Shaya by Alon Shaya

The moment I received Shaya: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel by Alon Shaya I posted on social media that our beloved, member favorite Ottolenghi might have some strong competition for best book of 2018.  In the cookbook reviewing world, I struggle every day with adequate descriptions in my writing – beautiful, stunning, gorgeous, inspiring – are overused (not to mention the word delicious) but what am I left with? This book embodies all those descriptors and more.

Alon has put his heart into the creation of this odyssey of food and delivers a soulful, touching book that is as much a joy to read as it is to cook and learn from. Just from his writing, I feel he is a gentle, caring soul that is deeply connected to his vocation – feeding people. His passion for food flows through his words both in his personal narrative and in his recipe writing.

HIs dedication “To my mother, Aliza. You have spent your entire life living for mine, and have always loved, believed, and trusted in me, even when I gave you reason not to,” cut me to the core. As most of you know, I have a young son with bipolar and autism issues who has a 130 IQ and can be very sweet. Most days we deal with abusive language, physical threats (with punches landing) and more. I needed to read that dedication today to remind me to continue to have hope for him and for life in general. It is easy to become buried in negative thoughts but when we take a step back and breathe – our lives are wonderful – it is the bumps that make us appreciate the smooth sailing, and sometimes a capsize can put it all into focus.

Even sans the personal narrative, the photographs and recipes in this book are worth the cost of the book – but we are gifted with both a moving story and incredible dishes. There are more than one hundred recipes that range from Roasted chicken with harissa, Marinated soft cheese with herbs and spices (the recipe we are sharing today); Buttermilk biscuits; to Whole roasted cauliflower with whipped feta. Alon’s pita and slow-cooked lamb recipes are both shared here. I have a friend in New Orleans who said, “I’d pay $80.00 for the book for those two recipes alone.” The measurements are Americanized for those outside the US, don’t let that deter you from the greatness of this book. 

Alon is on tour and his schedule is shared on our calendar. He took time to answer a few questions for us and for that we are grateful. I wrote him to thank him for writing such an amazing book and for sharing it with us – I hope you find as much joy in this title as I have. Special thanks to Knopf for providing a recipe for our members to try now and for providing three copies of Shaya in our contest below. 

Q: Being a chef is a calling – your love of food is obvious – when did you first know that cooking was going to be your life. Was it also one of your dreams to write a cookbook – how did the book come to be?

A: I always realized from the age of 7 that I really loved food. Probably even earlier but at 7 years old I knew I had a special connection with my grandmother’s cooking. I wouldn’t say writing a cookbook was always a dream, but I knew that it was the right time in 2015 when I began to finally embrace my heritage through food.

Q: Someone once said that writing a book was like having a child – or giving birth. What was the hardest aspect and what was the most gratifying?

A:  It was a very intense process that was very emotional and personal. I’d say the hardest part was opening up so much of my history to the world. It’s something I’ve always kept private. The most gratifying part was getting to become closer friends with everyone involved in the production of the book. Vicky Wilson with Knopf helped us see our vision through, Tina Antolini co-authored the book with me, Rémy Robert developed the recipes and cooked every dish in the book multiple times, Rush Jagoe took beautiful photography and Francis Rodriguez drew powerful illustrations.

Q: What is one thing that you want your readers to take away from Shaya?

A: I’d like the recipes to mean more than just a meal after they read the stories leading up to it.

Q: If you could use one sentence to describe your food what would it be?

A: Simple and tied to a story that is meaningful and genuine.

Q: Who are some of your food/chef heroes?

A:  Chris Bianco, Faith Willinger and Ashley Christensen.

Q: We are cookbook lovers and collectors. Are you? If so, how many cookbooks do you have, which are your favorites?

A: I have probably 50 or so. Jerusalem by Ottolengi is a favorite as is Eating in Italy by Faith Willinger. Also love The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters.

Q: How do you keep the inevitable headaches of the business side from diminishing the obvious joy you find in cooking?

A: You can’t seperate the two and they work hand in hand. Business has never diminished my joy of cooking and cooking has never taken away from the importance of running a solid business.

Q: New Orleans is a cliche for people who don’t know the city. What is your favorite “secret” of New Orleans?

A:  Pho Tau Bay Vietnamese Restaurant. Their pho is incredible and they are a New Orleans Restaurant through and through. 


Marinated soft cheese with herbs and spices
Add this recipe to your Bookshelf (click the blue +Bookshelf button).

Yield 6 to 8 servings

  • 8-ounce wheel of soft goat or mixed-milk cheese, such as La Tur
  • 3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice berries
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon whole coriander seeds 

  • 1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil 

  • 2 dried bay leaves

  • 1 dried árbol chili pepper, or 1⁄4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

  • 1 star anise pod
  • Two 2-inch strips of orange peel, orange part only, divided
  • A crusty baguette
  • Maldon or other flaky sea salt, to finish

This dish was a revelation when Emily and I ate it in Milan: when you start with great ingredients, you’re wise not to mess with them. It’s a moment of perfect simplicity; at the right temperature, olive oil and cheese can be as flawless as any- thing that costs you far more time, money, or energy. Any brand of soft aged cheese will do-I like La Tur, a mixed-milk cheese that’s as creamy as goat, with just a little sheepy funk, softened by the cow’s milk. Mt Tam, a domestic triple-cream cheese, is a great alternative. Have fun with the spices: throw in a couple cloves instead of the star anise, add a sprig of rosemary instead of the bay, or use lemon instead of orange.

1. Heat the oven to 325 ̊F. Put the cheese in the bowl or rimmed plate from which it’ll be served, to let it soften.

2. Use the side of a knife or a rolling pin to crush the garlic lightly, just so it starts to open up in its skin. Lightly crush or roughly chop the allspice and coriander, and add them, with the garlic, to a small ovenproof saucepan, along with the olive oil, bay leaves, árbol chili, star anise, and one strip of orange peel. Cover with a lid, and bake for 40 to 45 minutes; the garlic will be very golden and the orange rind will have darkened quite a bit.

3. Once the sauce has come together, remove the saucepan from the oven and increase the heat to 425 ̊F. Take the second strip of orange peel and give it a little twist over the pan to release the oil, then drop it into the pan and let the oil cool down.

4. Cut the baguette on a bias into 1⁄2-inch slices, and arrange them on a baking sheet. Toast at 425 ̊F for 6 to 8 minutes, until they’ve built some nice color along the edges.

5. Pour the seasoned oil over and around the softened cheese, letting the spices run free, and sprinkle on the salt just before serving. Slather the toasts with the cheese, and encourage your friends to dab up every last drop of the infused oil.

Recipe used with permission of Knopf from Shaya by Alon Shaya ©2018. Photograph credit: Rush Jagoe

The publisher is 3 offering copies of this book to EYB Members in the US. One of the entry options is to answer the following question in the comments section of this blog post.

Which recipe in the index would you try first?

Please note that you must be logged into the Rafflecopter contest before posting or your entry won’t be counted. For more information on this process, please see our step-by-step help post. Be sure to check your spam filters to receive our email notifications. Prizes can take up to 6 weeks to arrive from the publishers. If you are not already a Member, you can join at no cost. The contest ends at midnight on May 8th, 2018.

Post a comment


  • heyjude  on  March 22, 2018

    Schmaltzy Potatoes

  • rchesser  on  March 22, 2018

    Blueberry rugelach!

  • jluvs2bake  on  March 22, 2018

    While reading the book, I soon realized I wanted to try almost every recipe, even some with ingredients I don't like (such as liver). but the first one I want to try is the slow-roasted lamb shoulder <3 If it's half as good as the lamb at his restaurant, it will be a life-long go-to!

  • lauriesk  on  March 22, 2018

    I would try first the Fried eggplant with caramelized tomato and goat cheese.

  • jmay42066  on  March 22, 2018

    Pan-fried whole fish with brown butter

  • monasli  on  March 22, 2018

    Whole roasted cauliflower with whipped feta.

  • BethBakesBest  on  March 22, 2018

    Ricotta with date and pecan pesto and anything with eggplant.

  • LarissaPrusak  on  March 22, 2018

    Tomato soup! I haven’t found one recipe yet, that really got me craving for more.

  • sarahawker  on  March 22, 2018

    Za'atar toad in the hole

  • annmartina  on  March 22, 2018

    When we had the hummus and pita at the restaurant in 2016 they were a revelation. It's the only hummus my husband has ever liked. We gorged on pita fresh for the wood burning oven. I've been waiting for this cookbook for so long. I've already made the hummus and pita. My son said he hadn't had pita that good since he was in Palestine a couple of years ago. I love this cookbook. It's beautiful, filled with photos, watercolor illustrations, stories and recipes from Israel to Italy to New Orleans.

  • amyz218  on  March 22, 2018

    Israeli couscous with summer vegetables and caramelized tomato sounds delish!

  • lisaevanoff  on  March 22, 2018

    Israeli salad

  • michalow  on  March 22, 2018

    Apple fennel with candied pecans sounds like a refreshing place to start.

  • katehill  on  March 22, 2018

    Za’atar fried chicken!

  • DarcyVaughn  on  March 22, 2018

    Peach and mascarpone hamantashen

  • HelenB  on  March 22, 2018

    Sweet tahini burekas sound really special.

  • mkcorban  on  March 23, 2018

    Pork and mushroom risotto

  • monique.potel  on  March 23, 2018

    Fennel sausage
    i love love fennel sausage
    what an odd place in the world to find pork sausage recipe
    wondered if they have a twist on the italian ones

  • mph993  on  March 23, 2018

    Kibbeh nayeh – love Aleppo pepper and this sounds like an interesting dish to try

  • kmn4  on  March 23, 2018

    Yogurt pound cake with cardamom-lemon syrup

  • Siegal  on  March 23, 2018

    I want to do the shmaltzy potatoes

  • sgump  on  March 23, 2018

    The cherry & pistachio cookies sound nice!

  • sipa  on  March 23, 2018

    Yogurt pound cake with cardamom-lemon syrup

  • jezpurr  on  March 23, 2018

    Labneh cheesecake with pomegranate caramel and candied nuts!!!^_^

  • ravensfan  on  March 23, 2018

    Schmaltzy potatoes

  • vickster  on  March 24, 2018

    Hungarian paprikash

  • mpdeb98  on  March 24, 2018

    Cherry and pistachio cookies

  • leilx  on  March 24, 2018

    Yogurt pound cake with cardamom-lemon syrup sounds delicious!

  • matag  on  March 24, 2018

    Tarragon Dumplings

  • JenJoLa  on  March 24, 2018

    Za'atar toad in the hole

  • genie28  on  March 24, 2018

    Hungarian paprikash

    It's one of those dishes your hear about but never really try and I'd like to change that!

  • choppergirl  on  March 25, 2018

    Schmaltzy potatoes

  • lpatterson412  on  March 25, 2018

    Special Sandwiches!!

  • Shelley.b  on  March 25, 2018

    Blueberry rugelah

  • RSW  on  March 25, 2018

    Boreka dough

  • ket06e  on  March 26, 2018

    Bright green falafel!

  • amferrer  on  March 26, 2018

    Hungarian paprikash!

  • LaurenE  on  March 26, 2018

    Yogurt pound cake with cardamom-lemon syru

  • Uhmandanicole  on  March 27, 2018

    Peach and mascarpone hamantashen

  • hirsheys  on  March 27, 2018

    Classic hummus with tahini – the previous reviewer says it's amazing.

  • eveaway  on  March 27, 2018

    1. Brussels sprouts with caraway and tahini (page 141) and also
    2. Farro and kale with saffron vinaigrette (page 206)
    from Shaya: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel by Alon Shaya
    both sound fantastic!

  • EmilyR  on  March 28, 2018

    Fried eggplant with caramelized tomato and goat cheese

  • Scotsman61  on  March 28, 2018

    Slow-roasted lamb shoulder

  • Jostlori  on  March 28, 2018

    Pickled Shrimp. So hard to choose – they all sound wonderful!

  • AnnaZed  on  March 29, 2018

    Watermelon and feta salad with harissa

  • t.t  on  March 29, 2018

    Za'atar chimichurri

  • Sfgordon  on  March 29, 2018

    So many recipes look interesting but I would start with the everything bourekas

  • Dannausc  on  March 30, 2018

    Watermelon and feta salad with harissa

  • TrishaCP  on  March 30, 2018

    Watermelon and feta salad for me too…

  • Aproporpoise  on  March 30, 2018

    The chilled yogurt soup!

  • finnsmom64  on  March 31, 2018

    spicy scallop rolls

  • Karla123  on  March 31, 2018

    Israeli couscous with summer vegetables and caramelized tomato…a perfect dish to make with garden herbs and vegetables.

  • Laura1  on  April 1, 2018

    Yogurt pound cake with cardamom-lemon syrup

  • Jenamarie  on  April 2, 2018

    Chocolate-candied hazelnuts

  • love2chow  on  April 2, 2018

    I absolutely adored the fresh puffy pita bread and hummus at the NOLA restaurant – one of our favorite restaurant experiences there
    So definitely want to try the pita. The Roasted speckled trout with tahini and pine nuts and the Israeli couscous with summer vegetables and caramelized tomato also look intriguing.

  • ohyoucook  on  April 2, 2018

    Bulgarian lamb kebabs.

  • Kduncan  on  April 2, 2018

    Hungarian paprikash

  • verorenee  on  April 3, 2018

    potato and egg boreka tart

  • RoseMGenuine  on  April 3, 2018

    Curried sweet potato and leek pie

  • ktwalla  on  April 5, 2018

    Fennel Sausage

  • Teruska  on  April 8, 2018

    The index makes it seem like I would like to cook my way through most of this book. I'd start with the Spicy Scallop Roll as I love a good lobster roll and I love scallops.

  • Signe  on  April 10, 2018

    Zaatar chimichurri

  • FireRunner2379  on  April 11, 2018

    After googling it, I would like to try the Boreka dough. The Chocolate-espresso cookies also sound really good!

  • cellenly  on  April 12, 2018

    Brussels sprouts with caraway and tahini

  • RickPearson54  on  April 15, 2018

    boreka dough

  • pigpig  on  April 15, 2018

    Everything borekas

  • OzarkChef  on  April 15, 2018

    I want to try everything. Especially the borekas.

  • Mkeinarson  on  April 15, 2018


  • rachael_mc  on  April 15, 2018

    Roasted speckled trout with tahini and pine nuts

  • dbielick  on  April 15, 2018

    Everything borekas

  • demomcook  on  April 15, 2018

    Yogurt pound cake with cardamom-lemon syrup.

  • ADeeRD  on  April 15, 2018

    I would like to make the Zhoug- the one at Trader Joes is too hot.

  • NaomiH  on  April 16, 2018

    Banana bread with carob molasses butter

  • bologna  on  April 16, 2018

    Chris Bianco is one of his chef heroes? He's a local phenomenon/kitchen god here in PHX. I'm sure I'd love this book. Where would I start? wherever the book opened to!

  • nesshawk  on  April 16, 2018

    Schmaltzy cornbread with gribenes – what's better that chicken fat and skin??

  • kprovost  on  April 17, 2018

    Yogurt pound cake with cardamon lemon syrup!

  • Julia  on  April 17, 2018

    Pan fried whole fish with brown butter

  • robynsanyal  on  April 18, 2018

    Tomato soup with rice, simple and delicious 🙂

  • VeryVigario  on  April 19, 2018

    Spicy scallop rolls

  • Lmocooks  on  April 20, 2018

    Tarragon dumplings . Didn't have to look far into the index before I started drooling over the names. Tarragon! Fennel! Harissa! It all sounds so good!

  • acecil  on  April 25, 2018

    oh that soft cheese looks delicious, but its hard to choose

  • PeavineBlues  on  April 26, 2018

    Crab cakes

  • littleminxgirl  on  April 26, 2018

    I've been trying to find a falafel like I had in Egypt.. perhaps this one is close enough

  • Sofie168  on  April 26, 2018

    I want to try all the lamb dishes.

  • Katiefayhutson  on  April 27, 2018

    Blueberry rugelach

  • orchidlady01  on  April 28, 2018

    Fried eggplant with caramelized tomato and goat cheese

  • marsmomma  on  April 28, 2018

    I would make the Fried eggplant with caramelized tomato and goat cheese, I absolutely love eggplant!

  • MiMi60  on  April 28, 2018

    Ricotta with date and pecan pesto and anything with eggplant.

  • eggplantolive  on  May 2, 2018

    Bright green falafel and shaved cabbage with orange blossom vinaigrette

  • lgroom  on  May 2, 2018

    Pork and mushroom risotto

  • parnassus  on  May 7, 2018

    date pancake and rose tahini, omg

  • MiMi60  on  May 8, 2018

    Cherry and pistachio cookies

  • Lorihahn  on  May 8, 2018

    Marinated cheese with herbs and spices….the picture makes me hungry!!!!!!

  • theheritagecook  on  May 8, 2018

    The Kibbeh Nayeh captured my attention immediately and I am drooling at the thought of making it!

  • JMelnick  on  May 8, 2018

    Everything bourekas and everything else!

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