Who are we?
Born in Netanya in 1972. Journalist and photographer, senior editor at Yedioth Ahronoth. Creator of the blog “The Rebels” which documented dozens of old business owners who insist on keeping their stores in line with the older tradition of the country. Assi is also one of the authors of the book “Communal Dining – Stories / Recipes / Kibbutz” (Lunchbox Publishing, 2012) which compiled the mythological dishes from various kibbutz dining rooms. On the cover of the book, which was published to great acclaim and became a bestseller, it says that Assi loves home-cooked food made from the heart. Assi stands behind this sentence and adds that he also loves to cook this type of food, “Especially what I learned from my mother who is the real cook.”
Born in Jerusalem in 1972 and raised in Rishon LeTsiyon. Organizational consultant and coach, mainly in the business sector, who counts businesses, managers as well as private individuals as customers. In the family kitchen, Shirit is mainly responsible for preparing the salads and desserts and acts as Assi’s sous chef (“I have no choice”) when preparing meals for family and friends.
“Lucky for us, we also have the Egyptian side, whose food is much simpler to prepare. The children’s favorite dish is belihat – airy meatballs in spicy tomato sauce. My grandmother Bella, who was born in Alexandria, explained that the meatballs were so named because of their shape- they resemble dates- the word for which is ‘balach’, in Egyptian Arabic.”Assi Haim
Yahli, 17 and a half years old. Graduates from twelfth grade this year. Active in the Scouts and has an impressive collection of shoes, of which he is also a designer of great skill. Recently, he also started designing shirts. Yahli eats everything and likes to try anything new. This was clear to his parents when the first word out of his mouth was not ‘dad’ or ‘mom’, but ‘cake’.
Doron, 13 and a half years old. Finishing eighth grade and very excited about going to high school. Doron, like her older brother, is active in scouts. Unlike her brother, she is very picky about food but that doesn’t stop her from going into the kitchen and trying to cook and taste. As far as Aba Assi is concerned, Doron is the next generation in their culinary world and he is trying to teach her as much as possible the secrets of the family kitchen. Most of all, she likes to bake, but her father tries to convince her to cook as well.
Zohar, 9 and a half years old. She loves to sing, act and dance. For her, food ranks very low in importance. According to her parents, this is probably also why Zohar eats everything.
Where was the photo taken?
We live in Givatayim in a 5-room rental. We had to rent out the beloved apartment we own in the city as we had outgrown it. Our current kitchen is now larger with more work tops and it makes the world of difference. We have lived in Tel Aviv for years but wanted to be home owners and with Tel Aviv out of our economic reach, we chose Givatayim which is the closest alternative, both physically and mentally. In recent years, the city has seen a cool awakening and now boasts a buzzing restaurants and bars scene, which is great fun, but we also try to keep up with all the new recommended restaurants opening up in Tel Aviv. After all, they are only a 10 minutes motorcycle ride away.
Our family kitchen
Shirit comes from an Argentinian family, and meals at her parents’ house focus heavily on meat. Shirit’s father is the king of asado, and he works his home grill overtime. Recently, they decided to try and reduce their meat intake, and heaven forbid, give veganism a shot, but it proves very hard with Shirit’s father working his magic on the grill with some marvelous cuts of meat.
Meat also plays a central role in Assi’s side of the family; his mother emigrated to Israel from Kurdistan and his father arrived from Egypt, both bringing with them grand culinary traditions which have taught and inspired Assi greatly.
Kurdish cuisine consists mainly of semolina or rice dumplings, stuffed with meat and cooked in soups. in Assi’s family, they call it Kifteh. In fact, every holiday and special event has its own particular Kifteh; on weekdays, Kifteh Chelia is served in a basic red soup, while on Fridays Kifteh Humsa is served in a rich sour vegetable soup. During Passover Kifteh Arza, rice dumpling stuffed with meat, is served in a clear broth (substituting the chametz semolina dumpling), and on the Sabbath every person is served one large Kifteh that has been slow cooking on a hot plate all night.
“The only problem is, it’s a grueling job,” Assi says, “I learned the secrets of preparing Kifteh from my mother. When we lived in Miami and I missed her dumplings I became an expert in preparing them and it’s still really hard work. I remember Grandma Narges sitting on a small stool over a huge round stainless-steel tray, rolling one dumpling after the other and gradually filling the huge tray until the last Kifteh was placed in the center. Once that was done, she would proceeded to make the soup as we all sat, eagerly awaiting and drooling from the smell alone. The current pace of life makes it quite difficult to incorporate them into our family kitchen, and we rely on my mother to occasionally surprise us with a large pot of Kifteh goodness.”
The House Recipe: Belihat- Egyptian Meat Patties
“Luckily, the food on the Egyptian side of the family is a lot simpler to prepare and stars in our kitchen. The kids’ favorite dish, which we have at least once a week, is Belihat; fluffy meat patties poached in a seasoned tomato sauce.” Assi’s grandmother, Bella, was born in Alexandria and emigrated to Israel in the 1950s. She explained the patties are named after the Egyptian name for dates, ‘Balah’, as they are shaped like them. As soon as the patties are ready, serve as a starter a crusty white bread, to soak up the all the sauce. Alternatively, serve as a main course with white rice.