Results tagged Israel from David Lebovitz

Pickled Turnips

I know. It’s hard to get people excited about turnips. But on a recent trip to the Middle East, one of the things I loved most about the generous spreads of salads, roasted meats, and creamy-white cheeses that were a part of just about every meal, were the pickles – including pickled turnips, which were served even at breakfast. As someone who generally favors toast and butter for breakfast, I found myself quickly adapting to the Middle Eastern habit of fresh vegetables, herbed breads, vegetables brined in vinegar, and spicy sauces in the morning, which are a much livelier way to start the day that what I’m used to here in Paris.

It’s somewhat of a common thread amongst pastry people that we all universally crave salt and vinegar because we’re around the sweet stuff all day. And as an American, for some reason, we’re hard-wired to like spices – and lots of garlic. We tend to go full-tilt on both of those things, and I used to hold back on using them in some of my cooking here because I tend to lean heavily both of those directions. But I’ve been dialing them up as I go along, and no one seems to have any complaints.

So, when I made these pickled turnips recently, I snuck a lot of garlic into the batch, which I’d put on the table to go with dinner. And everyone couldn’t stop themselves from reaching into the glass jar for more, even though we were still on pre-dinner nibbles. Yet in spite of my protests that the tang might contrast a bit sharply with the Champagne we were swilling, my objections were waved away, and the pickles continued to disappear quickly.

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Spice ID?

cranberries, pistachios, garlic

Before I went to Israel, I was introduced by my friend Paule to some wonderful spices and seasoning mixtures, which a friend of hers who lives in Tel Aviv brought to her. When I popped the lid off the first one, I wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming aromas, some familiar – dill and garlic, and others with unidentifiable seeds and spices.

She shared some of them with me, and I liberally sprinkled them over eggplant dips and marinated chicken with the dill mixture. Which, of course, depleted my stock. So when I went to Israel, I was hoping to restock my stashes but didn’t come across them in the travels. I had a hard time explaining what they were when folks asked me what I was looking for. And I don’t mean to be dramatic, but I think they changed my life.

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Tel Aviv

seeded bread

Tel Aviv was always hovering something in the middle of the ever-growing list of places I wanted to visit. But in recent years, I kept hearing what a hip place it was, and how it was sort of the “San Francisco” of Israel. Stretching along a massive beach, as soon as I arrived in the city, I wanted to ditch my luggage and jump right in. Then eat.

Tel Aviv restaurant

bagels

Tel Aviv is a lively place and the vibe is decidedly different from Jerusalem. I don’t think you could visit one without the other. Whereas Jerusalem is historic, Tel Aviv has a somewhat more modern look and feel because many European Bauhaus architects fled to Tel Aviv, so there are lots of Bauhaus and Bauhaus-inspired houses and apartment buildings across the city, making this a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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Jerusalem

hummus in Jerusalem

I shouldn’t have been surprised when I was talking to someone at the airport, just after my arrival in Israel, who had asked me what I was doing in her country.

fried dough in syrup

When I told her I was there to learn about the cuisine – by eating it, her eyes lit up, and she said – “Whenever I leave Israel, after my family, the thing I miss the most is the food.” And after one week, I could see why. I was missing it, too, the moment I stepped off the plane and returned home. In fact, my home kitchen has become a mini hummus factory, churning out batch-after-batch of hummus. And it lasts just about as fast as I can scoop it onto pita bread.

falafelspice mixes
old jerusalemhummus

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Tahini and Almond Cookies

tahini cookies

It was a treat to spend a tasty afternoon in Tel Aviv with Natalie Levin, of the blog Oogio.net, who is a passionate baker. Upon meeting, one of the first things Natalie did was hand over a bag of homemade treats, which included a sack of these Tahini and Almond Cookies. Although I didn’t dive in right away (to be polite), after we visited the outdoor market, when I got back to my hotel, I opened the bag and found myself in love with the crumbly, buttery texture and the slightly exotic taste of smooth tahini (sesame paste) – which I’d never had in a cookie. There was also a bag of Sahlab Cookies, made from powdered orchid root, which were equally divine, as well as a few other goodies.

These are simple little cookies that would go perfect alongside a fresh fruit salad or a bowl of sorbet, or during tea-time. I asked Natalie if she would share the Tahini and Almond Cookie recipe here on the site, which she was happy to do.

Thanks Natalie! – David


Tahini and Almond Cookies

tahini cookies

There’s something exciting about baking. Combining all kinds of tastes and textures, putting it in the oven, and waiting for that moment when the scent draws you back into the kitchen – is probably why I love it so much. This is my true passion in life, and ever since I began baking professionally, it felt as if I found my destiny.

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Israeli Breakfast

shakshuka

I’m not at my best in the morning. Actually, I’m not at my best until at least 2pm. (Although actually, some might argue it’s even a little later.) To me, breakfast is meant to be enjoyed in monk-like solitude. It’s a time where questions are prohibited and talking should be kept to an absolute minimum.

eggplant with whipped cheese

Travel, of course, is fraught with all sorts of ways designed to thwart my precious few moments of quietude in the morning. There’s waking up in hotel rooms and stumbling toward the breakfast room, where unfamiliar people await, sometimes wanting to actually engage with you. What’s up with that?

david and bagels

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Israeli Salad

israeli salad

When I met Maya Marom in Tel Aviv, she handed me a box of spices and flavorings, which meant that when I returned home, I could recreate many of the wonderful dishes that I enjoyed there. The best things I had in my travels were the salads loaded with fresh vegetables, which are served at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and are especially welcome when the temperature climbs in the summertime.

Maya was born in Arizona, but moved to Israel when she was three months old. She is a self-taught cook and baker, and has a gorgeous blog, Bazekalim as well as self-publishing her own food magazine. When she invited me over for lunch, she prepared what’s known as Israeli salad in her country; a finely chopped mixture of raw vegetables doused in a lively dressing with a typically Israeli flourish of lots of fresh herbs, chopped and mixed in at the last minute. She also adds toasted seeds and nuts, which gives the salad even more crunch.

I love fresh, brightly flavored salads like these, and she was kind enough to share it in a guest post. It can be varied to use whatever fresh vegetables are available where you live. Thanks Maya! – David


Israeli Salad

Israel is a land of immigrants. While most of my friends were born here, their grandparents were born in places like Iraq, Russia, Yemen, Morocco, Poland, or even Romania – like mine. So it’s not uncommon for dinner tables to include a mix of Lebanese, Italian, and Bulgarian cuisine, all at once. Everyone will happily mix everything in their plate, and will make a point of explaining to you how authentic their grandmother’s food is, and how it is better than yours.

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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.

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