wild turtle crossing

slow: writer at play

Vivian Henoch

Vivian Henoch
Northville, Michigan, USA
June 17
Writer and editor:myJewishDetroit.org
I write around. Follow me on Twitter @vivianhenoch or @myJDetroit


FEBRUARY 13, 2011 3:46PM

Roses are Red. Oranges are ... Orange. Chicken Israeli-Style

Rate: 11 Flag


Rising to the Kitchen Challenge in Israel

Jaffa Orange-Ginger Chicken with Baharat 


Generally, no politics at the table.  But this week’s Call to Citrus got me started.  Thinking about cooking and baking with zest on a cold winter’s day.  Thinking about Florida and California dreaming in the deep, heady perfume of the orange stands in the Westborn Market in Dearborn, Michigan.  Thinking about the warm appeal and hospitality of Mediterranean food,  and then the events over the past weeks in Egypt -- I find myself contemplating prospects of a new Middle East... and wrestling with the incomparable, incomprehensible,  and complex politics of the Jaffa orange. 


Jaffa oranges. Thick-skinned.  Easy to peel.  Nearly seedless.  Similar to Valencia oranges, but sweeter.  Jaffa oranges take their name from the ancient port city in Israel of that name, now incorporated with Tel Aviv.    Also known as the shamuti orange, the Jaffa variety is very cold tolerant, and adaptable enough to grow outside the tropical regions normally associated with citrus crops. 


Jaffa oranges have been in the world market for more than a century.  Along with kosher wine, they were the first imports from Palestine. In the 1880’s  they were introduced to Florida, where they are still grown today. 


A branded brand.


An enduring symbol of both Israeli and Palestinian national pride, the Jaffa orange brand has become the very icon of the Arab-Israeli conflict and a flashpoint for boycott of Israeli goods.  For Israelis, the Jaffa orange symbolizes the restoration of a neglected land. To Palestinians, the orange is emblematic of a land lost, a people divided,  a desperate state of limbo and deprivation. Waiting.  


Israelis speak of the unspeakable as "the situation" - a state of constant vigilance, tension and military preparedness, described in one of two ways: sheket (quiet) or war. 


A stone’s throw - or a Qassam rocket launch away - there’s Gaza City, hell on earth with a beach,  where 1.5 million people live on the basic subsistence of foodstuffs shipped in through Israeli border crossings or through the tunnels from Egypt.  There the Jaffa orange is a rarity, but a memory in the fruit stalls. 


The march of time and water shortages (nearing crisis in recent years)  have eroded the role of citrus in Israel’s high-tech economy today.  And yet.   Those who understand the science and imperative of the land know that the solutions must come soon.  It’s not just the “bolitics” (it’s all bolitics, they say).  Peace must come out of necessity: for food and water, for economic growth, for the very future of the region.   Those who understand Israel know that Jewish and Arab roots run deep in the land and are entangled in a complex and delicate ecosystem, a battle for survival where science and technology, national security, water quality and agriculture, education, business and banking, bandwidth, communication, and tourism... all must be shared in order to move forward. 


Maybe this is the moment . . . to put our trust in freedom.' A quarter-century after his release from the Soviet Union, Natan Sharansky is quoted in The Jerusalem Post, (02/12/11) observing that the time for an ‘even purer’ push for democracy is unfolding in the Middle East.  And it’s coming now, he states: “Not from the peace process at all. Here, people are coming and demanding to build from the bottom, without any connection [to the peace process].  This is a great chance.” 


This is the time... For more perspective, read the cover article in the The New York Times MagazineThe Israel Peace Plan That Almost Was and Still Could Be.


Back on the range, cooking chicken today, I offer a favorite recipe.  Not by coincidence, it’s a recipe I often use for Passover, the Jewish celebration of freedom and renewal, in remembrance of exodus from Egypt. 


Jaffa Orange-Ginger Chicken with Baharat

and a Taste of Honey



As in everything-Israeli and all-things Jewish in the kitchen, the recipe for Israeli-style orange chicken has a long history.  My version is an adaptation from The Foods of Israel Today, a wonderful cookbook by Joan Nathan.  Jaffa Orange Chicken (oaf tapoozim) is a Friday night tradition that made its way into mainstream Israeli cooking in the 70‘s by way of a the popular Israeli cookbook, A Taste of Tradition, by Ruth Sirkis.  Nathan’s version kicks it up a notch using eastern Mediterranean spices -- chili, cumin, coriander,  cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bouquet of flavors called baharat. 







4 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Salt to taste

1 tablespoon baharat  (or to taste)

1 tablespoon ground ginger (or to taste)

4 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup white wine

1/3 cup orange liqueur

1 cup chicken broth

4 tablespoons honey

1 1/2 cups orange juice

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

2 teaspoons orange zest

2 tablespoons finely chopped crystalized ginger 

2 oranges, peeled and sectioned

2 tablespoon toasted almonds, chopped (optional)


Here’s what you do


  1. Cut chicken breasts in half lengthwise. Mix with salt, baharat and ground ginger
  2. In heavy frying pan, heat oil and saute the chicken gently, just a few minutes on each side to brown. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
  3. Add the wine, orange liqueur, chicken broth, honey, orange juice and fresh ginger to the pan and simmer to reduce slightly until a light syrup has formed (about 15 minutes).
  4. Return chicken to the sauce in the skillet, add zest, crystallized ginger and almonds, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.  Add orange sections and heat just until warm.
  5. Serve on a bed of couscous or rice 



For dessert:  Orange Mandelbrot (almond biscotti)  from Mark Bittman, 

The Best Recipes in the World.  (Will save for another time.)  



Happy Valentine’s Day.  And thanks for dropping in. 


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This looks delcious! I've been cooking all week with citrus because of the call for recipes. Many of the things I've cooked come from North Africa/Middle East, which has also put me in mind of what's been going on there.

I will definitely try this - how do you think this would be without the orange liqueur? I don't have any on hand and not sure I want to buy a bottle :-). Also, I'm glad for the intro to the cookbook. Thanks!
I've got it on the stove right now... it's fine without the liqueur. Thanks for the comment! Will post a photo soon.
Wow - you stumped me with the baharat. Congratulations. I live near a couple of middle east markets that might carry it, or maybe I'll try to make my own..
Fascinating post, Vivian. I had a similar dish made for me once by my friend's Israeli girlfriend. I think there may have been apricots or prunes in it, too-- I was told it was Sephardic.
Linda...Right you are. Israeli cooking is really a melting pot of Eastern European (Ashkenazi), and Sephardic --Mediterranean, Spanish, Middle Eastern and Arab traditions.
A couple variations of the dish: made with dates and apricots -- or one I also make with tomatoes (instead of oranges.)
This is a wonderful post, Vivian. From main dish to dessert, you've got all bases covered. I've made the chichen before without orange liqor - highly recommended. Nice to meet another cultural-history attaché on a food post.
A true-to-yourself commentary and a recipe from your roots--this post resonated with essence of Vivian. Gorgeous, dear V. :) Rated
THREE YUMS! This looks so easy and delicious.
This sounds yummy--the combination of ingredients seems to reflect a lot of cultural traditions, as does Israel's history (as far as I can understand it). Thanks for this!
Cooking wise this is over my head, obviously, but I enjoyed reading your point of view
When I was a kid I read about orange skin dipped in chocolate, I wondered about it ever since
Congrats on your honorable mention, too. But ya know something? We wuz robbed! Next time, let's get at least Alternative Winner rankings. ;)
Thank you so much for your comments, Theresa, Xenonlit, Felicia, Vanessa, Beans&Greens...

I've been to Israel three times. Each time different, and more amazing. (The cuisine, by the way, is fabulous.) I've travelled along the Green Line and through towns along the border - haunted by the short distances that divide neighborhoods, territories, countries.

What the headlines don't tell you about Israel -- and what you can't see until you're there-- is the youth and vitality of the region, the utter complexity of ordinary life there, and the desire on all sides to get on with it.. free of fear and threat of attack. I am hopeful... perhaps the time has finally come for the real possiblity of change...
What an informative, entertaining (and delicious) post!
just the description of this recipe and how I would presume that these ingredients would marry together has my mouth watering.
Thank you for an education within the skin of an orange, Vivian. On Israel, Palestine, world peace, and citrus. =o) The recipe looks delicious, I'm going to have to try this!