Food is a very interesting cultural marker. Being Italian and Jewish I have somewhat of a confused culinary identity. Layer that on top of being in Israel. On top of being in Jerusalem. I’m deep in confusion these days. I’m taking on kosher like I have never done in the past. Both by choice and without any other option at times. Let’s be honest. Jewish food has never had such a great reputation. But come to Israel and your taste buds will atone for any past dismissals of Jewish cuisine. Restaurants, cafes, and bars in J-Ru (Jerusalem, if you aren’t in the know) either offer dairy or non-dairy options. In a rare case a restaurant will offer both. Complete with two dining areas and kitchens. Kosher is kosher, right? Wrong. Apparently there are different kinds, or levels, of kosher. Don’t ask me to explain those to you. I’ve got my own issues to sort out. Ask a Rabbi. Maybe a dozen if you really want to have your mind blown.
**Friday night I experienced my first non-kosher moment in Jerusalem. A pizza place that offered meat toppings. Scandalous. A month ago I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. It felt like I was violating some law just looking at it. I opted for mushrooms. These are big steps for me.**
Israeli food is a mix of influences. Mediterranean. Middle Eastern. Turkish. European. It’s hard to pin down. But not hard to gobble up. Seriously. I completely agree with the Israelis I’ve met – you can find the best food here. These are world travelers, they know what’s out there. Israel is not an island unto itself. So let me show you a few things I’ve been noshing on…
I’ve described shakshouka in past posts. There are many versions. Israel’s rendition is believed to have been brought by Tunisian Jews. Tonight I made my own at home:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
5 cherry tomatoes, chopped
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 garlic clove
1/2 ounce feta cheese
cummin, to taste
cayenne, to taste
parsley, to garnish
Sauté onions in olive oil. Add chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, spices/seasonings. Add water to loosen the sauce and let it cook down. Crack both eggs on top of sauce and cover pan. Do not stir. Cook for about 5 minutes until eggs are poached and set. Crumble feta cheese and sprinkle fresh parsley to garnish. Enjoy with pita or bread. Thank me later for changing your life.
Israeli salad. It doesn’t get more simple than this dish. It’s a staple. Ubiquitous. You can find it at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Tuesday afternoon I put my groceries to good use:
Cherry tomatoes, quartered
Cucumbers, chopped (equal size as tomatoes)
Fresh lemon juice
Combine chopped vegetables and dressing components. Top with crumbled feta and extra parsley. For best results refrigerate a few hours. Enjoy with hummus and pita. Or on top of anything. Seriously. Anything.
I’ve mentioned the frozen yogurt before. But check out the ice cream they have here. So many creative flavors. Pistachio is always my favorite. But I might have to try Whiskey Chocolate or Nutella someday soon. ***Disclaimer: I’m doing a lot of walking on a daily basis. I need these treats to fuel my treks.***
This was a little taste of home, ironically. Bagels are everywhere here. I indulged on a lunch break between classes today. Nothing cures homesickness like lox.