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Interview with Israeli Chef Vered Guttman

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As you may or may not remember (probably not because it’s not like I’ve already been a contributor here for a couple months and have pretty much told you about my life history in order to give you a better understanding of the Suffering of Russian Jews, except that now probably you hate us even more,)  my Hebrew name is Vered and I am pretty depressed that I don’t know any other Vereds. (Vardot?)

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So it was uber-exciting when I found out that not only is Vered Guttman named Vered, but is also a caterer in the Washington, DC metro area, owner of Cardamom and Mint Catering,  specializing in Mediterranean food, and my favorite, Palestinian lamb dishes (I was sad to find out that Bamba is not considered a cuisine choice.)  Although I was fearful that I would be impinging on froylein’s take of the Jewish food beat, I haven’t seen her post any cakes in the past couple of weeks, so the ball’s totally in her court now.

I  immediately plied Ms. Guttman with questions about Israeli cooking and the relationship between food and family, and begged her to teach me how to make something that would prove my worth as a housewife to Mr. B once and for all so I could quit my job and just do my housewife thing and watch The Tyra Show at the actual hour it comes on every day.

When did you start catering?

I started catering after moving to the US and not being able to find a job as a software developer. Coming from Tel Aviv, a foodie’s paradise, where many consider themselves as potential chefs, it fulfilled my dream as well.  I’ve been catering for almost 5 years now. I was happy to find that people in DC were open and excited with the new palate. For example – a dry fava bean salad, with only garlic, cumin, olive oil and parsley became a big hit. Who would have thought?

Is there such a thing as Israeli food?  Or did we  just Xerox Lebanese cuisine?


We did not steal  from Arab cuisine.  Jewish families that lived in Arab countries adopted the local traditions under the Kashrut laws, and then brought those traditions with them to Israel. So did my family – on my father side they brought the wonderful Iraqi cuisine, and on my mother side – the Polish.  Israeli cuisine is a fusion between the different cuisines the Jews brought with them from the Diaspora plus a strong influence from our Palestinian neighbors. What we got is a kitchen that’s rooted in its area, using the olive oil, dates, figs, lamb and fish and a bountiful variety of vegetables. Israeli chefs and home cooks feel comfortable mixing traditions from Morocco with spices from Iran, French baking with Yemenite dough (no, seriously). Or serving Chrayme (spicy fish in tomato and paprika sauce) for Rosh Hashanah, followed by chicken matzo ball soup.

The one unique Jewish element you can see in many of the different origins is the Shabbat dish. A dish you prepare on Friday afternoon and cook it all night on low heat, until Shabbat lunch. This was, and still is, done so not to work on the Saturday, and produced brown, moist dishes that fill the house with their wonderful smells until they’re finally served.  The Iraqi Tbeet – a chicken stuffed and covered with rice and chicken’s inner parts becomes so tender that you can eat its bones. The Eastern European Cholent – potatoes, beans, meat (plus numerous additions, I can’t even begin to describe here). The Yemenite Jachnoon – rolled dough that becomes sweet and brown, usually accompanied by tomato salsa. These are just a few.

What Israeli dishes can I make at home for Mr. B without having to buy a shwarma rotating thingy and some guy named Avi from Bat Yam to turn it?

The one Israeli dish I would recommend for every family is the Israeli salad (by the way, in Israel we call it Arabic salad or vegetable salad. It got the Israeli title in the United States). It’s easy to make, it’s colorful and delicious, healthy and my kids fight for it. I hope you’ll have it almost every day, as we do.

  • Get tomatoes, Israeli cucumbers (the small greenhouse cucumbers) and an onion. No quantities needed.
  • Chop the vegetables and mix. If you’re using the Israeli cucumber you don’t even need to peel it.
  • Add kosher salt and a little strong flavored olive oil.
  • Fresh lemon juice is also welcomed.
  • Now you can add other vegetables to your taste – chopped green or red peppers, hot pepper, shredded radish, cut lettuce.
  • Let the kids dip a good slice of bread into the juices accumulate at the bottom of the bowl, and they’ll be happy.


Here’s my Israeli salad from a couple months ago.  It’s the only thing I make that doesn’t poison Mr. B!  Shana tova u non poisonous-a to everyone.

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7 Comments

  1. Pingback: Friday Links 9.18.09 | Vicki Boykis

  2. ck

    9/18/2009 at 1:59 am

  3. froylein

    9/18/2009 at 8:04 am

  4. vicki

    9/18/2009 at 8:19 am

  5. Stuart D.

    9/23/2009 at 8:09 pm

  6. Pingback: Freekeh crowned grain of 2012 | Gesher Madison

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