The "Basta", which kisses the Carmel market, was actually burned on Purim • But the flames did not extinguish the fire in the heart, and Chef Elon Amir continues to lead it, from French kitchens to those of the Maghreb
"I find good raw material and think what to do with it."
On the night between Friday and Saturday, a little before 4 in the morning, when his Purim rejoicing was already on the last steam, Elon Amir's phone rang.
"Come on, blaze in the flames," said the voice from the other side, and Ayalon began to run.
Make it all the way down Ben Zion Boulevard, left to King George, on to the Carmel Market, which at night always looks a little smaller, and from there right to Hashomer Alley.
The Basta is the pioneer of market restaurants in the country, whose cuisine relies on the produce of the market from which it comes, as if it were a branch growing from its stall.
The restaurant, which from day one had the beauty of a wine and food menu that puts the raw material at the center, offers open air and a kind of wild joy, one that can do whatever life brings.
For the past seven years, Elon Amir has been the place's almost anonymous chef, a man whose cuisine is one of the most respected and influential in the country, but he himself has difficulty with exposure.
At speed he ran down the road, as if all his fitness training, climbing wall, swimming in the sea, running, everything came to train him for a sprint that brought him to the plaza within minutes, which a few hours earlier had suffocated Purim celebrants and was now full of cops, firefighters and neighbors. From their sleep.
Then came Aviram Katz, a gifted winemaker, gracious host and the restaurant's manager, and with him the usual Itai, who in 2007 opened the barracks with Maoz Alonim, who meanwhile emigrated to Cambridge following his partner's academic career, leaving behind a charming collection of cookbooks that burned Painted black.
When I got there in the morning I found them sitting on the plastic crates of Tnuva, the ones that trained the creeper and became temporary tables at the takeaway games against the restrictions in the never-ending days of the Corona.
Insisting on the laughter they drank wine, filled small glasses with Spanish brandy.
In a stained face, Ayalon opened a soot of oysters left over from yesterday, and I thought it was possible to learn from the Basta people a chapter in crisis management.
Aviram filled me with a glass, warned me not to start crying, even though they could see in his eyes how the tears held back, and Ayalon said something about arranging an article I had not dreamed of.
For years he refused to be interviewed, in the end he relented, cooked, was photographed, and then the fire came and repainted everything.
* * *
He was born in Omer near Be'er Sheva, a place that strangely produced quite a few good foodies.
The youngest and most introverted of the four children born to a Jerusalem couple who emigrated to the south.
His father had a large furniture store in Be'er Sheva and his mother was an educator, a teacher of literature, expression and language, which did not prevent her young son from cultivating suspicion of words.
When I ask if it does not bother him that people talk about the Basta's food without naming him, he says it does not interest him.
"I'm interested in doing something that keeps getting better, I have no interest in someone flying at me. On the contrary, if someone tells me I'm perfect it will paralyze me. I will not know how to function."
He sees the relationship with the media as something that often leads to inaccurate statements, "words that come to serve the media and its expectation of you and cause you to stray from the truth. I do not like it."
The house where he grew up was a cooking house, and except for once a year when they went out to celebrate Tony's Chinese in Be'er Sheva, which he still owns, restaurants were not really part of the entertainment.
In the army he served in field intelligence, would observe targets, and to this day when he peeks out of the kitchen or bar at the prey of diners on the spot, one can easily recognize the crawling gaze imprinted on him.
After the army, he traveled to the United States for a year, and when he returned he came to Tel Aviv, Milzer and worked as a bartender, until he decided to try to move to the cooks' side. He cooked at a star restaurant in Provence, fell in love with 50 shades of olive oil, learned French techniques and enjoyed every moment, even though it was clear to him that this was not the kitchen he was looking for, after another episode of Toto he moved on, leading a kitchen for himself.
* * *
Then I also knew him.
That was in 2014, when they opened "Ben Zion 1" in front of my house, a restaurant that brought a short joy to our neighborhood.
Elon, a young and shy chef who upset the girls, served modest and accurate food there.
There was a pickled palmida that came with a soft-boiled egg, whipped cream and lemon peel, or a khostiki skewer, the same strip that ran along the fillet where it clung to the bone, on the other side of which is the sirloin, and a beauty of fish and chips installed by Malbark in a crispy and wonderful beer batter .
Dishes whose traces can also be found in the kitchen of the Basta, to which he continued.
A curious man who seeks to learn, that like his food he has spiciness and has great quietness, that he has complete creative freedom.
Could have sung solo, but Basta has some joy of dialogue that brings out the best in him.
A kind of deep food chatter that sometimes surpasses columns and sometimes laughs all the way from a first cup of coffee in the morning to a closing hour drink.
The menu is rewritten every day according to inventory and desire, what idea emerged from a photo or conversation.
"I find good raw material and think what to do with it," he says, and I think of all the times I met him rising and falling in the Carmel market, the trips of the basta men to hunt raw materials in Nazareth, the green soil of the north or the desert. Him, to walk with his gang that was woven years ago, in the corridors of the Eshel Hanasi school.
His kitchen moves freely between Asia, Europe and Arab cuisine, "I'm totally open to connections. Everything delicious works," he says, but I asked him to go for the Mughrabi kitchen, the one he grew up on and started cooking only recently, going back to Grandma's neighborhood kitchen Musrara.
Moroccan cuisine that travels the long way from the raw ingredients to the stew.
"I had to make a round until I dared to touch it. Maybe because I ate it all my life and was afraid it would be boring," he confesses, and I think there is a special power in the cook that touches his birth pot, the one that shaped its beginning.
In honor of a talented and humble artist who dedicates himself to making daily kitchens, in honor of my beloved Basta, to all the extraordinary people who create it, may the soot that broke my heart last Saturday rush to grow again a daughter of laughter and creativity, I bring you two dishes from Ayalon's Mughrabi cuisine that I love so much, dishes That go well with Simchat Aviv, that Inshallah will find herself this year.
There is something enchanting about this dish, which originally had spinach leaves that were dried and cooked until their faces turned black.
A big star in Tunisian cuisine and in this lobby, where it is called beetroot stew.
Refram Haddad, an artist and food researcher who has lived in Djerba in Tunis for years, says that the origin of the faqila, like that of many dishes in the Maghreb, is in Persian cuisine.
"I'm talking about ten percent of his identity. Then there are many incarnations. But like any dish that has grandparents, with the faqila these are the Persian cuisine."
In most recipes published in the land of the peca, olive oil is avoided, even though it is used in the countries of origin.
This is how it is with the changes that immigration is affecting kitchens.
I suggest you find a fine olive oil and go for it.
In Basta, the peca is served with kukla, the same semolina patties that taste heavenly, and with stuffed intestines.
In the recipe in front of you I gave up the guts.
The amount is good for 6 diners.
Ingredients for spinach:
√ 5 kg Turkish spinach the most (fresh!)
√ 1 liter of fine olive oil or canola oil
√ 6 cloves of garlic
√ 1 bunch of finely chopped coriander (300 g)
√ 1 bunch of
parsley (300 g)
√ 125 g ground beef
√ 125 g ground lamb fat
√ 1 cup (200 g) semolina
√ 2 tablespoons bread crumbs
√ 1 large white onion, peeled, finely chopped
√ 1 egg
√ 100 ml (a little less than 1/2 cup) water
√ 3 cloves of garlic
√ 1 bunch of parsley (300 g) free of stalks and finely chopped
√ 1 tablespoon sweet Moroccan paprika (referring to paprika in oil)
√ ground black pepper
For the stew:
For the stew:
√ 200 grams of white beans soaked overnight
√ 2 kg of clean beef tenderloin, cut into cubes of about 2 cm
√ 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
√ 1 white onion, finely chopped
√ 1/3 of the amount of black spinach
Start with the black spinach, from which you prepare a large amount that can be stored in the freezer, so that every time you prepare, take out one jar and use.
If you really do not feel like it, in French-speaking food stores you can find ready-made peca jars made in Israel, or those that came from Tunis.
The amount in the recipe is good for three dishes.
Chop and spin the legs in half, put all the leaves in a thorough wash and make sure there is no sand left in them.
Transfer to a colander (it is important to make sure there is no water on the leaves), place a wide pot on low heat and put the leaves.
Start stirring occasionally, until the leaves shrink and secrete a liquid.
When all this liquid evaporates, the spinach leaves will start to stick a little to the pot.
Do not be afraid, it is part of the process.
At this point, when the spinach starts to turn black, pour 1 liter of oil and let it simmer for an hour and a half on low heat.
Add all the other ingredients and begin to mash the spinach, until you get a black puree. Remove from the heat, cool and cool.
Now make the coca.
Put all the ingredients for a few minutes, until you get a mass with a soft plasticine texture.
Form 12 balls, mash slightly and refrigerate for an hour.
Now, for making the stew.
In a large pot with a thick bottom, heat 1/4 cup olive oil and fry the onion until golden.
Add the cheek meat and sear lightly.
Add 4 tablespoons of peca (black spinach) and mix.
Add water to the height of the meat, no more, as the secret is a little liquid and a small fire, which will not burn.
Add in the potatoes, bring to a boil and cook for about an hour.
Add the beans and cocoa, place the intestines we have filled (if we have filled) and cook for another hour and a half. It is best to serve after a few hours of rest, or even a whole day, so that the flavors connect.
Anthropologist Nissim Crispil says the name originates from the word akeda, a root used to describe an act of cooking that ties several things together.
The amount is nice for a pot with a diameter of 28 cm, one that knows how to sit on the fire and also enter the oven.
√ 8 boiled and peeled potatoes
√ 9 eggs
√ 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
√ 3 peeled carrots, cut into 1 cm cubes and cooked in water with a little salt
√ ½ 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
√ 3 cloves crushed garlic
√ 1 Tablespoon turmeric
√ juice from ½ lemon
√ 1 bag of baking powder
√ ½ a cup of fine olive oil
Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
Using a fork, mash the potatoes until you get a coarse-textured puree, one that has a few lumps in it.
Separate the eggs, and mix the yolks together with the potatoes and the rest of the ingredients, except for the olive oil.
Taste and adjust seasoning.
Whisk the egg whites to a firm foam, which is gently folded, one-third at a time, into the potato mixture.
Line the bottom of a pot with a circle of baking paper and heat over high heat.
Pour the oil into the pot, and when it bubbles, pour in the mixture.
Lower the heat to medium, cook for 10 minutes, cover with foil and place in the oven for 40 minutes.
Take out, let the business rest for a few hours and put in the fridge.
After it has cooled, release it with a knife if something sticks to the edges and turn over on a plate.
Elon reports that they eat the cold maquda, accompanied by a kitchen.