Profile: Photographer Orly Olivier
Orly Olivier is a very good cook. On a recent Monday afternoon, she guided me through the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. Our destination: Congregation Talmud Torah, an Orthodox synagogue better known as the Breed Street Shul. “I want to show you where I recently cooked a charity Shabbat Dinner for 40 people,” said Orly. “I always loved the building driving by, so I got involved and found out they needed to raise money to restore it back to what it used to be.”
Built in a Neo-Byzantine style in 1922, the Shul became a religious and cultural focal point for the Jewish neighborhood, one of the most populous in California at the time. Currently dilapidated and fenced off, it lost its moment after World War II, when Boyle Heights was dissected by freeways and the Jews relocated to other parts of the city.
“The Shabbat dinner menu was ‘Mexanisian,’” continued Orly. “It’s a term I use to describe how I cook most of the time and what I grew up eating.” Between a Tunisian-Jewish father and a mother from Southern California, the family pantry featured many crossover ingredients from both parts of the world. “For example, tacos layered with hummus, Persian cucumbers, preserved lemons and Cotija cheese, or gazpacho with smoky harissa.”
Age 32 — Hometown Los Angeles — Where do you live? Los Angeles — Occupation Photographer, Artist, Cook, Philantropist — Signature dish Chakchouka—a flavorful, spicy, tomato and bell pepper ratatouille with poached egg, served with crusty bread — Who taught you how to cook? My father and my aunties Dina, Hana and Simona — Favorite kitchen tool Food processor, but I hate washing it — Always in your pantry A crisp Rose, olives, hummus and pistachios — Go-to snack Sadly potato chips — Favorite cuisine Mediterranean, Californian & Mexican or 'Mexanisian'—my Tunisian roots meet my Southern Californian upbringing — Do you diet? I diet Coke — Food addictions Potato chips — Food allergies Gratefully no — Food fad pet peeve Kale — Who’s your sous chef? Alan, my husband — Drinking while cooking? Yes please! — What’s for dinner tonight? Grilled vegetable chopped salad with arugula, frisse and radicchio — Do you ever cry over spilled milk? Sometimes, not generally — Best meal you ever had Few days after our wedding, in the French countryside with Alan, my cousin Camille and her husband Jean-Christophe, in a tiny train station restaurant in Burgundy. I had poached egg in a Burgundy red wine sauce and the most delicious escargot & steak au poivre ever — Contact petittakett.com
With its tender crust, and topped with juicy tomatoes, tangy feta cheese and aromatic oregano, this rustic tart is remarkably good and simple to make—an impromptu dish for a weeknight dinner or something to serve to the unexpected guest. Orly prefers heirloom tomatoes, but regular ones will do, too. Puff pastry can be found in the frozen section of the market, or make your own if you like.
- Serves 4-6
- 1 sheet of puff pastry dough
- 2 large heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
- ¼ cup fresh oregano, chopped
- Black pepper, freshly ground
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- If the dough is frozen, defrost it. Place it on a well-floured surface and flour it on top. Flour your rolling pin as well. Roll it out to a 12 x 17-inch rectangle and transfer to the baking sheet.
- Leaving a border 2–3 inches wide, distribute the feta evenly over the dough and sprinkle with half of the oregano.
- Arrange the tomatoes on top of the feta in one layer, overlapping each other. Sprinkle with the rest of the oregano and black pepper. Fold the dough edges over the tomatoes and pinch.
- Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 35–40 minutes.
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