Salad at Hummus Yossef

My Hummus Yossef’s salad.

I don’t have the guts to declare one place with the best hummus. I will decidedly write, though, that I eat a lot of hummus, and taste test it the way some do with wines, (albeit a lot cheaper). And, I will argue that Hummus Yossef, from Pardes Hanna Karkur–and now with some locations in Tel Aviv–has some of the best hummus I have ever eaten. It is made fresh for each customer (check out their Cuisinart blenders whirring by the cash register) At its modest first shop—with an outdoor seating area that protected us from the searing sun with intensely blowing fans and a tarp roof –a bowl of Galilee-style hummus was presented to us. It is creamy, very lemony hummus, and heavy enough to seemingly cut it with a knife. Presented in a deep, nearly overflowing bowl, the hummus is immersed in a thorough amount of fruity olive oil, while flecked with whole chickpeas, drizzled with green delightful spicy schug, pillowy drops of tahini, and sprinkled with freshly chopped parsley.  The hummus decidedly strong flavors were enhanced by the perfect balance of spicy, mild and fruity liquid toppings. It made a regular “plain” bowl of hummus seem almost bland or naked in comparison. Continue reading

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Tel Aviv Tivoni

The ubiquitous “vegan friendly” sign at the Tel Aviv Vegan Fest

Tel Aviv, aptly called the global vegan (tivoni) capital of the world, is the hub of a culinary, social and consciousness movement that is sweeping Israel. Within the White City’s concrete jungle of bauhaus buildings, abutting glass and steel skyscrapers, is a city teeming with “vegan friendly” signs proudly affixed to businesses, from restaurants to markets to stores. The culinary and social atmosphere is decidedly one that gravitates towards conscious plant-based eating. The breadth of this fascinating Israeli social movement was evident at the city’s two day vegan fest that attracted a shocking 40,000 people (and yes, overwhelmingly Israelis). More people turned out for it than Eurovision the previous week. From labane to burgers, the throngs of Tel Avivians of all stripes lined up to eat from local restaurants, taste new Israeli vegan food brands and celebrate in an atmosphere that was decidedly positive, welcoming of everyone.

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206: Roasted Cauliflower

roasted cauliflower with tahini, though I did not add enough tahini!

Though we are in the midst of counting the Omer each night, from Passover to Shavuot, I am sharing a recipe and number that has zero relevance to the Omer. It is the number 206, the name of a Tel Aviv restaurant–really an institution–that has sat on a suburban thoroughfare with a car park in front, for decades. It is my spot for the best no-frills Israeli food. The decor is plain and likewise there are zero airs to the food. There’s some magic happening in the kitchen and their unfussy food outshines much of the high end Israeli food now dotting the globe. Before the worldwide roasted cauliflower craze, 206 was serving heaps of it, smothered in tahini sauce on little white saucer plates. Continue reading

Passover Recipes & Travel

Orange trees are everywhere in Morocco, including train stations.

I spent a couple of years as a bit of a wandering Jew, and a consistent theme in my travels was the need to find some sense of rootedness through local Jewish communities, from Rabat to Rishikesh. Reflecting upon my travels resonates especially as we near Passover. I was not in “exile,” but “on the road” without a home. And, consistently, in all of these wonderful, beautiful and often challenging places, I felt a need to find Jewish communities, sharing precious moments with these strangers, whether a handful of people in Sicily, a single woman in India or dozens in Naples. Yehuda Amichai wrote, “It was not an adventure; it was my life.”

Here are some of my Passover recipes and commentaries over the past couple of years that I hope help you to prepare and celebrate the holiday.

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Purim: Vegan Treats and Sustainable Tips

This Purim round-up includes lots of tips and recipes to help you prepare plastic-free, vegan, healthy-ish and sustainable mishloach manot (gift baskets). There’s a range of recipes including, of course, vegan hamantaschen.

As important as giving treats to friends and family is giving matanot la’evyonim (gifts for low-income people) and I offer some resources for local groups for you to support.

 

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Nina’s Apple Cake

Nina’s apple cake

This is the story of an apple cake. But not the ingredients or how to make it. It’s the story of its maker—someone who brought warmth and joy to my family’s home for Shabbat meals and holidays and who selflessly cared for so many people (including painstakingly preparing a beloved cake for voracious eaters!) despite a past that was far from sweet.

The baker of the famous apple cake is Nina Merrick, an 89-year-old resident of Silver Spring, Maryland. She and her husband, Leon, have been friends of my family’s ever since I first began to study with her to prepare for my bat mitzvah, a connection that came about thanks to her lifelong commitment to teaching Judaism. Continue reading

Tu B’shevat Toasts

Tu B’shevat toasts

Tu B’shevat–the new year celebration of trees and also known as the Jewish Earth Day–means eating lots of delicious fruits with edible interiors, edible exteriors, and edible everything at holiday seders.  For the holiday this year (which starts on Sunday evening), I created a DIY “toast toppings” to enjoy during that meal that includes most of the seven species of ancient Israel (wheat, barley, grapes, olives, figs, dates and pomegranates), along with other significant fruits-including carob–and a nut butter. Continue reading

Vegan Cholent

Cholent is truly a Jewish food. Jewish communities around the world prepare it specially for Shabbat, each with its own variation in name and ingredients. Also called dafina or skinha (Morocco) and hamin (Sephardic in general), the common thread of cholent recipes are that each is slowly cooked overnight so that it’s ready for Shabbat lunch. You cannot cook cholent quickly in a microwave or pressure cooker. It is a long process, and like Shabbat, it requires one to slow down from the rapid pace of weekday life. And no matter what goes into it, cholent is usually so hearty and filling that a Shabbat meal can be complete with it and nothing else. Continue reading

Simchat Torah: Stuffed Cabbage

Simchat Torah Stuffed Cabbage

Serving stuffed cabbage is a common dish for Simchat Torah. The recipe I share with you is from a dear friend–like a family member–who lives in Tel Aviv. I have had countless Shabbat and holiday meals at her home. Whether in the kitchen or dining room, the tables are always inevitably overflowing with dishes that she painstakingly prepared over a few days after spending hours picking out and discussing with the shopkeeper about the most beautiful produce at her local tiny fruit and vegetable market. Mindful of my plant-based diet, she not only would worry that I have enough to eat, but also creatively updated some of her meat dishes to be vegan. I have had this incredible stuffed cabbage dish at her home many times and every time she excitedly and proudly presents it on a platter to guests. I humbly present  my best attempt to try to recreate her delicious recipe. Continue reading

Sukkot: Poverty and Ecology (and Stuffed Spaghetti Squash)

Sukkot Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

Sukkot is one of my favorite holidays for the obvious reasons: a harvest festival, the ultimate farm-to-table holiday filled with delicious meals eaten outside. I offer my recipe this year–inspired by the abundance of delicious apples and squash at farmers markets–with the note that the holiday, especially after Hurricane Florence, is a time for us to reflect upon and examine our fragility and impermanence, ourselves, our food systems and the world around us. Continue reading