Special Sauce: Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook on What Makes Israeli Cuisine Unique
In part two of my enlightening and heartfelt conversation with Chef Michael Solomonov and his partner Steven Cook, authors of Israeli Soul: Easy, Essential, Delicious we took a deep dive into—what else?—the soul of Israeli food.
First of all, I became really envious when they told me about the kind of research they did for the book, which involved going to over 80 restaurants in eight days. That’s my kind of trip!
And, apparently, when you eat at that many restaurants, you end up discovering a lot about a place. Cook noted that in the book they try to explain where many of the culinary traditions in the country came from, and what makes them Israeli, by documenting “the stories of all these cultures that have come together in the last 100 years, and evolved the cuisine that was already there, and brought in new traditions.” As Solomonov notes, too, part of what’s unique about the country is that “most Israelis are a few generations away from their family coming from a totally different part of the world,” which makes for an interesting mix of food traditions.
But Cook also had one observation that stuck with me about what makes Israeli cuisine unique. He said, “Because of the way that so many different cultures have established themselves in Israel, within the last several generations, I think that there’s an attachment to tradition that is really special, and something that we see probably less of in America. As food obsessed as we are now, it’s about what’s new and hot. It’s not about doing something, perfecting something over generations, doing one thing, handing it off to your children. And that’s really an inspiring way, I think, to think about food, and I think it comes through in how it tastes.”
I learned so much from these passionate, smart advocates for Israeli food, and I have a feeling that many serious eaters will feel the same way after listening to this week’s Special Sauce.
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Ed Levine: Welcome to Special Sauce, Serious Eats’ podcast about food and life. Every week on Special Sauce we talk to some of the leading lights of American culture, food folks and non-food folks alike.
Michael Solomonov: The Druze style, like naan bread that you cook on a wok, you cook it on a saj but you can take like a $5 wok and flip it upside down, and cook it. So if you’re going to wrap up the lamb shwarma, that would be it.
Steven Cook: I think the sabbich recipe is really cool, because it’s a sandwich that’s popular in Israel but nobody’s heard of it, but it’s also quintessentially Israeli, because it came from Iraqi Jews, but sabbich doesn’t exist in Iraq as a sandwich.
EL: We are back in the studio with Philly-based chef, owner, author Michael Solomonov and his restaurateur-partner and co-author Steven Cook. Their most recent collaborations are the book Israeli Soul and the Rooster. So, you guys are busy.
MS: We are busy.
EL: You don’t stand still, do you?
SC: We like opening restaurants. I don’t know why.
EL: But you’ve had to close a couple too, that’s painful, right?
SC: It always seems like a good idea at the time, and then you gotta run them.
EL: So let’s talk about Israeli Soul, which is a really cool book. Although I have to tell you, it’s a really heavy book. I put it in my backpack … I tried to put the Zahav book and Israeli Soul book in my backpack, and my back hurt.
MS: Yeah, well, if you carry each one in an arm, you’re basically getting like arm exercises wherever you go.
EL: Yes it’s true. What I noticed when I read the book is, you have an almost anthropological approach to the subject of Israeli food.
MS: For me, that came secondary. I think the anthropological aspect of it is something that is just what it is. It wasn’t the angle. The angle was going to Israel, literally just flying to Israel, getting on a bus, and going to eat.
EL: Got it.
MS: And the rest of it sort of came from that-
EL: I love that kind of angle. I’m sorry I didn’t get to go with you guys.
MS: You should have come, it was pretty sick.
SC: Yeah, we had 80, I think 82 restaurants in the eight days we had.
EL: Get out of here.
EL: You know, when I wrote my pizza book, people think, that’s impressive, because I went to Naples and ate at 25 pizzerias in six days.
MS: Ugh, pizza’s hard.
SC: You get extra credit for pizza.
MS: What was your best, what was the best bite?
EL: You know, it’s interesting-
MS: Top three-
EL: The best bite was actually not pizza, because one of the things I got into trouble with the pizza police, was because I said the best pizza in the world is not in Naples.
EL: But I went to this restaurant and now I’m … was it called Mattozzi. I can’t remember the name of it. And I had all this great Neapolitan food but not … and they made really good pizza, but it was, you know, to this day I still think that Chris Bianco is making better pizza than anything you can get in Naples, although the guy outside Naples is doing apparently amazing food. I haven’t been.
MS: Yeah, like Naples was what everybody … I don’t know. We make very good pizza here.
MS: There’s very good pizza here in the States, you know?
EL: Especially now, more than ever. There’s Anthony Mangieri and in Philly you’ve had a few good you know. What’s it’s called Be- Be-
SC: Joe Beddia.
EL: Beddia, yeah.
MS: It’s so good.
EL: And apparently he’s, has he reopened now?
MS: No, he hasn’t. I think in a couple months he’s going to do it. But it’s so good. When you get a Beddia pizza, it is just like … and it’s non-traditional. I mean-
EL: Everyone tells me that.
MS: It’s ridiculously good.
EL: And I’m a little embarrassed to say that, you know, Mr. Pizza hasn’t been to-
MS: You should be embarrassed. I can’t believe you’re admitting it-
EL: All right, well I am-
SC: Most people haven’t had it.
EL: Don’t rub it in.
SC: He made 20 pies a night, so most people haven’t had it.
MS: That was the only time where I would only ever like take, I don’t know, whenever I would sort of cross the line and like call somebody on their phone and be like, “It’s Michael Solomonov. I need a pizza.” Because I’m not waiting for three hours, I can’t do that.
EL: It’s the only time where the subtext of your phone call is, “Do you know who I am?”
MS: Do you know what my last name is? No, I’d be like, “Joe, I will give you as much hummus as you want, I just, I need pizza now. Tell me when …” And it wasn’t like, come right now. He’s like, “All right, come at 10:15, be on time, and I will have a pie for you.”
MS: You know?
EL: So you traded.
MS: It wasn’t that … I wasn’t like, he didn’t…
EL: I know, I’m just kidding. So why this book now?
SC: Well, we had written Zahav and that was really the story of looking at the food through the prism of the restaurant, you know, which is not in Israel. And that was really Mike’s story, and the narrative there was Mike’s story. For Israeli Soul we, as Mike said, we wanted to bring people to Israel. I mean this book is as much travel guide as a collection of recipes.
EL: It it, I was about … that’s on one of my list of questions. It’s like, I feel like I want to go to Israel just to try all the places that you guys mentioned.
MS: You could get a plane ticket, take this book, and you’re good for like a few weeks.
EL: If it’s too heavy, get the ebook version.
MS: There you go, there you go. Or just rip off the binding. But even our friend who has his own travel company that coordinated all the logistics, that knows all of these restaurants is featured in the book as well, so you can just give him a call.
EL: All right, that’s great. So, this was supposed to be Israel’s story more than Mike’s story.
SC: Correct, and to your question about sort of anthropological nature of it, I mean Mike kind of just, in his DNA understands … you know, I think he understands the sort of synthesis of cultures that is Israeli cuisine, but for me and when we were writing this, you know, the way that I’m a sort of linear person, and I just, I wanted to kind of understand … I wanted to try to understand it in a way that we could have the reader understand it. The stories of all these cultures that have come together in the last, let’s say 100 years, and evolved the cuisine that was already there, and brought in new traditions. And so we tried to not just to gloss over things that people might have questions about, we tried to sort of go in and explain where these things come from, and where these traditions come from, and what makes them Israeli.
EL: Which is great, because I have to say that I was sort of ignorant. I didn’t realize until I read the book how much of Israeli cuisine is by definition hyphenated.
MS: That’s right. I mean most Israelis are a few generations away from their family coming from a totally different part of the world and so-
EL: Right, it could be North Africa, it could be Russia, it could be anywhere.
MS: And so those foods sort of, you know, they left that region in the second century and then became informed by the different stops along the way of those groups, and picked up things along the way, but always sort of around a central them of Kashrut, the Jewish-
EL: And explain what Kashrut is.
MS: The Kosher laws, the sort of basic Jewish practices around eating.
EL: I love what you guys say about Kosher. I don’t know if it was in the Zahav book or is it in Israeli Soul. You know, you had a really funny riff about this whole notion of what’s Kosher and what’s not, and you know, and how you don’t judge people, but as you know people get very very exercised about this.
MS: Well they do, and it’s also such a personal thing. I mean, people bend rules all the time. People have … like we grew up, in my household there would never be a pork chop, that would not be acceptable. But like the moment we would leave it was like, bacon cheeseburgers. And for some reason shrimp was somehow okay.
SC: In my house, we lived in Miami and we never bring any pork into the house, but during stone crab season, we would just like pile them on the table-
EL: That’s so funny, you know Calvin-
MS: Wait you would have it in your house?
SC: Oh yeah. From Publix.
EL: That’s awesome. Calvin Trillin always talks about the famous barbecue easement from the Rebbi in Joplin that allows him to eat pork barbecue.
SC: Special dispensation.
MS: Well that’s the thing, we have people that come into the restaurant that are like … so we don’t do, our version of Kashrut, of Kosher style, is we don’t have shellfish or pork at all, and we don’t mix milk and meat on one plate. All right? So we have cheese dishes, we have dairy, but then we also have meat, and they don’t touch, right? So we’ll have people that will come in that, if they were like Kosher Kosher they would never come into our restaurant-
EL: Right, exactly.
MS: But they’ll be like-
EL: Because you’d need two kitchens, and you know the whole thing.
MS: Well we, it’s just, we’re not, we don’t whatever. But then they’ll be like, “Can you order a kosher chicken?” Which of course we’ll do. But then it’s like, you know, you’re cooking it on a non-Kosher apparatus. And then they’ll be people that will say, “Can you make the laffa but serve it to me on a plastic plate.” And I’m like, whatever, you do you, and I’m going to do me, and I’m going to … you know, as long as you like this, that is totally fine.
EL: Right, yeah yeah yeah.
MS: But that, in terms of defining Israeli cuisine, you know, that is what helped. Because all the immigrants coming from Yemen and North Africa and Bulgaria, they had a certain style in which they cooked, right? The laws of Kashrut were pertinent, and there was always Shabbat. I mean besides the rest of the Jewish holidays that usually have food to help symbolize or identify which holiday, there was always Shabbat, which meant that Friday after sundown, you couldn’t turn things on and off. Ovens were always low. Cassoulet, right? Came from Jewish cooking.
MS: I mean, there’s hamin there’s cholent, there’s … the Yemenite bread which we have in Israeli Soul, which is kubana, it’s cooked overnight. And that … and you’re also commanded, basically, to eat a luxurious meal on Shabbat, the day of rest, on Saturday, but you also can’t turn things on and off.
MS: So it’s like you gotta get creative. So it wasn’t like, it wasn’t food from Yemen and Morocco, it was Jewish food.
EL: Got it.
MS: And that came to this land that was already Levantine, that was Palestinian, not just from the West Bank or from the Galilee but also from Gaza and there were Druze, and there were Bedouins, and there was the spice and the Silk Road, right? And there was like, the modern and ancient agriculture that really was started there, you know? So there’s just so much, there’s just so much.
EL: Right. And I think it’s interesting because I don’t think any of us knew that until you opened Zahav, and now I think you’ve opened a lot of-
EL: Opened Zahav. And now I think you’ve opened a lot of people’s minds, not just because I know you take people to Israel, and all that. It goes beyond that. I was struck by, after reading Israeli Soul, just how vibrant the food culture is, because of this collision of cultures.
MS: It’s the best. It’s the best.
EL: It’s insane. So, I have a question about how you guys go about writing your books, including Israeli Soul. So, I noticed that one of Saveur’s founding editors Dorothy Kalins is mentioned. What is the process like?
SC: Dorothy is amazing. She’s produced all our books and has, sort of, the clout to get the freedom from the publisher to, kind of, do it how we want to do it, put the team together, our own team, a photographer, Mike Persico, and Don Morse, the designer and Dorothy. I feel like we were, sort of, under this protective umbrella, that I’m starting to appreciate, is not the norm.
MS: Well, Dorothy sort of taught us. We became fluent in this process from her. Originally with Zahav, we tried to write her, and I don’t know, we kinda messed-
EL: You tried the usual collaborator-writer-collaborator-
MS: Actually we did, one of my good friends, who’s a fantastic writer, but it didn’t click. And Steve wrote a sample chapter, and we were like “I guess Steve’s going to write the book.” And Dorothy was like “you know Steve seems like he knows what he’s doing.” And, the idea, I think was that she would kind of help write and that we could edit, or whatever, and then it was like Steve wrote the book.
SC: Well, we wrote it together. I physically typed it, but we spent more of the last thirteen years of our lives together, than with any other person, including spouses.
EL: So, you can literally finish each other’s sentences?
SC: Exactly, so I mean particularly with Zahav, which was more Mike’s story, some of it was just direct quotes I had in my head from having these conversations with Mike. Some of it was me, sort of trying to channel Mike. But we spent hours talking about everything in the book, and it’s hard to keep Mike sitting down behind a computer.
EL: I can’t imagine that. I just feel that Mike is kind of a peripatetic restless soul. I don’t know why I say that. So, if you had to tell people three reasons to travel to Israel to eat, what would you say?
SC: Because of the way that so many different cultures have established themselves in Israel, within the last several generations, I think that there’s an attachment to tradition that is really special, and something that we see probably less of in America. As food obsessed as we are now, it’s about what’s new and hot. It’s not about doing something, perfecting something over generations, doing one thing, handing it off to your children. And that’s really an inspiring way, I think, to think about food, and I think it comes through in how it tastes. And that’s one of the things that was always really eye opening to me when I go to Israel, because we’re sort of engaged in this American food industry and trying to be successful and playing a game. And over there, the business is sort of secondary. I mean, they support their families by having one falafel shop that is been passed from generation, to generation, to generation that has supported this entire family. And I think that the singularity of the way that they approach things is really inspiring.
EL: Alright, what about you Mike?
MS: There is just an energy, in that country, that I just haven’t really experienced anywhere else. And I think that food is a really big part of it. It’s the way that the food is sort of symbolized the human aspect of it, and the different cultures, all the traditions. It’s just fascinating and it’s so bright, and it’s so vibrant.
EL: Vibrant. And it’s alive.
MS: Well, its living and breathing, and it tells so many stores that are so important to us, right now.
EL: It’s interesting, ‘cuz I saw the Phil Rosenthal Show that was about Israel and one of the things that he says, and you were in it, right? I believe?
EL: He was surprised by how complex. There’s a million Israels. If you read the newspaper, you think there’s one Israel.
MS: Right, and that’s probably the reason that opening Zahav was so important to me, personally, but I think there’s just a lot of different conversations, and I think that sort of starting through food, as hokey as this is, I would have made fun of myself a few years ago, the fact of the matter is diplomacy, on an actually level, is not working. Right? And I think that there is a way to do it and there is a way to capture the message that people are trying to say about themselves with food. And I think that you can do that, literally walking up and down a street, basically anywhere in Israel. And it comes with love, as Steve was saying. It’s this sort of dynasty of people making the same things that they brought with them from far corners of the earth right back to this place. It’s the one thing that they’ve made, that they’ve feed multiple generations of families with this one sandwich. And they still, to this day, make that sandwich for you. It is like, the flavors are unbelievable. All the produce is from within a hundred miles, not to be cool, not because locality is a food trend-
EL: Right, not because locavorism has taken over the country.
MS: But every Persian cucumber that has not been ever genetically modified, that has been growing using whatever brackish water in the desert, or something. It’s never sat on a truck for two or three days, you know? And I just think it’s amazing. And it’s not just that, it’s the way that these cultures spill onto each other, the way they’ve adapted and the way that you can see what Israeli cuisine is by going into somebody’s home on Shabbat and having one parent from Poland, one parent from Yemen, and seeing what that means while you eat it. You know?
EL: You didn’t really write that much about the whole Palestinian question. Can you imagine what they would serve at some meaningful Israeli-Palestinian peace talks?
MS: I know what I’m going to serve at that peace talk, and I’m not quite sure yet, but I think it’s more about- It’s funny ‘cuz just by having a book called Israeli Soul, opens it up.
MS: I’m very very good friends, one of my best friends is Reem Kassis, who wrote the Palestinian Table, and we’ve become very fast friends. And it certainly, that even now as we promote this book, I really think about what that means to her and it’s super complicated. And I have to say, since I’ve become very close to her, and my kids and her kids play together, and they know nothing about this conflict. They live in Philly, we live in Philly. They know nothing about this conflict. And I this year, so Israeli Independence Day is right after Israeli Memorial Day. They do it on purpose in Israel, because everyone is super sad and then fireworks go off. And the two times that we’ve won the James Beard Awards, it’s landed on Israeli Independence Day. So, it’s a big deal, right? We won Outstanding Chef on Yom Ha’atzmaut. And this year, for Memorial Day, Reem invited me to her house to talk about my brother, to celebrate my brother.
MS: Right? And I was like “I-.” And then the following day, is a day that I have always celebrated and I continue to and be proud of, but it also, she celebrates it as nakba, it’s when her family was pushed out of their village in Palestine. You know? I think that, we can dance around this stuff as much as we want, but at some point this is something that we’re going to have to discuss. And I think that by hiding, it feels a lot of things that aren’t necessary. So, I don’t know. At some point, it would be really nice to use the popularity that we’ve had, even on both sides, to really to move things forward.
EL: So, what would you serve? You said you know what you’d serve.
MS: I would serve bourekas.
EL: Which are sort of flakey-
MS: Which are the Balkan pastries.
EL: Flakey, savory turnovers.
MS: Exactly, and those were my grandmothers. And those are delicious.
EL: I associate those with Albania.
MS: Well everyone’s got the borek. I mean everybody’s got their version of that. And the Ottomans are the ones that kind of spread it around, a lot. The dough, I think, came from medieval Spain. I would do that, and this is hilarious, but I feel like schnitzel, man, like everybody loves schnitzel. Whenever we cook for the kids, that’s what everyone has to have.
EL: It is true. Everyone does love schnitzel. And you have a whole section of the book about schnitzel. I love the way you divide the book into, first of all, it’s all the things I like to eat. And there were some surprises like the organ meat sandwich, and it’s really fun. Are there three recipes that would encourage people to make from the book, right away? First of all, I have to start with the two-minute hummus, because I can’t believe that-
MS: It’s five minutes,
SC: But you increased the productivity two hundred fifty percent.
EL: So, five-minute hummus. You imply in the book that the five minute hummus will get you ninety percent of the way of your unbelievably delicious hummus.
MS: I think the five-minute hummus is awesome.
SC: I would stand by that, I mean started when we published the Zahav book, and we published the recipe that we actually use. It’s not a difficult recipe, but it requires some planning ahead. Soak the chickpeas, and depending how old your chickpeas are, which you won’t know until you start cooking them, it could take a while.
SC: There had to be something in between that sort of cold, stiff supermarket hummus, and this one-day affair. Also, a pet peeve of mine, when someone asks me to take a jar of a tahini and measure a portion of it, it’s a mess. The cleanup almost makes it not worth it. So we wanted to come up with a recipe that a), could use canned chickpeas b), could be made very quickly so people would actually make it. Cheaper by the way than what you can make in the supermarket, and where you wouldn’t have a lot of cleanup.
SC: It’s two cans of chickpeas, it’s a whole jar of tahini, you pour it in, you throw it out. It’s a lemon. It’s a piece of garlic, salt, cumin.
SC: Ice water. 5 minutes.
EL: I love that. Two more.
MS: I love our lamb shawarma in this. I think it’s so good. It’s a lamb shoulder roast. It’s spiced, slow-roasted, and then you rest it and slice it, and crisp it in a pan, and it tastes like shawarma.
MS: It tastes like shawarma on the street. It’s so good.
SC: There’s so much bad shawarma in the world.
SC: There is a lot of bad shawarma. It’s where they hide all the bad meat.
MS: Then I would say the third thing would be the mountain bread, because you can make it. It’s a Druze-style, like, mountain bread that you cook on wok. You cook it on a saj, but you can take like a $5 wok, and flip it upside down and cook it.
MS: And it makes the best wrap, so if you’re gonna wrap up the lamb shawarma or something, what would be your other thing.
SC: I think the sabich recipe is really cool, because it’s a sandwich that’s popular in Israel, but nobody’s heard of it, but it’s also one of these things that is quintessentially Israeli, because it came from Iraqi Jews, but sabich doesn’t exist in Iraq as a sandwich. It came to Israel, they adapted to the culture of stuffing anything inside of a pita.
EL: So we should explain that a sabich sandwich is fried eggplant…
SC: Fried eggplant, slow cooked eggs, hard cooked eggs, amba, which is a pickled mango condiment that traces its routes in Iraq to Jewish traders in India, and the fried eggplant, especially the eggs would have been cooked in this overnight stew. The Iraqi overnight stew, and before they went to Synagogue on Saturday morning, they would have plucked the eggs out of the stew, and eaten that for breakfast. So in Israel, where everything ends up inside of a pita. You have the eggplant. You have the eggs. You have the amba, which is this sort of this pungent, funky, sweet, savory, sour sauce, and then you add chop salad, of course, and tahini of course, and harif.
EL: Einat’s sabich is probably my favorite in New York, at Taim.
MS: It’s very good, yeah.
SC: Yep. It’s great, and it’s a vegetarian sandwich that packs a punch, and I think it’s cool because it was brought by Iraqi Jews, but only exists in Israel, and New York.
MS: Yeah, Einat is amazing. But it’s really a mouthful of fried eggplant in a pita, it’s just as good as it gets.
EL: Exactly. Yeah. So tell us about The Rooster.
SC: The Rooster is restaurant that we opened a little less than two years ago, and to cut to the chase, 100% of the profits go to support the mission of our non-profit partner. It’s an amazing organization in Philadelphia called Broad Street Hospitality Collaborative.
SC: They do meals, and social services for vulnerable Philadelphians, about 70,000 meals a year, but they really view themselves as being in the hospitality business. If you’re a guest at Broad Street, you will get seated by a host, you’ll be served a three course meal cooked by a professional chef, a table with linens, and china, and we got involved with them as an organization, and we’re so moved that we had to figure out a way to get more involved, and while this was happening, Federal Doughnuts, which was our fried chicken and doughnuts concept, was growing, and we were getting these beautiful chickens in, and cutting them up for frying, and throwing the backs in the garbage.
SC: As we grew, we have five of them now, we started to count how much chicken we were throwing away every week, and it was hundreds if not, thousands of pounds. We said, a couple of Jewish boys who didn’t know what to do with chicken backs, make chicken soup.
EL: Matzo ball soup.
SC: That’s right. The first idea was just, we’ll make soup, Broad Street will serve it to its guests, done deal, but the idea of a soup kitchen is sort of a dirty word at Broad Street, because that conjures up all these Dickensian images.
SC: They’re really about dignity and hospitality, and the power of hospitality so we went back to the drawing board, and we came up with what I think was a better idea, which was what if we had a restaurant where you and I could come in and eat, and spend 10 dollars on lunch, like we might do any other day, and know that 100% of the proceeds of that lunch are going, essentially you eat lunch at Rooster, someone else at Broad Street, their meal is paid for. And the backbone of that restaurant was originally, and still is soup, made from this food waste, and it’s evolved. Soup doesn’t sell so well in the summer, so we’ve sort of evolved the concept. It’s a Jewish deli, diner, lunch, and that.
EL: Pastrami sandwiches right?
SC: Pastrami sandwiches.
EL: Are you making your own Pastrami or buying it.
SC: We do, we make it.
MS: We’re doing smoked meat, and we’re doing corned beef.
EL: Yeah, I noticed that.
EL: In fact, that’s another thing you guys didn’t bring. The list is getting longer and longer.
MS: It’s pretty delicious.
EL: It’s really your guys way of paying it forward, in a really direct way.
SC: Well, if people in the hospitality business aren’t gonna look out for the vulnerable among us, who do we expect to do that work? It’s a small thing that we’re doing, but I think with the platform we have, we can sort of spread the word.
SC: Philadelphia’s food scene is incredible, we benefited from that, but it’s also a very poor city too.
SC: A lot of people can’t afford the hospitality that we make our living, sort of, supplying every day.
EL: Yeah. We have to do a truncated version of the All You Can Answer Buffet on special sauce for you, but I’m gonna ask you to answer individually. Only three questions. Steven, who’s at your last supper?
SC: I’m kicking myself, because I listened to the show and I should have known this was coming, I feel totally unprepared.
EL: Don’t worry. Then it’s your fault.
SC: It’s my fault, Mike you wanna go first on this?
MS: Alright, I’ll go. I feel like I was so obsessed with Jimi Hendrix as a kid. This would be a perfect opportunity for it.
EL: Absolutely, especially because Paul Allen just died, and he built the Jimi Hendrix museum.
MS: I grew up in Miami, and I was a diehard Miami dolphins fan, and Dan Marino was my hero growing up. I actually met him. My father in-law has a signed Dan Marino jersey in his office.
EL: So Dan Marino and Jimi Hendrix get the same-
MS: The same table. Like lowbrow.
EL: Is there a chef or a food person you’d want there? Is there a politician you’d want there?
MS: I feel like if it’s your last supper, and you’re about to die, can there be a politician that you would then kill? Can I talk about that?
EL: That’s a really complicated… We all know who it is right?
MS: I think there’s so many chefs I’d love to hangout with. I feel like any of the old French chefs would be fun. I would just like to see what it would be like to hangout with Escoffier or whatever for a minute.
EL: Or Julia Child?
SC: I would love to have a meal with Jacques Pepin. He was actually the dean at the culinary school that I went to, but I never got a chance to meet him.
EL: Kenji used to swear by La Technique.
MS: It’s an amazing book. I cooked my way through that book.
SC: There’s great how-to photographs, step by step.
MS: Yeah. It’s really intimidating though watching him peel celery root. It makes you realized that you don’t know anything, because he takes a paring knife, and it looks like the celery root just came like that. It’s really good.
EL: What are you guys eating at this last supper?
MS: Dim sum.
MS: I think dim sum would just be the way to go.
EL: Like just a combination of dumplings, chicken feet, it could be anything right?
MS: Not chicken feet, it would be mostly dumplings. It would be taro rolls. It would be like sauteed pea grains with garlic.
EL: I love sauteed. I like the idea of dim sum.
SC: I would start a bowl of pho, and finish with a pastrami sandwich.
EL: I like the way you guys think.
SC: Pastrami sandwich dipped in pho would be fantastic.
EL: So it’s just been declared Michael Solomonov day all over the world. Tell me what’s happening.
MS: It makes sick and scared. Michael Solomonov Day?
MS: Oh my god.
EL: How would people be celebrating?
MS: I don’t know, man. What about Steve Cook Day? It would be like bowl of pastrami sandwich. Dan Marino.
SC: Everybody sitting quietly doing a crossword puzzle.
EL: Everybody sitting quietly doing a crossword puzzle. I like that. What about you?
MS: I think there would be a very strong emphasis on recovery. There are these great 12 step meetings that are on the beach, in Margate, New Jersey, where I surf a lot, so probably have a little surfing, a little fried clam on hot dog buns, and a 12 step meeting.
EL: Yeah. So people would be confronting their weaknesses and eating fried clams on hot dog rolls. I love this.
MS: And surfing.
EL: I love love love love Michael Solomonov Day. Well you guys it’s been such a pleasure.
SC: Thank you so much for having us on.
EL: Oh, it’s really fun Michael Solomonov, and Steven Cook. Do check out their latest book, Israeli Soul, and their latest project the Rooster, which I’m gonna go have a pastrami sandwich in a bowl of chicken soup, and nobody’s food life is complete in this country is complete without a trip to Zahav. So long Serious Eaters. We’ll see you next time.
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