From Iraq With Love

By | Apr 15, 2013

Is sabich destined to overtake that staple of Israeli sandwiches, the formidable falafel, as the paragon of Israeli food? “I can’t see sabich getting more popular than falafel,” says Admony. “There is more awareness of falafel. It’s already got its reputation—the idea of the chickpea, that it’s healthy.” But something sabich does share with falafel is the fierce loyalty of its devotees to a particular sabich shop. Vendors may offer the sandwich “with parsley or no parsley, with potato or no potato, some with feta,” says Admony.

While gourmands across the world seem to agree on sabich’s appeal, they don’t agree on how the dish got its name. One theory is that the word comes from the Arabic word for morning—sabeh—for the time when the sandwich was a Saturday morning fixture. Another is that the concoction was named after an Iraqi man who moved to Israel and sold the sandwich. And, finally, the third tale contends that the name is an acronym for the Hebrew words salat, beitzah and hatzil—salad, egg and eggplant, the wrap’s key components. “I have no idea how it will ever be settled,” says Ariel resignedly. “It probably will not.” —Sala Levin

Israeli artist Shahar Marcus, observing tahini dripping from the sabich he was eating, was inspired to turn sabich into art. Reminded of abstract expressionist artist Jackson Pollock’s technique of splattering paint on his canvas, Marcus translated it to sabich-making, tossing tahini, eggplant, eggs, salad and other ingredients onto a curtain-like pita, à la Pollock. Marcus has performed the piece across the world, and a video of it hangs in a permanent exhibit in the Israel Museum, next to a Pollock painting. “After I did the work, I saw the connection between high art and low art, between the fact that a Jackson Pollock painting stays forever and costs $14 million, and I’m using ingredients which disappear after a few days,” says Marcus, adding that his sabich isn’t always tasty; when one audience decided to try it, they discovered that “it was too spicy. It was almost inedible.”

Recipe: Sabich

4 eggs
4 pieces pita bread
8 cherry tomatoes, ends trimmed, finely diced
½ English cucumber, finely diced
½ small white onion, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice from 1 lemon
1 large eggplant, peeled, halved and sliced ¼ inch thick
canola oil
1 cup hummus
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
mango pickle, harisa, or hot sauce of choice

1. Pour 1½ quarts cool water into medium-sized saucepan. Carefully add eggs. Turn heat to high and bring to a bare simmer, about 180°F. Turn off heat and let sit for ten minutes. Transfer eggs to ice water and let cool. Then peel under cool running water, dry with paper towels, and thinly slice.

2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 200 degrees. Add pita bread and let warm in oven.

3.Toss together tomatoes, cucumber, onion and lemon juice in medium-sized bowl. Season with salt to taste.

4. Pour enough oil to coat bottom of 12-inch stainless steel skillet set over medium-high heat. When shimmering, add as many eggplant slices as will fit in one layer. Cook for about four minutes a side, or until they are well browned on each side. They will suck up the oil at first, but after a few minutes, they should purge some of it. Remove slices and drain on paper towel. Add just enough oil to cover bottom of the skillet again. Repeat process until all of the eggplant slices have been cooked.

5. Remove pita from oven. Add a few slices of eggplant, slices of hard-boiled egg, tomato salad, parsley and hot sauce of choice.

Source: Herbivoracious, Michael Natkin

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