I was in Jaffa recently, and while the ancient port and flea market are becoming increasingly gentrified, that side of the city still has a unique atmosphere that makes it well worth a visit. We were feeling a little peckish during our walk around the neighborhood, and stopped in at the recently opened Café Christopher.
Nestled in a stone building that once served as an inn and meeting place for visiting merchants throughout the Ottoman era, Café Christopher was opened by Israeli chef Amos Hayoun, and named for his life partner, Christopher.
Hayoun has had no formal culinary education, but worked as a sous chef for top American chefs during his three years in the US, and won first prize on “Sweet Genius,” a Food Network reality cooking show (which, incidentally, is hosted by Israeli pastry chef Ron Ben-Israel.)
It was in the US that Hayoun and Christopher met, and decided to open their business in Israel, where Amos is in the kitchen and Christopher greets the patrons. The menu is light, seasonal and full of flavor. We particularly enjoyed the veggie burger, the recipe for which Amos was kind enough to share with readers.
Café Christopher Veggie Burgers (makes 3-4 burgers)
- 2 medium zucchini
- 1 medium potato, peeled
- 2 carrots, peeled
- ½ cup orange lentils, rinsed and soaked in cold water
- Handful of chopped parsley
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch or flour
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ cup canola oil
- ¼ cup water
- Grate the vegetables on the large-hole shredder side of a box grater and place in a strainer. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt. Let sit for 30 minutes until the vegetables release liquids, then drain and place in a mixing bowl.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Divide the mixture into fist-sized balls and flatten to form “burgers.”
- Heat the oil and water in a frying pan and sauté the burgers on medium heat, in a partially covered frying pan. (Amos said the water evaporates and the remaining oil makes the burger crispier on the outside and tender inside.)
- Serve on hamburger rolls spread with mayonnaise or ketchup and topped with slices of tomatoes, lettuce and sprouts.
Cafe Christopher, 13 Beit Eshel, Jaffa. Open every day, 7:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.; Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m.
Culinary Notes: It’s finally here — the once-a-year lime season that unfortunately lasts until the end of summer (if we’re lucky). Packaged and distributed by Tekoa, these juicy limes have a more delicate taste than their lemon relatives, and are perfect for summer ceviche and other foods. I like to squeeze them and freeze the juice in ice-cube trays (transfer the cubes to a plastic box and reuse the trays), so I can enjoy lime flavor even when the fruits disappear from supermarket shelves.