exotic heritage:
“My grandmother was from Yemen, my father from Libya. There is a lot of European in there too,” Zoaretz told me as we sat at a front table in the restaurant one recent morning, just as the day was getting started. Delivery men passed back and forth hauling crates of fresh vegetables while outside I could hear the grates opening on neighboring stalls. Zoaretz said he chose the name Dalida after the Egyptian-born singer who “performed in more than 10 languages, including Arabic, Italian, Greek, German, French, English, Japanese, Hebrew, Dutch and Spanish.”
I asked Zoaretz which was his favorite of his menu’s ambitious combinations? He pointed to an item simply listed as “Mom’s Pasta.” This, he explained, was a traditional fresh pasta in pomodoro sauce, but with a Lebanese twist — including the addition of cumin. He serves it on a standard brown glass plate — a tribute to the surrounding humble ethnic market restaurants where, at lunchtime, old men crouch over Persian and Yemenite dishes served up on the same type of plate. Indeed Dalida is a tribute to the whole Levinsky market — applying old methods to completely modern creations.
1 pound homemade or high-quality fresh paparadelle pasta
4 tbs olive oil, plus more for spiced garnish mixture
2 large yellow onions, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 cups fresh ripe tomatoes or one 28-ounce can of San Marzano whole tomatoes, cut in half, plus 2 fresh tomatoes chopped
Pinch of ground allspice
1 cup roughly chopped garlic
2.5 ounces spicy dry chili
2.5 ounces sweet red paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground caraway seed
Handful fresh oregano leaves
Freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano
Handful fresh basil leafs, shredded
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
For the sauce:
In a medium-saucepan heat 2 tbs of the olive oil and saute the chopped onion for five minutes. Add the chopped carrots and saute for five minutes more. Add the parsley and the halved tomatoes (plus their juice if using canned). Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring several times. Then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for three hours, adding water if necessary. When finished, use a food processor or immersion blender to blend everything into a smooth sauce. Add the allspice and season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Meanwhile, using a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic with the dry chili, paprika, cumin, caraway and salt to taste. Slowly drizzle in some olive oil, mixing until smooth. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.
When ready to make the pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, add the remaining 2 tbs of olive oil. Saute the chopped tomato until almost burned. Then add the sauce and fresh oregano leaves. Turn down the sauce, and simmer until ready to use.
Boil the pasta until al dente, according to directions (if fresh this will be no longer than 3-5 minutes). Drain and toss with the sauce. Sprinkle with the basil leaves and add the cheese, salt and pepper to taste. Serve each bowl with a spoonful of the spicy garlic sauce on top.
SUGGESTED WINE PAIRING: Yatir Mt. Amasa 2011.
We love the red blends being produced by Israeli boutique winery, Yatir. This blend is composed of 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 25% Shiraz, 5% Petite Verdot and 3% Malbec, from a number of plots in the Yatir Forest vineyards at altitudes between 650 and 900 meters above sea level. The medium bodiness of Mt. Amasa has the lightness for a warm summer evening. The notes of plum with a hint of spice and smokiness make it a perfect companion for our exotic pomodoro sauce.