An unassuming offering of food and folklore from the Yemenites, or ""Oriental"" Jews of the Middle East. The folklore turns up not only in an appended list of medicinal food uses but also in little anecdotal tales sprinkled here and there among the recipes--a touch of cultural flavor to take or leave, as you will. The food, served up by owner-chef Zion Levi of Tel Aviv's Zion Exclusive restaurant, is simple and appealing. The distinctly Middle Eastern ingredients--such as lentils, grape leaves, eggplant, almonds, and the indispensable figs, dates, and raisins--make up recipes that claim roots in Biblical times but are also right in step with today's health-conscious menus. Many of the dishes are more-or-less familiar from other Middle Eastern cookbooks, and some (most notably humus) have almost become American natural-foodist cliches. Yet it is good to meet them at home, and to sample the cuisine's whole range of flavors, from the spicy chili-pepper zhoug that opens this collection to the wine/ date/radish dessert that ends it.