Adeena Sussman is #Cooking_History: A Modern Twist on Middle Eastern Flavors

In honor of the Jewish New year, Adeena Sussman shares a new recipe inspired by a cookbook that helped new immigrants to the Land of Israel adjust to the local cuisine.

Ro Oranim
Pomegranate Mint Iced Tea, photo and recipe by Adeena Sussman.

If you speak to a new immigrant in any country, they will undoubtedly have much to share regarding the challenges they have faced on their journey. From learning a new language to adjusting to a new set of cultural norms, new immigrants need time to acclimate and begin to feel at home.

Jewish immigrants to the Land of Israel in the 1930s found that adjusting to the realities on the ground was no simple task. For the newly immigrated housewife who, while caring for her household and cooking for her family, encountered a new set of ingredients, limited resources, and different cooking methodologies, the adjustment to the Middle Eastern kitchen proved to be particularly challenging.

Dr. Erna Meyer, a veteran immigrant to the Land of Israel at the time and a teacher of cooking and nutrition at the WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organization) Domestic Science School, understood these challenges and set out to create a guide intended for the fresh-off-the-boat housewife on how to navigate local ingredients and cooking techniques. “How to Cook in Palestine” introduced local ingredients like eggplants and mint leaves in an approachable and unintimidating manner as Dr. Meyer explored their uses and developed several methods of preparation for each ingredient.

“How to Cook in Palestine,” by Dr. Erna Meyer. From the National Library of Israel collection.

“There is an inexpensive green on the market used to a great extent by Arabs and English people, the fresh green leaves of which if added to a salad give it an entirely different taste,” wrote Dr. Meyer. “It is also excellent for spicing vegetable and meat sauces. The Arabic name is ‘nana,’ English ‘mint.’”

Dr. Meyer encouraged her readers to dive into the wonder that is Middle Eastern cuisine and invited the newly immigrated to let go of their expectations of recreating their European kitchen and embrace the beauty of local custom and cuisine.

The modern Israeli kitchen draws its inspiration from the same local ingredients and bright, sunny flavors explored by Dr. Meyer in “How to Cook in Palestine.” Adeena Sussman, a professional recipe developer and renowned food writer with a passion for soulful home cooking lives just a few steps away from the bustling market of Shuk HaCarmel in Tel Aviv.  Adeena recently released her debut solo cookbook, “Sababa: Fresh, Sunny Flavors from My Israeli Kitchen” (Avery, September 2019), a book which features 120 recipes that showcase local ingredients prepared with a wide-reaching embrace of global influences and immigrant traditions, all adapted for the home cook.

Adeena Sussman in her kitchen. Photo by Dan Perez.
Starting with basic Middle Eastern ingredients combined with her unique flair, Adeena’s book inspires the modern home cook to venture forth and discover the unique flavors that stem from the Israeli kitchen.

In honor of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, the National Library of Israel has embarked on a journey to bring some of the oldest and most interesting recipes from the Library collections back to the forefront. Inspired by “How to Cook in Palestine,” Adeena Sussman, who moved permanently to Tel Aviv in 2015 and experienced life as a new immigrant herself, developed a modern and fresh recipe utilizing the same local ingredients that inspired Dr. Meyer.

“I loved looking through the Wizo cookbook and seeing the throughlines that connect the cookbook’s origins to the present time,” said Adeena. “The huge impact women have had on Israeli society on every front; understanding the importance of cooking as a way to connect to a land and a culture, and a celebration of the luscious bounty Israel has always provided.”

Using mint leaves and pomegranate juice, this iced tea recipe brings with it a pop of color and freshness that belongs at your holiday table. Starting with a base of brewed tea, Adeena adds pomegranate juice, a nod to the custom of eating pomegranates on Rosh Hashanah as they symbolize righteousness and fruitfulness. The bright sprigs of mint serve not only as a beautiful garnish but add that unique twist to what is surely going to become a staple at your dinner table.

Pomegranate Mint Iced Tea, photo and recipe by Adeena Sussman.

Pomegranate Mint Iced Tea

2 herbal tea bags of your choice, such as lemon verbena, mint, or green

1 1/2 cups pomegranate juice

3 cups of water

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds, plus more for garnish

1 lemon, cut into thin rounds

1 bunch mint

Fresh ginger, sliced


Brew the tea bags in 1 cup of hot water until room temperature, 15 minutes. Transfer to a large pitcher and add the pomegranate juice and water. Drop in the pomegranate seeds, ginger, and lemon rounds, then fill the pitcher with ice and tuck in a generous amount of the mint, leaving some for garnish

To serve, fill glasses with ice, then add 1 lemon round, a sprig of mint, and some pomegranate seeds to each glass. Fill with tea and serve immediately, Shana Tova!   Discover a world of Jewish cooking: Exploring the Mysteries of Jewish Cuisine The Simple Grain That Saved the State of Israel from Starvation The Strange Connection Between a Medieval Shopping List and a Divorce Contract  

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