Last night we ate herby polenta with pan seared Cremini mushrooms with lots of fresh thyme, rosemary, and oregano from our garden. We used Ottolenghi’s recipe from Plenty. This morning, we put the leftover polenta under the broiler and enjoyed a quick, hot breakfast. Also last night, I rinsed and soaked some chickpeas and fava beans so that I could begin preparing the dish Ful, also from Ottolenghi’s book. The recipe appears like the traditional version I tasted while in Israel about 6 years ago. Warm hummus is spread on a plate, with a cumin spiced fava bean mash dolloped in the center. In Israel, I ate this with all sorts of pickled vegetables — hot peppers, beets, onions, etc. This is pure comfort food–warm, tactile, homey.
Being in Israel was a true adventure; the colors, sounds, and yes, the food — all captivated me from the start. I can remember row after row of date palms lining the horizon, old withered sunflower fields, the tan desert rocks. Vendors sang their wares at the bus stations early in the morning and even then, music played in the background. Colorful scarves hung majestically from shops all over Jerusalem. Even in the smallest towns, vendors sell fresh pomegranate juice, or if you are lucky, Barad — a fresh, cool, and frothy drink, commonly flavored with passion fruit. Bakeries abound; I remember loads of fresh bread, lots of the flat and sesame variety, and my favorite — Burekas (savory pastries stuffed with potatoes and mushrooms). Other favorites are Jachnun and Malawach–both really yummy, decadent pastries/breads that can be dipped in tomatoes or even better, hot and fiery Schug. No one skimped on breakfast. First thing in the morning, a variety of salads and even hummus may be served. Sometimes, I ate a type of creamy, thick yogurt introduced to me only as Milky that came with a chocolate topping. Bread and cheese are also common. Of course, you have the common Shawarma and Falafel available for lunch, sold almost everywhere. However, more memorable for me was a deliciously aromatic carrot salad. I feel as though you can taste the fusion of cultures within Israeli cuisine. Jews from all over the world, as well as Arabs, contribute to the country’s delicious and memorable cuisine.
Do you have a favorite regional recipe? What is it? How did you come to love it?