I know that when I make one of her dishes, like the Yemenite Chicken Casserole at the top, it is going to work. This is because Faye digs at a dish until she understands exactly what makes it tick, or how to fix it if it isn't right. She may not intend to write about it at all. She simply wants to know.
And yet this strong intent comes in a tiny package. Faye is so petite that when she gave a presentation at Melissa's Produce recently, she had to stand on a box behind the counter so people could see her.
The topic that day was two of her specialties, Jewish and Middle Eastern cooking. Faye has lived in Israel and has trained and worked at LaVarenne in France, where she acquired a thorough grounding in cooking principles that can apply to any cuisine.
She has written for many publications, including The Los Angeles Times and, with her husband Yakir, is culinary correspondent for The Jerusalem Post magazine.
The six I have include "1,000 Jewish Recipes." In my opinion, writing a book that extensive is more than enough for one lifetime. Each recipe has personal commentary. And on every page I find something I want to make.
Two of the recipes prepared by Melissa's chefs to go with Faye's appearance came from that book. The green tahini sauce above, served with crudités, appears in "1,000 Jewish Recipes" as Herbed Tahini Sauce.
For dessert, she chose a creamy rosewater pudding from "Feast from the Mideast." Known as muhallebi or mallabi, it is street food in the Middle East and in Turkey is a popular treat in "pudding shops."
Easy to make, the pudding is delicious with its topping of strawberries and pistachios. It would be the perfect ending to a spring dinner following Yemenite chicken and its accompanying vegetables.
YEMENITE CHICKEN CASSEROLE WITH POTATOES, ASPARAGUS AND CARROTS
From "Faye Levy's International Jewish Cookbook"
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil, vegetable oil or chicken fat
2 medium onions, chopped
8 medium garlic cloves, chopped (about 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons)
3 tablespoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup water
6 pounds chicken legs and thighs
2 pounds Dutch Yellow Potatoes or 8 medium boiling potatoes
1/3 cup coarsely chopped parsley, plus a little chopped parsley for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound ripe tomatoes, chopped, or a 14-ounce can plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 pound medium carrots, peeled, cut in 2-inch lengths and quartered
3/4 pound medium-width asparagus, peeled and cut in 2-inch pieces
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (optional)
Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 300 degrees.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large deep heavy flameproof casserole over medium-low heat, add onions and saute until golden. Remove from heat. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the garlic, cumin, turmeric, tomato paste and 1/2 cup water.
Add chicken to casserole and mix; chicken should be well coated with spices. Add potatoes, parsley, salt, pepper and tomatoes and mix thoroughly. Cover tightly and bake about 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until chicken is very tender; check occasionally and add liquid if necessary, so there is just a little sauce but chicken does not get dry.
Meanwhile, cook carrots in water to cover over medium heat for 7 minutes or until just tender. Remove with slotted spoon. Add asparagus to cooking liquid and boil uncovered 3 to 4 minutes or until just tender. Rinse asparagus with cold water; drain well.
Shortly before serving, heat 1 to 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add remaining 2 teaspoons garlic, followed by the carrots, asparagus, pepper flakes and a pinch of salt. Saute until heated through.
Taste chicken sauce and adjust seasoning. Sprinkle the chicken with chopped parsley. Serve the asparagus and carrots with the chicken.
Makes 8 servings.