Erez Komarovsky is a man who naturally brings together all the best aspects of food. Erez built his reputation as a baker; he is credited with instigating Israel’s “bread revolution” some twenty years ago. Bakers tend to be a finicky and exacting breed, but on the afternoon we spent in his kitchen, few ingredients were measured out: dishes were tossed together by hand, tasted frequently, thoroughly enjoyed, and lightning bolts of inspiration were accepted as a matter of course. In the film The New Cuisine of Israel you will get to visit him at his beautiful home at Mitzpe Matat in the Upper Galilee, overlooking Israel’s border with Lebanon. We had the privilege of visiting him there to cook and eat, but our day with Erez began early, at the marketplace in Akko.
We met for breakfast at the busy Sa’id hummus shop, where the waiters clearly knew Erez and gave him a perfunctory nod. From there, we strolled over to the market fishmongers, who glanced at Erez askance as he inspected their wares, seeking out the brightest eyes and scales, the bluest claws, the perfect aroma—that is, a slightly salty non-aroma in the case of the freshest fish. He spoke with them in Arabic, asking (it was clear) what other fish they had in the back, then examining that secret stock with a raised eyebrow and haggling like the pro he is, and finally coming away with a couple of pounds of blue-silver calamari and a weighty, sparkling sea bass, which he hefted matter-of-factly into an ice cooler in the back of his truck.
About an hour’s drive to the north, Erez showed us around his beautiful, somewhat chaotic stone home. We wandered the tiers of his vegetable patches, carrying baskets and filling them with dark-red cherry tomatoes, kale, Thai basil, scary-looking tiny hot peppers, Jerusalem artichokes, and more.
Working with whatever he has at hand, Erez riffs like a brilliant jazzman. His kitchen is light and open and well stocked, although like many cooks, he mostly uses only a few favorite tools. The mortar and pestle are indispensable (everything from basil and garlic to peppercorns is purposefully smashed), as are a couple of good, super-sharp knives.
Just before the bass, onions, tomatoes, kohlrabi, basil, and crushed salt and pepper were flung in the taboon, they received a liberal drizzling of honey from the hives of the beekeeper down the road and olive oil from a neighbor’s press. Sometime later, greens, vegetables, and fish were piled into a gorgeous knoll on a platter, and we sat down to a truly unforgettable meal.
Erez brings a spirit of improvisation, integrity, and exuberance to the experience of food. We think that is the finest way to cook and to eat.
Stills from the film The New Cuisine of Israel, available with the purchase of The Desert and the Cities Sing: Discovering Today’s Israel.