The Hummus Factory

eggplant, tahini, parsley

Almost all of the people I spoke with said they rarely make their own hummus, simply because the store-bought stuff was as good – if not better – than what they could make at home. (I guess it helps to think of it like peanut butter, where the homemade is very good, but store-bought will suffice.) People have very strong opinions about hummus, like they do about other things, in Israel. And if you mention a particular brand, or a place that makes it, you’re likely going to be told – with absolute certainty – that there’s another one, or place, that’s definitely better.

hummus

Since hummus is so popular in Israel, as it is in many other countries around the world (as far away as Mexico), there are some large companies that produce it, such as Strauss in Israel, which also produces a number of other salads and dips, like Baba Ganoush and other Middle Eastern-based sauces.

raw chickpeas for hummus

I was invited to visit the factory and then to the hummus “laboratory”, where the researchers and cooks work on various recipes, making sure the seasonings are just right and adjusting the flavors as necessary.

The first step in making hummus is preparing the chickpeas. Here, Bulgarian chickpeas are used because they told me they’re particularly tender and unlike hummus you might have had, the hummus in the Middle East is particularly smooth. A few recipes advise that the smoothest hummus is made from chickpeas with the skins removed, but no one I spoke with in Israel said they did that. So according to them, it’s about the variety. (A pinch of baking soda in the water helps as well, if you’re making them at home.)

Once the chickpeas are cooked, they’re left to marinate in their liquid until cool and the liquid thickens, which takes on additional flavor from being in close contact with the chickpeas.

tahini

Israeli hummus tends to have more tahini in it than other countries, which makes it richer and deeper in color. Other places go heavier on the lemon than they do in Israel, due to local tastes. You can see just how much tahini gets used here; each of these flexible sacs is almost bursting with tahini.

Fifty tons of eggplant also get cooked in some fashion at the same plant, which are destined for Baba Ganoush, a cousin of hummus that’s widely enjoyed in the Middle East as well. It sometimes goes by the name of moutabal.

roasting eggplant in Israel

Even though the Strauss plant is relatively modest (about the size of a large office park) and completely modern, each eggplant gets placed under the grill, one-by-one, by hand.

roasting eggplant in oven

And once roasted and cooled enough to handle, a team of women facing their own sink, remove the charred skin from the still-hot fruits.

charred eggplant

The cooking process for the whole eggplants takes only about four minutes, since the flames are so hot.

eggplant, rawroasted eggplant
peeling roasted eggplantwashing roasted eggplant
washing roasted eggplantroasted eggplant conveyor belt

Other eggplants get cut into wide strips then deep-fried until very dark brown, which gives them a lot of extra flavor.

4 minute eggplant

The extra boost of taste is likely because those strips of eggplant are destined to be mixed with either tomatoes and peppers into a spicy sauce, or simply mashed and seasoned, as a dip.

hummus production line

Then the puree is deposited into tubs and off it goes, sent to markets.

hummus man

Afterward, we headed into the kitchen to meet Yaron, who made a smaller batch of hummus for us, using the exact same method that’s used in the factory.

israeli spicesfresh hummus chickpeas
roasted eggplantfresh hummus making

He also smeared a roasted eggplant with tahini, poured on olive oil, and added some chopped, fresh parsley, which one of the scientists told me what the most challenging part of the process. Because parsley is a fresh herb, it can’t be sterilized for processing as it loses its flavor when cooked. Needless to say, dried parsley is out of the question as well but they didn’t tell me how they solved the riddle.

He pressed the eggplant into some bread and we passed it around. And let me say that if you ever make a trip to the Middle East, be sure to track down tahini because the stuff I had in Israel tastes nothing like the sesame paste sold in jars in America or France.

hummus

strauss research team

eggplant ad

After we left, we pulled up to an agricultural research station, where the focus was on various squash, including a hybrid resembling an acorn squash but with the flavor and texture of cooked chestnuts. Another was a bright orange spaghetti squash, called Orangetti, that had tons more flavor than the less-interesting pale, yellow varieties that one normally comes across. And if my suitcase wasn’t packed with tahini, I would’ve likely stuffed a squash or two in there.

fresh chickpeas

But when we passed a field of what looked like dying plants, in between all the squash, Harry S. Paris (whose name, of course, I am coveting), a doctor of agricultural research who works at the research station, mentioned that they were chickpeas, I hopped out to get a better look. Each husk was dried to a crisp in the searing mid-day sun, and once cracked open, a tiny little chickpea rolled out from inside.

israeli eggplant chickpea

I suppose it would be fun to harvest enough to make a batch of hummus out of them, and taste it to see if there was any difference. But with my skin already feeling like I was an eggplant being broiled, I decided it best not to harvest any, and stick to buying my chickpeas by the sack. Or on occasion, by the container.


A Note About Posts from Israel:

A number of people have commented about my visit to Israel, in a previous post and elsewhere. It’s a country I’ve always wanted to visit and I was happy to be invited to deeply explore the cuisine by meeting local chefs, chocolatiers, and growers. I don’t have any particular agenda when I travel except to eat the food, and meet the people who make it. (And usually an exit row aisle seat, if I can snag one.) Other countries that I’ve traveled to and done the same thing include Australia, Tunisia, Portugal, Ireland, France, the United States, Switzerland, Sharjah, and Mexico, all countries that have governments and/or beliefs that I don’t necessarily ascribe to. (And believe me, there are a number of things I’d like to change in more than one of those places.) Visiting and writing about the cuisine of a country is not an endorsement for or against its policies or its government.

The situation in the Middle East is challenging and one that’s not going to be resolved on a food blog. And most likely not by someone who bakes cookies for a living. Many people have strong opinions on the political situation in the Middle East and as someone of direct Arabic descent, I am doing my best to learn about, and to respect, all the people who make up this interesting part of the world.

My intention of going to Israel was to meet the people who live there, who represent a wide swath of cultures and encompass a variety of political, religious, and social beliefs. I came mostly, however, to learn about the cuisine, which is as diverse as the culture.

I certainly couldn’t go everywhere, and do and eat everything that I wanted to do in one week, and I’m hoping to go back one day and not just hit the places I missed, but to stay in touch with the generous and wonderful people who I met. And I also have on my agenda, plans to visit other countries in the region in the future, as time permits.

If you wish to comment on various dishes, ingredients, cultural and geographic variations, and methods that are used in other countries, and so forth, all of those are welcome here. (Read my comment policy for further information.) Certain dishes go by certain names in various countries, so please respect others in whatever part of the world you wish to discuss.

But it’s not appropriate to make certain assumptions about why I took this trip, or about the people who live in Israel who I met, or about the neighboring countries that are based on conjecture. I do ask that people refrain from leaving comments of that nature and respect not only me, but the various people that visit the site. I travel to other countries for the food, and to meet local cooks and bakers, and am happy to share those stories, places, recipes, and people here. And sharing them is the intention of this blog. -David

177 comments

  • Sabra is the best hummus in the US, (thought I recognized those containers in the factory photo!), but who wants gmo soybean oil in their food? Not I, so I don’t eat it anymore. But I wish I could every time I walk by it in the store!

  • Excellent post, and I’m well chuffed to have see where chickpeas come from! Israel is definitely on my to do list travel wise and thanks to this post it’s moved another notch up in priority.

  • Your comment about strong opinions reminds me of a friend of mine who told a lady that he took his parents to a deli (just outside Philly) called Hymie’s. She replied, “If you really loved them, you would’ve taken them to Murray’s.” (Murray’s is across the street a block away.)

  • @ latafiolesucrée: the secret is stone-grinding.

  • Right on, David! Opinions in the Middle East range in all directions and we can only hope that someday everybody will be able to live in harmony. Meanwhile it’s great you got to taste Israeli food, meet Israeli citizens and see as much of the country as you did. It took me a long time to get my husband to make the trip and actually it was the wedding of our son to a Sabra that got him there. Fortunately they and their children live in the States now.

    David, I love your posts and look forward to receiving them. All the very best to you.

  • Amen David,
    Hopefully, we don’t live all our daily life by our politics. Others have ideas about Americans which don’t hold true for every American either. Food, Culture and Respect is what can help bring peace to us all.
    Have never been to Israel, but you are providing a great introduction to the food and meeting people of generous spirit, as is the case in all countries.

  • I had a friend from Jordan who would make huge pots of hummus for her dinner parties and I have never tasted any like hers. I guess it’s because it was the only homemade hummus I have ever had, and it was really excellent. I buy Sabra, but I should make it one of these days.

    You should visit Brazil, if you haven’t.

  • Is it heresy to add a small amount of mayo to hummus? Someone told me it’s sometimes done in Israel. Ever hear of that? Thanks so much.

  • David, thank you for showcasing Israel and the amazing food we have here. Hope you are enjoying / enjoyed your trip very much.
    I am saddened to read you have to “explain” your visit. Unfortunately too many times people don’t see beyond the political issues, to the millions of people trying to lead normal lives.

  • My longest-running job, a coffee/cafe dig that catered to hip vegan types, went through hummus like no one’s business and I got very, very good at making it. Our selling point was that it was, indeed, made fresh everyday. Consequently I started experimenting at home and made a long list of various flavors yet somehow NEVER tried les aubergines.

  • Right on, David!!

  • Hello David.

    Hummus in Israel:

    Not sure what got your dander up – other than someone who wasn’t ‘thinking’ so well, but you so reminded me of being a kid, hiding under my desk from Russian bombs.

    Then as a young woman watching the adorable ‘The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming’ and realizing with a start the the shoe hammering Bolshevick that was frightening the world, was definitely NOT in the majority of the peoples of the USSR.

    Today, my ex husband’s Moscow, Russian wife is my dear ‘sister’.

    The world is a funny place, eh? I’ll stick to a pleasant discourse of the merits of chickpeas and tahini.

    Just know, most people are durned cool…… Ciao, E

    PS: Said Rusky Bride, my daughter and I just held a wonderful A’ La Russe party, ‘salad’ heavy. We cooked and chopped and grated for 3 days! It was extremely well recieved.

    PSS: AND I made 4 batches of Jam in there as well, because you got me going with the wonderful story and pictures about currants. Apricot and plums were bountiful here in Sacramento Ta

  • Absolutely fascinating, brilliant to get a chance to see all that, just gorgeous. thanks David.

  • I had no idea how chick peas grew- but it is so fascinating! Now I’m going to research if I can grow them in my region so I can make hummus from scratch from start to finish. Not that I’m an overachiever though.

    Thanks for the great blog and pictures!

  • Bravo,David! Of all things in the world that shouldn’t be politicized, it’s food.

  • Fantastic post! I started drooling when those eggplants went under the flames. No, wait, I was drooling before. And after. Thank you so much for sharing this food adventure!

  • Thanks for speaking about our country through food! I’m soooooooooo fed up with all the politics… But food never bores me!
    Next time you come over, come in Nazareth. I’ll make you taste my stuffed zuchinis and wine leafs!

  • i was in israel many years ago, and ate hummus every single day in every region and city we visited. i LOVED IT!! i only gained 10 lbs, but worth it. i have never tasted it again with such flavor.. one restaurant we visited with friends from jerasleum was all vegetarian and told to only go on sunday or monday after the sabbath because everything was really just made and i have never eaten such dishes.. i hope to go back befor i die… it was so wonderful. thanks for helping me relive the trip.

  • Thank you so much for your blog which I have just started reading. Such a suprise to see that you had been here and experienced the local cuisine. When are you coming back? I wait with baited breath for more recommendations. Would love information about any small restaurants you visited so We can all follow in your footsteps.

  • Thanks David for the blog and link to hummus recipe. Hummus and tahini were staples in my 70’s vegetarian diet–what a flashback! Drove into town to the local organic market for the ingredients that weren’t in my garden or pantry and am making some now for the 4th of July celebration tomorrow. Cooking dried chickpeas (locally grown) instead of using canned since I like the taste of terroir AND I’m adding roasted red peppers for a bit of added color. Now I’m off to the local winery for their suggestion as to the perfect wine for my feast.

  • thanks so much for the culinary visit to Israel, I haven’t been in well over 10 years, and it’ll be a good few more before its time to go back again.
    But oh, the food memories, the falafel, the hummus, the eggplant, the tahini (which is so different than here in the US), and the tomato/cucumber salads for breakfast.
    My mouth is watering.

  • Hi David. I am loving your posts. I am new to your world, but I love the idea of moving to Paris to live a culinary dream.
    I also appreciate your approach to not getting wrapped up in a country’s politics, especially when it is usually that of the leaders of the country and not necessarily of it’s people. The personal connections with make with others in different countries show us that we are all connected by one basic life force and should respect and cherish it.
    Santé!

  • HI David – I am a new reader of your blog and I love it. This is my first comment. I much prefer smooth hummus. The pic of the ‘pea in a pod’ chick pea was a surprise. One bean at a time – wow. I loved my trip (1970s) to Israel – the food was great. I especially liked the food for breadfast. Yummy. Thanks for your blog and photos. Keep living the sweet life.

  • I agree about the political and personal assertions, not appropriate. I think what is good about the work you do is that you draw attention to foods and cultures and tempt us to experience it. My issue is also to do that, but as you can see from the web site, I take things a bit further and make product. What I am finding both as a foodie and a manufacturer is that getting high quality, non toxic product is becoming more and more difficult and I suspect will get worse. Spices are a great example, many are beginning to become difficult to obtain. Congratulations on your posts and blogs and I hope they contribute to a better (food) world. Finally, we all, as responsible articulate people, need to be sure that all people on the planet can enjoy foods free from contamination.
    Peter Watson

  • Thanks for another mouth-watering story. Thanks as well for traveling and writing about it. The best thing we can do for peace and progress is to visit other countries and talk to the people we meet there, whether it’s Israel, Iran, Canada, or Cuba.

  • I agree……Sabra is the absolute BEST!!!!!!!

  • Any ideas on what makes Israeli tahini so special? I would love to make some at home!

  • Thank you so much for this post David. I work in the Food Industry and have seen the inside of many a food production site – and this was fascinating reading. I’ve also heard Israel is a beautiful place to visit. I love these food/travel blogs the best! Look forward to more :-)

  • Nicely said David. Now how about a trip to India? We cook delicious stuff!

  • Thank you David for writing about food and the lovely people you encounter in all the countries you have visited and will visit.

  • A lovely post about a most lovely item, hummus. .. I cook chickpeas, but I’ve yet to roast the sesame seeds, so I’m only half-way to perfect on this dish. … and it is sooooo lovely.

    I’m growing eggplant again this year and have roasted two bounties. There’s never enough. In my little garden plot there sits two eggplant plants; next year I’m planting four. :)

    My grandmother taught us that food brings the world together. Thank you, David, we must be related. :)

  • I generally make my own houmus as the commercial stuff available here in Australia isn’t as good as home made, so I’m jealous of a country who has perfected it to the point where people would rather buy it. I must try letting it cool in the water it’s cooked in, too. I guess that would soften the skins even more and make it smoother.

    Bravo, David, for your remarks at the end of the post. A food blog is no place for politics (unless they’re food politics) and, in fact, food is one area where people can overlook differences and concentrate on what they enjoy about another culture. Modern Israeli cuisine is diverse, exciting and delicious (what I’ve seen of it from afar) and deserves to be acknowledged and celebrated.

  • David,
    I was in Israel in November. Loved it. So much to see. Had lots of hummus, yes, very smooth. I like it a little chunkier, however. Great photos. Thank you !

  • Is the chickpea husk scratchy the way soybeans are? I love the photo.

  • I’ve made hummos from scratch and it doesn’t taste the same but it sure tastes darn good. It is hard to get it as smooth as the store bought stuff..
    Love Israeli/middle eastern foods..all of them are my favorite ethnic food.

  • Kol HaKavod. Thank you-from the heart. And palate. That’s all I’ll say.

  • I had the pleasure of visiting Haifa, Akko, and Jerusalem in March. I’m frustrated that I cannot duplicate the exquisite hummus that we enjoyed while dining in Israel.

  • We never hear about Israeli food! There was a special on Food Network years ago and I thought it was fascinating. A whole country that ate like I like to eat and I’m here in North Carolina. It is a shame that we don’t hear more about the food of the middle east because of politics. I think this keeps us from seeing the individual people that exist between the headlines.

    And I agree, Sabra is the best!

  • I’ve absolutely loved your posts, tweets and Instagram pics from your trip! How lucky of you to be invited and to get to taste all this delicious food. Those fried eggplants look incredible! xox

  • Totally agree about the tahini! I live in Cairo but am home in the US for the summer. The one food item I brought in my suitcase was a jar of tahini. Israel is on the top of my list of places to visit. (Just moved to Cairo in January so I haven’t had the chance yet.) Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

  • I read or heard somewhere that one way to get smooth hummus is to puree the chickpeas while they are still warm. I tried it and it worked great! I have found that homemade hummus made with home cooked chickpeas (as opposed to canned) is so much better than any store-bought in the US that I rarely buy it anymore. I prefer mine with a moderate amount of tahini and lots of lemon and garlic. When I make it to Israel I will be sure to do some taste testing of my own!

    I very much enjoyed this post and appreciated the comment at the end. I love to “taste” other cultures vicariously through your blog posts. I so wished I could take a tour like the one you took. Alas, I am no blogger, just a humble foodie. Thank you!

  • You’ve got me. Thought I knew’em all. Sharjah? Where the heck is that?

  • David – Re green chickpeas, we get them here on Bainbridge Island, WA, in our wonderful local Town and Country Market. They are seasonal, early autumn, and I like them just raw in salads or lightly sautéed. Completely different flavour from the dried ones – a bit like an overripe pea. Thank you again for your wonderful prose and great recipes.

  • Thanks you for a delectable post. I was surprised by the gentle scolding at the bottom, but I totally get it. And, I am going to send the blog to my local school board as I think they could learn something from the message. Stay on task and refuse to get side-tracked by politics.

    I still long to spend an evening dining at Minaret, a restaurant in Jerusalem near the King David Hotel that is open on Friday nights. The meal remains one of the most memorable that I’ve had.

    It’s been at least 16 years since I have been in Israel. Politics complicated my love of the land. I think it’s time that I reconnect. Thank you for reminding me that food can bring us together. I’m yearning for the humous.

  • I was interested in your comment about the difference between Israeli tahini and that found in america. I never use the stuff found in America as I find it thick, pasty, and bland. Instead, when making hummus, I toast and grind unhulled sesame seeds and add that to the hummus along with some fresh lemon. Killer hummus! I hope to find some Israeli hummus in my travels. I am living in Morocco at the moment, and although they make a sort of hummus here, they do not use tahini, so no option for it here that I have found.

  • Oh this looks absolutly yummy! I wonder if I can get it here…maybe in kosher stores…because I have to say that my Hummus is outstanding, but this one looks per-fect! Thanks for sharing it David! Once again! Love to read you!

  • I am sorry that some comments regarding your visit to Israel have been political and negative. I certainly have enjoyed reading about your epicurean experience there. Food brings people together, doesn’t it? People laugh and love breaking bread around a table of good food. Add good wine or a full-bodied beer and you have an unbeatable experience in any culture. One does not have to be any kind of Middle Eastern in descent to appreciate hummus and baba ganoush. I love hummus and baba ganoush and have done a fair job of making hummus myself. No expert at it, though.

  • So fascinating to see the chickpea pods! I wonder how they are harvested? Gonna make me some hummus today!!

  • The hummus David spoke of is Strauss, not Sabra and in my opinion it is way better than Sabra. The best store bought variety. In NY it is available in kosher (and more specifically Israeli) markets.

  • Poor you. The best places to eat Hummus are in Ramla, Jaffa or some Arab villages in the north of the country, not at a mass production factory. You were lucky to get it fresh, but when you buy it in a box after a few days, it is just Hummus.
    As to your post on Israeli Salad, the real one contains tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and sometimes radishes . Olive oil, salt pepper and optional lemon juice are added. This comes from an 66 old Israeli . Never heard of an Israeli salad with beets added.

    • I did have hummus at quite a few other places, including one in the Jerusalem market and in the Hassidic neighborhood. This was not the only place I went, but I am always interested in food production facilities, large and small.

  • FWIW – The closest Tahini to the Israeli kind found in the US is probably the Trader’s Joe kind available in small containers for around $2.50 as of July 2012.

  • So glad to see you had great time in Israel, I am always blown away by the food, particularly the salads and the dairy. I spent time on Kibbutz Yotvata which is amazing for yoghurts, milkshakes, the list goes on!
    We also had a fabulous meal in Jerusalem in a restaurant called The Eucalyptus that specialises in food from the bible but with a modern twist. Was outstanding.

  • Thanks to Ron for his mention about the TJ’s tahini!

    Fellow Readers:
    Not on the subject of hummus, but certainly on chickpeas, I’ve just “discovered” the delights of removing their skins and toasting them in a skillet. Any suggestions for spices/seasonings with which to toss them? (Other than sea salt which I find is lovely)

    Cheers!

  • Hummus is a very divisive subject alright. My boyfriend and I have frequent disagreements on it. I like mine with a strong tahini hit, and he does not. When I am in the UK/Ireland I am usually lazy and buy it because Marks and Spencers does fantastic very smooth reasonably priced hummus (they were the first people to bring it mainstream in Ireland and the UK). In Holland/Denmark, the packaged stuff isn’t very good, so I make my own.

  • I love fresh green chickpeas. I first ate them in Southwest Harbor, Maine, as a bar snack, roasted and sprinkled with something akin to Old Bay. I was hooked. I regularly find fresh chickpeas at the Dekalb Farmer’s Market in Atlanta. They also turned up at the fabulous Head House Farm Market in Philly last week.

    The first few times I bought fresh chickpeas, I didn’t get enough. My advice is to buy way more than you think you need, especially if you plan to roast them as they will disappear like lightning. Shelling is tedious work, because it’s only one pea to a tough pod, but like David says of the women peeling eggplants, a few hands can make it pleasant work!

    (Just last week several of us sat around pitting quarts of fresh sour cherries and no one noticed any time go by. When I did it myself, the clock stopped moving!. Must get off to market to get fresh cream today to make David’s Sour Cherry ice cream.)

    Thank you so much, David. Your books and blog have become essentials in my household.

  • I love hummus but seldom buy it. But, I had some of the best hummus ever in a restaurant on a cliff overlooking the sea in Goa, India. We went every night to watch the sunset and to eat the hummus – I think the hummus may have been the stronger reason. And was the hummus so good because it was made by an Israeli man, or because we ate it sitting on top of a cliff, watching the sun do down in Goa India?

  • I lıke patlıcan and humus :) Türkiye de patlıcan közlemesi, humus çok sevilir. hepsi şahaen ve benim damak zevkime hitap ediyor :) süpersiniz very nice

  • As someone who is a HUGE hummus fan, that hummus factory tour sounds like heaven to me. ;) It sounds like you had a lovely trip, and I hope that one day, I can get to travel and eat like that!

  • You’re right that the hummus I make at home isn’t the same from the restaurant. I used to frequent the Hummus Place restaurant in NYC. I think they use imported tahini. The texture is so smooth, I’m afraid to know the amount of olive oil they use, haha.

    • It was interesting that so many people in Israel told me that they bought it, because it was as good – if not better – than what they made at home. Perhaps it’s similar to bread – one can make it at home, but it’s often better when a pro makes it. Still, I’ve been making my own hummus since I returned from this trip. And it’s not bad : )

  • Way back in the ’80s I worked my way through a huge kibbutz kitchen near Caesaria, then lived in a Moroccan Jewish town in the north, eating familiar Arab foods and unfamiliar Jewish ones. The vegetables are better because Israel has a climate like southern California or the south of France–dry with intense sun. They invented drip irrigation out of necessity. Plus people really buy and eat fresh vegetables in quantity. In kibbutz I processed more eggplants any given week than I know how to talk about. For fried eggplant salads there were the bread slicing machines in the back room–the only sensible way to deal with 100 or so eggplants at a time. Best hummus–skins removed, no fillers, and sumac, Aleppo pepper, and caraway added to the tehina, lemon, garlic and cumin.

    Best picks from way back when were mostly produce or street foods:
    Z’khug (chile/garlic/cilantro paste).
    Druze labaneh–different from the US Armenian stuff (also good, but blander). The closest thing here tastewise is goat cheese, which it probably is. Sold in scoops under olive oil at the village shuk; bring your own jars.
    oil cured olives; pickled eggplants for felafel
    Romanian food, the kind of old-world slow cooking that knocks you out and makes you realize how much flavor is missing in modern meat dishes. Hope you got to try some. Plus their bakeries have unusual things like poppyseed strudels.
    Borekas–really, really bad for the arteries but the fresh-made ones are wonderful.
    Fine-grained fresh couscous. Like eating hot curried snowflakes.
    Loquats (nefles or “shesek”), figs and pomegranates straight off the trees.
    Shiba–my best guess is artemisia or “p’tit absinthe”, it’s a silvery, feathery-looking herb with a taste between mint and fig leaf, for tea in the wintertime.
    Chicken hearts and livers in a mixed grill with cumin and garlic
    Cardamom in cookies, coffee, and anywhere else
    Hraime–fish steaks baked with hot peppers, garlic, cumin and caraway–screaming hot enough to knock you off your chair; served cold (thank g-d) for Saturday lunch
    candied whole kumquats, just because

  • Hi David –

    Thank you for posting about your trip. I am going to Israel in a few months for the first time with my dad and sister and have been trying to psyche my boyfriend up to come along. We were in Paris last summer and I used your blog as our staple guide. We had the most fabulous time (and I blew him away with the restaurant choices, so thanks). Hopefully seeing these posts on Israel will help to motivate him…Especially since he eats hummus by the tub.

    Out of curiosity was there a best falafel place you went to? How does it compare to L’as du?

    Best!
    Jenn

  • Perhaps you already know the book…. I’d like to recommend Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook, Plenty, vegetable recipes from his London restaurant, Ottolenghi. YO writes a column for the Guardian on vegetarian cooking even though he’s not a vegetarian. He was raised in Israel and Palestine. I think you’ll find his style refreshing, interesting and unpretentious, like yours. Orangette recommended the book to me. And now I’m off to chop that Israeli salad!

  • Hi David,

    I have enjoyed immensely this series. Israel/Palestine is a place I have always wanted to visit but due to the political reasons you have sited above, I dont think I can be granted entry :) Thank you for sharing. Us, Middleasterns, have a lot in common when it comes to food and culture- hope more ppl showcase and highlight that.

    Shokran!

  • I really enjoy reading your blog, it is always full of humour and I always learn many things about food, and even about my own country (France).
    I don’t think I’ve ever left a comment (well, maybe a couple of them, I just can’t remember).

    This one is just to say “respect”, for that very sensible note at the end of this post. It’s so well stated, so sensible and clear, there’s nothing to add.

    And thank you for sharing with us your experiences about food in Israel. I love all food from the middle east (no matter by what name it’s called). Tahini, hummus (houmous in french!) and “caviar d’aubergines”, tsatsik, labné, you name it, I love it!

    So, thank you again. And again, that last note in this post has made my respect for you even greater. I bow to that.

  • I am confused, does the hummus there have eggplant instead of tahini, in addition to tahini or is the eggplant for a separate recipe

  • Loving all your posts about your culinary exploration through Israel. The food really looks divine. Like a PP, I am fascinated by food production facilities and this hummus factory sounds incredible, Love that they are processing the eggplant by hand. I bet the hummus you ate there was amazing! Now you have me craving it. :)

  • 1986, Jerusalem, The Arab Market, Butcher’s row. I still crave the hummus garnished with cooked spiced ground lamb and toasted pine nuts I shared with friends. I think it was made with fava beans. Went back a few years ago but wasn’t allowed to go that deeply inside the market for security reasons. So sad, I don’t have pictures of it but my memory of it will stay with me forever.

  • @Natalie, since you asked about spices for your skillet toasted chickpeas, I can tell you that Heidi Swanson (101cookbooks) has a great oven roasted recipe where you mix spices including 3 different paprikas and a touch of olive oil to coat the peas, then roast on a baking sheet in oven. Great snack for cocktail hour….just be mindful to keep an eye on them, they can burn easily in oven!

  • It is my first time commenting, but I have been a fan of David L’s….since I first catered with his galette recipes… Now, I watch for him and spread his “gospel.”
    He is spot on with the spirit of Tel Aviv, named (I think Travel and Leisure one of Top TEN fun cities on the planet! I agree.. and I agree; see Tel Aviv first, then finish with Jerusalem. T. A. to open your eyes and nose and hands; Jerusalem your heart and wherever you keep your tolerance and kindness. NOW, I have to go make challah and rugelach and mandelbrot and borscht if I don’t run out of time… And I bought a Vita-Mix, so that my hummus would taste more like Israel’s…..

  • Hummus, home-made.
    first, buy a pound or two of chickpeas. soak the whole amount in lots of water for about 10 hours – you can do 12 easily though. Some add about a quarter teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate, but it isn’t necessary. Change the water mid-soak.
    strain the chickpeas, put them in a large pot with enough water to cover + 2-3 inches above.
    boil, then lower the flame and cook, covered, for about 2 hours. They should be really very soft. Cooking can take even 3, so don’t worry if they’re still undercooked after 2 hours.
    the right softness for hummus is when the chickpeas are easily squished between the fingers.
    once they are cooked, strain the chickpeas, reserving the cooking liquid!
    allow to cool, and ladle into little sandwich bags – one ladle-full per portion. add half a ladle of the cooking liquid into each bag, and tie it up. store in the freezer and then you’ll have cooked chickpeas for great hummus in no time!

    now, once you want hummus, take one portion out of its bag (enough for two portions of hummus), and thaw in the microwave until very warm. pour the chickpeas with the water into a food processor, add 1/4 cup raw tahini, the juice of 1/2-1 lemon, 1 clove of garlic, and a touch of warm water. season with salt, cumin, a dash of olive oil. blend until it’s all uniform. If you’re going to make it a few hours or a day ahead, make sure it’s a little runnier than you like it because it really thickens in the fridge!
    to serve, smear 2-3 heaping tablespoons of hummus on a plate in a circular motion (spoon in center so there are raised edges to it). drizzle olive oil, sprinkle pine nuts, chopped parsley, a dash of cayenne and cumin.
    beh te’avon!