Archives for category: Food

In addition to Noah’s graduation, we spent our last week in Haifa on a farewell tour saying good-bye to our favorite people, places, and food.

We started out the week going on a short hike on Mt. Carmel between picking Noah up from school and meeting Yaffa’s family for dinner in Usfiya – one of the Druze villages just past the university at the top of the mountain.

the trail follows a narrow wadi (gorge) through dense woods

it involved a lot of scrambling over rock, which Noah enjoys "more than a playground".

Sarah & Yaffa & a table laden with Druze salads

Our friend Mikael threw us a farwell bbq at his place with a group of other Technion-ites and our friend Osnat made us a farewell Shabbat dinner, including a dish that she recreated from notes taken at a special dinner in Athens to commemorate our trip together in May.

When we hiked earlier in the week, Noah was pretty tired after a full day at school, so we didn’t get far. We decided to go again while he was in school Fri. morning and we made it through the wadi and up to an area of Mt. Carmel called “Little Switzerland” with stunning views of the wadi below and the sea to the east, and more salamanders and lizards than we’d ever seen in one 4-hour period. This part of the hike also took us into the heart of where the forest fire burned in December. It was encouraging and amazing to see all of the new growth and still awesome to see the scope of the damage. Sorry no pictures this time, but we ran out of the house quickly so that we’d have enough time while Noah was in gan.

The night before we left, we had had some final closure to our year by having a picnic dinner on the beach with several friends, including the same family we had dinner with on the same beach our first week in Haifa.

Sarah, Julia & Ron

Noah & Ella

When Roy & I travel we always like to bring the other one back some food unique to the region as a souvenir. I had read about mastic, which is a traditional Greek flavoring from the mastic tree from the island of Chios. I bought him some chewing gum and also some kind of pudding-looking thing.

The instructions said to put some of the stuff on a spoon, dip in water, and then lick like a lollipop.

Can you tell what I thought of it?

Noah didn't fare much better.

Ever since seeing these posts, last fall, Sarah has wanted to visit Ramla for herself.  Whenever I told an Israeli this, I was asked “Why?” It’s a pretty run-down town just off the main highway connecting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. For a long time it had been a very important town, passing from hand to hand as different conquerors controlled the area.  It has also been destroyed by earthquakes several times. The small city museum has a very nice exhibit of the history of the city, including 3 separate stashes of gold coins that were discovered during modern construction. This was taken as evidence of the city’s important economic and commercial history. And the idea of long lost treasure was very intriguing to Noah.

At present, it’s pretty run down, but has a very authentic shuk, with a little of everything: pet stores, clothing, discount toys, and, most importantly food.  We went to what is billed as the best burekas shop in Israel, or perhaps we went to the burekas shop two stores down from the best one.  Anyway, we went to a good one.  We got a cheese bureka, a big phyllo pastry filled with cheese.  When you order it, they slice it open and shove a cut-up hard boiled egg inside.  It was very tasty.  Here is photographic evidence:

A plate of burekas

and fifteen more

We also saw evidence of spring – these lovely bags of green almonds, although we still haven’t found any good use for them.  Somebody must though…

Another interesting thing about Ramla is a 1300 year old undergound reservoir built by an early Muslim ruler.  You go down some stairs, and row around the eerie vaulted columns.  It’s the stuff of Indiana Jones movies.  Watch out for the giant mass of electric eels! (Okay, I made up that part.)

While we have loved the food in Israel.  I, at least, miss some of the varieties of foods from home.  I was very happy when Sarah told me there’s a community of Jews from India in Ramla, and an Indian restaurant. I was very excited for lunch.  We got there about noon, after asking the men at the Bollywood DVD stall in the market where it was. Sadly, they only started serving lunch at 1pm, which is strange for a Friday.  We needed to get to Jerusalem to see the cousins, so we bought some samosas to go.  Funny how food from somewhere I’ve never been reminds me of home. We should have stopped in one of the restaurants advertising “Tunisian sandwiches.”  Maybe we’ll have to go back…

I just ordered 2 pizzas for delivery in Hebrew! By myself!

Last week we hosted an unofficial Fulbright Shabbat dinner for all of the 2010-11 Israel Fulbrighters. Since public inter-city transportation does not run on Shabbat I invited the out-of-town’ers to stay over if they had no way back home. So, it turned into a Shabbat dinner/slumber party. We had 21 guests, not counting infant twins, and 6 overnight guests (+ the infant twins) from Rechovot and Jerusalem. It was a grass-roots affair, with everyone contributing – we are lucky that we only have friends who are excellent cooks.

cooking for a crowd - everyone helping to prepare the vegetables for the grill

enjoying our feast!

We made sumac chicken, turmeric rice, and grilled mushrooms, eggplant and sweet potatoes. I had a pumpkin pie in the freezer leftover from our Thanksgiving in February party. Our guests brought the most amazing salads and desserts. With the leftover fruit salad & challah, we had french toast with fruit sauce (and pumpkin pie) for breakfast in the morning. Thanks to everyone for coming and for being such awesome guests and especially to Molly & Tom for being such masterful grill-masters.

After our dip in Yam HaMelach, we left the area and drove up into the breathtaking Judean mountains

where we were to spend the night in a Bedouin tent. This one was more interesting than the one where we had stayed in the Negev. We had a private sukkah this time

but a shared outdoor living space. Those "lumps" on the ground are the edges of a pit where we sat with cushions. We were able to hang out there & talk while Noah slept in our hut.

There was a beautiful dining room where we sat at low tables on the floor on cushions. A special Passover menu was served and there were baskets of matzoh available. How accommodating of the Bedouin!

Another cool outdoor living-room area.

We stayed at the Bedouin tent complex the night before so we could get up early the next morning and go to Masada. This is the view from the western approach up to Masada looking across the hills back towards the Dead Sea. All that land used to be underwater...

We made it to the top!

Ruins from what was once one of Herod's palaces.

View from what was once the 3rd floor of the palace looking down onto two lower floors. The palace was built right into the side of the mountain.

Remains of a mosaic'd Byzantine church on Masada

Noah really liked standing in the ruins of the fortress pretending to be a soldier firing arrows on all of the enemies (other tourists climbing Masada) below. We hiked back down and ate the end of our matzoh granola. Thus, ended our Pesach vacation in the Judean desert – from the lowest place on earth to the top of Masada and everything in between. We hopped in the car & began heading back to Haifa. We were a little worried about whether we’d be able to find a place for lunch because it was the last day of Pesach and even the grocery stores were closed. We did see one place open in Arad, the last town in the desert before heading north into a kind of no-man’s land north of Beersheva, but Pizza Tokio did not sound appealing, so we decided to take our chances and skip it.

Good thing we did because a little while later on the side of the highway, I spotted a handwritten sign saying גבינת עיזים (goat cheese) followed by another sign for mahlabi, so we pulled off and saw an old man with a flag waving us to turn left under an overpass through a very narrow bridge.

As we drove through that little tunnel, we saw the herd that would be providing our lunch.

We had stumbled upon an oasis-an outdoor restaurant serving saj, malahbi, labaneh, olives, hummus, etc.

right there under the trees in the olive grove!

What a spectacular & serendipitous way to end our vacation!

Shoshana, my friend Yaffa’s mom, is a Rennaissance woman. She teaches my weekly Feldenkreis class, is a painter, and is an amazing cook, particularly of Tunisian food, where she is from. Shoshana has adopted us this year (she said that Noah needed a savta – he only had a grandma and a bubbie so far) and has fed us many meals. I had been asking for months for her to show me how to make several of the dishes. Since each dish takes hours & hours to prepare, we had to find a time when we both had that much time to spare. Last week the stars were aligned and we were finally able to arrange a lesson at her house for me and Reit, another friend of Yaffa’s. After baking matzoh with Noah’s class, I went over to Shoshana’s to continue my day of cooking.

Our first lesson was for mafrum, Tunisian ktzitzot, or meatballs. Shoshana cut about 2 hours from the prep time by doing several steps in advance – like they do on cooking shows, so everything is ready to go. There was no recipe, or even definite measurements, so I took photos of everything so I’d remember how much of each ingredient.

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This video makes it look easy, but Reit & I could barely coat the mafrum in matzoh meal without it falling apart. I will need another 40 or so years of practice to look as suave. After our class, Reit & I each got a pot with the mafrum & sauce to take home & we still had to cook it for another hour. As they say in Eretz Yisrael, oo ah, ta’im meod!

Today Noah’s class had a mock seder and yesterday I volunteered in the classroom to help them bake their own matzoh.

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Noah said that when they were making the clay bricks, Yaffa (the teacher) would pretend to hit them on the arm and say “work harder” so they could imagine what it was like to be slaves in Egypt.

(pictures of me are on the teacher’s camera. hopefully I’ll get copies.)

We made some interesting dishes this weekend taking advantage of regional ingredients.

Tehini & chickpea flour

First we made a traditional Jewish Persian soup dumpling, called gondi. A couple of good recipes can be found here & here. The first link has a nice description of other regions that use chickpea flour – we originally bought it months ago to make socca (French chickpea pancakes), but needed another recipe since we had most of the bag left.

No, not time for matzoh balls yet. Gondi are chicken & chickpea flour dumplings.

We also had tehini in abundance (how, exactly, did we manage to acquire 3 jars?), but decided to do something more modern.

Tehini cookies - very yummy, if I do day so myself.

This recipe came from Roy’s Channukah present, The Book of New Israeli Food by the editors of Al HaShulchan, Israel’s Gourmet magazine.

Tonight we took advantage of the fish still flopping in their baskets at the fish market.

Chreime - North African Jewish fish stew

Chreime is traditionally served on holidays in Jewish families from Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, etc., but the fish was so fresh that we made it on a regular weeknight. It is made with paprika, lots of garlic, and the secret ingredient – ground caraway.

This weekend is the Jewish holiday of Purim, which celebrates the evil Haman’s downfall after his plot to kill the Jews of Shushan, Persia, is foiled by the beautiful, Jewish, Queen Esther. That’s it in a nutshell. I haven’t even gotten to the part about Esther’s brave uncle Mordechai or King Ahasuerus or the poor 1st Queen Vashti. We celebrate by dressing up in costumes, eating hamentaschen (oznei hamen in Hebrew), hearing the Megillat Esther (biblical book of Esther) read aloud, drinking alcohol until you’re too drunk to tell the difference between Haman & Mordechai, Purim carnivals, etc. We do all of this in the US also, but only for a day or two. In Israel, the celebrating starts much earlier and there are also big parades (Adloyodot), nature activities, and a day off of school.

Noah’s class has been reading the Megillat Esther for the last 2 weeks in preparation. They have had special Purim art projects to decorate the classroom and the entryway at the school. He’s already had 2 costume days at school this week and they are not even his official Purim costume (top secret).

Spiderman!

Not shown: today’s costume of a Native American, complete with feathered headdress & face paint. All the children had to choose an Indiani name. Noah’s was Har haSusim (Mountain of the Horses). Baffling. Why Native American?

We went to a children’s concert by Noah’s preschool music teacher at the mall yesterday after school, complete with a poor guy in a dog costume, who she calls her best friend and four teenage dancing girls. Those of you who’ve gone to Hebrew school or Jewish camps will remember some of the numbers: Bashanah Haba’ah, Simi Yadech, Ha kova sheli shalosh pinot (an actual purim song, but fun the year round).  Some of the songs were live and acoustic, others she lip-synced from her own CD.  Just like real pop concerts! She said it was her dog Dodo’s birthday.  At jewish institutions in the US, we just sing “Happy Birthday” in Hebrew.  In Israel, they sing a different song.  If I were still a camp counselor, I’d introduce it next summer.

Other Purim activities this week included preparation for a mishloach manot exchange in Noah’s class. To make this manageable with a class of 35 kids, each child draws the name of one classmate & is responsible for bringing his basket. We baked our own batch of hamentaschen last week one day when Noah was home sick from school (but not too sick to eat hamentaschen) and delivered our first basket to our friends Anat & Menachem & their family when we had dinner with them last Friday. Noah’s class exchange goes down tomorrow.

master of the electric mixer

choice of traditional cherry filling or the more exotic raspberry/pomegranate

For weeks all of the bakeries and grocery stores have had displays of hamntaschen out. And not just a shelf or two, but shelves upon shelves.

Available flavors: poppy (trad.), halvah, double chocolate, amaretto, walnut, sugar-free poppy, date w/ cinnamon and star anise, and gianduia

stay tuned for more Purim updates . . .