No Has Bean: Lubiya Will Transform Your Holiday Cooking

Trained in Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda market and the kitchens of sophisticated London restaurants, this cook prepares new holiday dishes with a traditional flavor.

Hedai Offaim
Hedai Offaim
Musar Sashimi.
Musar Sashimi.Credit: Dan Peretz
Hedai Offaim
Hedai Offaim

Uri Navon could only have been born in Jerusalem. Maybe this is why his father brought his mother from Abbas Street in Haifa to the Kiryat Menachem neighborhood in Jerusalem, and its housing projects, before they brought him into the world. His mother’s family had been living in this country for 12 or 13 generations, while his father’s Kurdish family were among those who quarried the rocks in the mountain to build the neighborhoods around the Mahaneh Yehuda market. Growing up there, Uri spoke a beautiful Jerusalemite Hebrew mixed with Ladino, full of idioms that begin with tears and end with a smile.

The dishes Uri cooks at his acclaimed Machneyuda restaurant blend those childhood years in the market alleyways with the precise training of London kitchens in his later youth. He was drawn to cooking from an early age, but never planned on doing it professionally. It was happenstance that led him to the stove.

In his kitchen, as in his life, he turns in circles, without ever returning to the starting point, so that the story will never end and the conversation will never die. Maybe for the holiday you should just make some meatballs and stuffed vegetables, I prod him playfully. Uri smiles and sheepishly says he’s never been capable of making those dishes the way his mother or his aunts do. Then he looks at me and says: “Look, this is where I was born, and this is how my parents raised me, and this is how I learned from my teachers and friends from days gone by, and from the seasons of the year, and now it’s just me, Uri, and so it’s up to me to prove myself.”

Tambour salad.Credit: Dan Peretz

Lubiya for the holiday

Lubiya and tortellini in tomato sauce.Credit: Dan Peretz

Lubiya (black-eyed peas) are eaten on Rosh Hashanah because our sages identified it with rubiya, which Rabbi Abaye says in the Babylonian Talmud should be eaten on Rosh Hashanah as we recite the blessing, “may our privileges be manifold” like the peas in the long pod. Some people simply refer to the holiday foods as “blessings,” since each one symbolizes another blessing for the coming new year: beets (selek) to make our sins go away (lehistalek) and leek (karat) so our enemies shall be cut off (karet) and dates (tamar) so that our troubles should end (tam). Fresh lubiya has a very short season, and is at its best right around the holiday. The long twisty pods fill the crates at the market, and when shoppers fill plastic bags with them to take home, they seem to keep on dancing all the way to the kitchen.

Fresh Lubiya.Credit: Dan Peretz

Uri has taken from the old and the new to put together a holiday meal sure to bring manifold blessings.

Musar (red drum) sashimi with pickled onion, lubiya and pomegranate

I do not believe that long-held cooking traditions should be casually replaced. But new traditions can be added gently: new traditions that contain lubiya and fish and pomegranate, but have a new look and a new taste. Perhaps one day when our children are grown and have their own homes, they’ll serve these dishes and tell their guests they were passed down from their parents and must be preserved.

For the pickled onion:

½ cup olive oil

½ cup white wine vinegar

juice of 1 lemon

4 tbsp sugar

1 medium red onion

For the salad:

½ cup almonds, blanched and sliced

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp shata pepper

1 cup green lubiya beans, removed from the pods

1 cup pomegranate seeds

5 radishes

leaves from 3 stalks of cilantro

1 tbsp lemon zest

olive oil

juice of ½ lemon

sea salt

coarsely ground black pepper

pickled onion (see recipe, above)

500 gr musar fillet or other fresh, firm fish, skinned and boned

½ cup thick yogurt

½ hot green pepper

Preparing the pickled onion: Place the oil, vinegar, lemon juice and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil while stirring. Meanwhile, peel the onion and divide into six sections. When the liquid is boiling, put in the onion, cover, turn off the heat and let the liquid cool. The onion will keep for a long time in the refrigerator and can be used to enhance the taste of many different dishes – either raw and crisp, or as an addition to cooked foods.

Making the salad: Toast the almonds, sugar, shata pepper and a little salt in a dry skillet for a few minutes, until the almonds are golden and slightly scorched. Remove from heat and let cool. Place the lubiya and pomegranate in a bowl. Slice the radishes as thinly as possible and add together with the cilantro leaves and the lemon zest. Season with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and black pepper. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.

Assembling the dish: Cut the fish into ½-centimeter-thick slices. Scatter a few spoonfuls of yogurt on the serving platter, arrange bits of the pickled onion on top and then top that with the fish. Thinly slice the hot pepper and place one slice on each piece of fish (optional). Place mounds of salad next to the fish and serve with a glass of wine.

Lubiya and tortellini in tomato sauce

When Uri served these scarlet creations to us it made me think of our Jewish tortellini – kreplach. Uri’s dish seems new – the dough is more delicate and more crisp and the filling is dense and dark, but when it sits in the tomato sauce with the cooked lubiya, it also feels like an ancient dish adorning the holiday table like an old familiar guest.

Uri’s tortellini filling is made of oxtail that has been cooked for a very long time, but any dark, rich beef roast will do the trick.

For the sauce:

¼ cup olive oil

2 onions

8 garlic cloves

1 heaping tsp sweet paprika

1 tsp ground cilantro seeds

A little hawaij spice (for those who like it)

½ kilo green lubiya

200 gr tomato paste

800 gr canned crushed tomatoes

2 cups beef or chicken stock, or water

sea salt

black pepper

For the tortellini:

400 gr white flour

100 gr hard pasta flour

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp water

1 egg

5 egg yolks

500 gr beef roast, cooked and cooled, or Uri Navon’s oxtail (see recipe, below)

Preparing the lubiya: Place the oil in a wide pot, add the onion and saute until golden. Add the garlic and saute two more minutes. Add the paprika, cilantro and hawaij, and mix. Cut the lubiya into 3-4 cm long pieces and add to the pot to fry lightly with the onion and spices. Add the tomato paste and let it bubble a little. Add the crushed tomatoes and scrape the bottom of the pot to bring all the flavors into the sauce. Add 2 cups of beef or chicken stock, or water, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil.

Lower heat, taste and adjust seasonings, and simmer for about 45 minutes, until the lubiya has softened and the sauce is thick and rich.

Preparing the tortellini: Start by preparing the dough: Place the flours, olive oil, water, whole egg and egg yolks in the bowl of a food processor and combine until the texture is uniform. Remove from the food processor and knead by hand for a few minutes until the dough is pliable and lightly golden. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

With a sharp knife, chop the meat for the filling. You can also add some of the vegetables from the stock to enrich the flavor. Divide the dough into three parts. Put each part through a pasta machine to get a thin (but not too thin) sheet (number 6 on most machines). Cut out 8-cm circles and place a teaspoon of the filling in the center of each circle. Fold in two, dampen the edges and press them together. Place the ends together, press them together and put on a floured surface. The tortellini may be prepared ahead of time and placed in a single layer in a container in the refrigerator, as long as they are well-floured so they won’t stick.

Assembling the dish: In a wide pot, heat vegetable oil, 3-centimeters deep, and deep-fry the tortellini until slightly browned. No need to boil them first. When fried, the fresh dough will become flaky and delicate.

Before serving, place some of the lubiya mixture in a bowl and top with the tortellini so they will absorb some of the sauce but remain crisp.

Uri’s oxtail (for the tortellini filling)

¼ cup olive oil

2 kilos oxtail

3 onions

4 peeled carrots

1 leek, cleaned

12 stalks American celery

8 garlic cloves

¼ cup wine vinegar

3 tbsp honey

coarsely ground black pepper

1 cup red wine

1 tsp allspice berries

2 bay leaves

sea salt

Heat the oil in a heavy pot and brown the oxtail on all sides. Remove the meat from the pot. Peel and dice the onion, carrot, leek, celery and garlic and add to the pot. Saute until the vegetables are golden and then return meat to the pot.

Add the vinegar, honey and black pepper, and combine until a dark glaze is formed. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add the allspice, bay leaves and sea salt and boil the mixture for about 7 minutes, until the alcohol evaporates. Add water just to the top of the meat. Bring to a boil and lower the heat. Simmer very slowly in a covered pot for 3-5 hours, until the meat is soft. If needed, add a little water during the cooking.

To make the filling, let the mixture cool and then pull the meat off the tailbone. Chop with a sharp knife, together with some of the vegetables, and combine.

Uri’s Tambour salad with quinoa, lubiya and dates

No matter what old or new dishes you have at your holiday table, you won’t want to miss out on this terrific salad. Uri named it after a paint company for its bold colors. It’s composed of a precise blend of bitter and sweet for the new year.

2 cups lubiya, shelled

2 cups red quinoa, cooked al dente

½ cup red pomegranate seeds

8 yellow dates

1 red onion

3 cucumbers

5 tomatoes

1 hefty bunch of parsley

12 sprigs of cilantro

½ cup blanched slivered almonds

¼ cup fine olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

sea slat

coarsely ground black pepper

Blanch the lubiya for 2 minutes in boiling water, drain and let cool a little. Put in a bowl with the quinoa and pomegranate seeds. Pit the dates and slice them thinly. Chop the onion, cucumbers and tomatoes and add all this to the bowl.

Mince the parsley and cilantro and add to the bowl. Toast the slivered almonds in a dry skillet until golden, and add them to the bowl.

Season with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and mix, tasting and adjusting the seasonings as necessary. Serve in a shallow bowl so that the freshness and color of the salad really stands out and brightens the holiday table.



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