This Gal's Gotta Eat! — Four Top Chefs on Feeding Wonder Woman
Gal Gadot is a gorgeous and arresting Wonder Woman. The actress, who proved her mettle as a hand-to-hand combat instructor in the Israeli army, establishes a commanding presence on screen. But we never see her sit down for a meal--there's just no time.
A meal befitting this Amazon could convey so much. And at some point a girl's got to eat. But what do you feed Wonder Woman...a Jewish Wonder Woman?
Four top chefs--Michael Solomonov, Nir Mesika, Zachary Engel and Meir Adoni--all experts in Israeli and Jewish cuisine--answered my call to describe the meal they would serve her.
Four-time James Beard winner and restaurateur Michael Solomonov responds first:
He settles on a modernized version of siniya, an Arab main dish. His version uses barbecued beef cheeks with tomatoes, cinnamon and tahini.
"It's usually braised meat or kabob stewed in tahini, which is very, very rich in protein. I feel that would be very useful," says Solomonov. "Ironically, this dish is all over Lebanon," he says, referring to the Middle Eastern country that officially announced a ban against showing the movie.
An Israeli chopped cucumber and tomato salad would accompany the entree. "It's the way to go," says Solomonov. "It's what a lot of the laborers in Israel eat." Thus it represents the ordinary people Wonder Woman fights for. "It's kind of breakfast, lunch and dinner. It's not only healthy but not a lot of work."
We agree this meal could fit one of two occasions: during Gal Gadot's down time as museum curator Diana Prince, or as a celebration after fighting the Germans.
"And you know what else?" Solomonov asks. "Those smoked turkey legs at Renaissance festivals. The smoking preserves the meat so Wonder Woman can probably carry them with her. But I feel like she could kick some ass and then eat a turkey leg."
For desert he first imagines "from a pragmatic point" that she needs peanut butter and chocolate to be in fighting form. "On the other hand I envision a bowl of grapes and apricots. She's Israeli so she would probably like this."
In the background the "mysterious and haunting sounds" of the British band Portishead would be playing. What would the great chef discuss with Wonder Woman? "I would see where the conversation went." We agree this would be the right move.
Israeli chef Nir Mesika's meal for Gal Gadot draws on the sights, smells and memories of his home and streets in Israel:
"My first dish for her would be smoked eggplant with roasted tahini, lemon preserve with Greek yogurt and roasted tomatoes. I think she's gonna like it."
Every house in Israel uses eggplants, says Mesika. When he arrives at his highly acclaimed East Village restaurant Timna in New York City "the smell of eggplant brings me back to seven years old when I would come home from school. So that's for sure what I'm making for Wonder Woman."
After that, "I was wondering: does she keep kosher? To be safe I like grilled red snapper, or grilled striped bass with sunchokes, artichokes and olives in a turmeric butter stew. It's super Mediterranean and also reminds me of a lot of flavors from Israel," says Mesika.
"For the main course I was thinking grilled lamb chops with rosemary, mujadara with bahārāt spices, and a lot of fried onions over a black garlic puree."
Basbousa cake is for desert, and it's Meskia's grandmother's recipe from Egypt. "It's a semolina cake with vanilla ice cream and shredded halvah on top. We bake it and cut it in small pieces, put ice cream on top and add lavender honey or date syrup," he says.
"I wish I could cook for her," says Meskia wistfully. "I wish it could be in my home."
Either at home or at Timna there would be the distinctive olive leaf on the table. Israeli 70s music like that of Shalom Hanoch would play in the background. "He's super famous. He's like the Israeli Bob Dylan. I'm sure she'd like him," he says.
Mesika isn't ready for his meal with Wonder Woman to end. "I would prepare my beet juice cocktail ("Wicked Red" on the menu), made with vodka liquor, beet juice, orange blossom, honey and lemon."
We also discuss the appeal of Mesika's "Peace in the Middle East" cocktail. It would certainly represent a critical mission for Wonder Woman. The ingredients include lavender, lemon, Dolin Dry and blanc de blanc.
Chef Zachary Engel, chef de cuisine at Shaya restaurant in New Orleans, has said that he lacks "a-grandma-taught-me-everything story:
No matter. He was this year's winner of the James Beard Rising Star award.
The most important meal of the day for Wonder Woman, he says, is breakfast. "You can't stress enough the importance of breakfast," he says.
"I'd cook her a big bad Israeli breakfast, with all the giant spreads with pita and Yemenite breads like kubaneh, a nice bowl of labneh, because of lots of great protein in that, hummus, tahini, all that good fat, and some hard boiled eggs and fruit. It's all fresh and light and healthy components so she can balance it out and save the world," he says.
"It would be pretty cool to have Wonder Woman come to Shaya. I'd show her how to make pita. I don't know what her powers are in terms of controlling fire, but she'd probably learn a thing or two."
Engle suggests she arrive "early, around eight o'clock before all the cooks arrive. I don't want her to get stressed out."
It's a lovely hour in New Orleans, "not too hot. By 11 am when the sun's out it's hard to breath."
Engel decides Shakshouka -- his version is with green chili zhong -- has to be part of the spread. "It would be the only hot thing and it's perfect to go with the breads."
We agree that much of what we see of superheros shows them rushing into action without preparation.
"It's one of the discrepancies of the fantasy comic book word. These guys aren't running on X-cakes (cakes decorated to look like X-Men). They have to refuel at some point. I would just like to see for once a comic book showing a superhero eating a big meal," he says.
Hold the Turkish coffee. "A nice fresh-squeezed orange juice will keep her blood sugar levels up. If she had caffeine she'd crash at some point," he says.
"She then might take off in her invisible airplane." It's a detail only fan boys and fan girls of the original comic book would know.
"Local" is Moroccan-Israeli chef Meir Adoni's calling, and for him, the fish are jumpin':
Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman thrived growing up on the island Themyscira, a spectacular Mediterranean-like island. It's also been referred to as Paradise island.
For Adoni there is no hesitation about serving multiple fish dishes, ones that come straight from the menu of Nur, the latest of his three restaurants, this one in New York City's trendy Chelsea neighborhood.
"Nor has a modern interpretation of Middle East food and will remind her of home," says Adoni.
The first dish would be his signature date doughnuts--fishballs of smoked trout surrounded by Majdoor dates, with an outer circle of curry citrus and a Moroccan-spiced dipping sauce. Next, a Kibbeh nayeh that combines yogurt and raw fluke, with bulgur and black Persian lemon powder would also be served to Wonder Woman.
Then comes a black bass and freekeh risotto entree with spring greens and eggplant cream.
"Each dish, while it has health benefits for the exceptionally strong Wonder Women, will bring Gal back to her childhood and the flavors she grew up enjoying," says Adoni.
Pardes is for dessert. Adoni's version is a citrus, passion fruit and chilled coconut soup, served with fruit sorbets and lavender-filled doughnuts.
"What wakes me up each morning," says Adoni "is my passion to create emotional food and to create communication between all types of people through food.
It looks like Gal Gadot has a lot of fine choices before the sequel.
Hearty Sinaya Beef-Cheek Stew
By Michael Solomonov
3 tablespoons hawaij (Yeminite spice blend)
4 tablespoons salt
3 pounds beef cheeks
4 beefsteak tomatoes
2 Spanish onions, sliced
1 head of garlic, minced
3 large carrots, chopped
2 quarts chicken stock
¼ cup tomato paste
8 sheets of matzo
2 cups water or prepared coffee
1 cup of prepared tahini
¼ cup olive oil
1 bunch chopped parsley
1 bunch chopped cilantro
1) Mix the salt and hawaij together in a small bowl and rub into the beef cheeks to coat. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
2) The next day, preheat a stovetop grill on high. Grill the beef cheeks until the exterior has a good char on both sides — about 2–3 minutes per side. Take beef cheeks off the grill and set aside.
3) Preheat the oven to 300º F. Warm 1 teaspoon of the olive oil in a medium-large stock pot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots and garlic and let sweat (sauté slowly), stirring occasionally until the vegetables have softened but not browned, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook until it breaks down and just begins to burn on the bottom of the pot. Increase the heat to high and add the chicken stock. Cook until the stock has reduced by a third, then add the beef cheeks to the pot. Turn the heat down to low, place the pot in the oven, and braise until the meat is ultra tender – about 3–4 hours.
4) Remove the beef cheeks from the pot and shred gently with a fork. Simmer the cooking liquid on low on the stovetop until it reduces to the point where it coats the back of a spoon and you can draw a line through the sauce with your finger without the line disappearing.
5) Turn the oven up to 450º F. Soak the matzo in water (or coffee) for 1–2 minutes in a large baking dish. Remove when the matzo is still sturdy but moist. Line the bottom of a 9”x13” baking dish with the matzo. Then add the beef cheeks and spoon the reduced cooking liquid over top. Finish by covering with a layer of matzo. Bake in the oven for 8–10 minutes. 6) Remove the dish from the oven and drizzle with tahini. Place the dish back in the oven for five more minutes or until the tahini is golden brown.
7) Garnish with a drizzle of the remaining olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and fresh herbs and serve immediately.
Rosewater and Orange-Blossom Scented Cake
By Nir Mesika
2 cups of semolina flour
1 cup shaved roasted coconut
1 stick (½ cup) unsweetened butter, melted
⅓ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
⅓ cup of raw almonds
1 teaspoon of orange blossom water
For the syrup
2 cups sugar
1½ cup water
1 tablespoon rosewater
1 teaspoons lemon juice
1) Preheat oven to 400˚ F. Grease an 9”x9” or 8”x8” square pan, or a 9’- round pie dish with butter or olive oil and set aside.
2) Mix the semolina, coconut, sugar, baking soda and butter in a large bowl. Use your hands to mix the butter with the other ingredients until mixed well. Then add the yogurt and continue mixing with your hands until fully combined. The mixture should be fairly thick and easy to press with hands (not thin like cake or brownie batter).
3) Press the mix down into square baking dish or round pie pan. The cake mix should be about 1-inch thick.
4) Cut a diamond or square design in the cake with a butter knife. Place an almond or any other type of nut you have on hand onto each pre-cut square.
5) Bake at 400˚ F for 30–40 minutes until it’s a bronze-brown color.
6) To make the syrup: While the cake is baking, mix all the ingredients for the syrup and place in saucepan on high until it boils. Boil for 10 minutes or until the syrup coats the back of a spoon.
7) Once the cake is ready and fully baked, pour the syrup on top and let sit for 10 minutes before serving. To serve, slice a piece of the cake and place onto a serving plate or platter, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and scatter with shredded halva.
Wonder Woman Shakshuka
By Zachary Engel
1 cup yellow onions, julienned (cut into narrow strips)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup bell peppers, julienned (cut into narrow strips)
3 cups tomato sauce, preferably San Marzano
1 tablespoon kosher salt
4 Jerusalem artichokes, boiled until tender
6 whole eggs
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
Salt to taste
1) Heat a large cast iron skillet with ½ cup of olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the cherry tomatoes and blister in the oil for 1 minute until golden brown.
2) Once the tomatoes are blistered, add the onions, garlic, bell peppers, Jerusalem artichokes to the pan. Cook over high heat for 2 minutes until all of the vegetables are tender but not turning golden brown.
3) Add the tomato sauce and salt and bring to a simmer. Crack the eggs into the pan in different areas. Place a cover on the pan and cook until the egg whites have set but the yolk is still runny.
4) Remove the lid and pull the pan from the heat.
5) Sprinkle all of the sliced green onions on top.
6) Dollop the green chili zhoug (recipe below) on top, and serve with warm pita bread.
Green Chili Zhoug
Yields 1 cup (12 servings)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
½ bunch parsley, picked and chopped
6 small Serrano chili peppers
½ teaspoon cumin, ground
¼ teaspoon cloves ground
¼ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon cardamom, ground
2½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons water
¼ cup + 4 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
pinch orange zest
Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until it is a fine puree.