New Master Cook

Since my grad school schedule has been busy and I had class into the evening a few nights a week, Noah has been cooking more the past few months. And he is my new favorite cook! Noah has some classic dishes – such as tuna pasta – that he likes making all the time…

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But he’s also been trying his hand at some more challenging dishes – such as pizza! Noah makes the dough from scratch (yum!) and has been experimenting with different topping levels and baking methods. For Chanukah, he got a pizza stone (thanks Paul and Eve!) and the most recent pizza was oh so crispy! The role of the stone is to absorb heat in the oven prior to putting the pizza on top, so then the pizza crust cooks evenly and quickly from underneath – just like a brick pizza oven would do!

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Since we’ve been missing Israeli cuisine, it’s also been good to have Noah’s homemade shakshuka:

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Finally, this beet “reuben” was seriously one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had – roasted beets with melted swiss, sauerkraut, and russian dressing on a baguette:

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Thanks for all the great meals, Noah! I appreciate all the delicious food. 🙂

Baha’i Gardens and Dr. Shakshuka

During my parents’ visit, we spent a day in Haifa. Haifa is Israel’s third-largest city, and it’s located in about one-hour north of Tel Aviv, resting below Mt. Carmel. The primary cultural highlight of Haifa is the Baha’i Gardens – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Haifa is the world center of the Baha’i faith – one of the world’s newest religion. Baha’ism was founded in Iran in the 19th century, and its primary tenet is the unity of all mankind. Baha’is believe that prophets have appeared throughout history (Moses, Mohammed, Buddha, Jesus, etc.), and religious truth is comprised of progressive revelations regarding a universal faith.

The Baha’i Gardens are built around the Shrine of the Bab. The Bab foretold of the revelation of the new faith to Baha’u’llah, the religion’s founder. In addition to the shrine, the gardens are filled with perfectly manicured trees, hedges, and plants. Gravel pathways and steps wind throughout the garden, which is open to visitors year round. One of the most unique features about the garden is that it is built along a hill and has 19 terraces!

From the bottom, the stairs can look quite imposing:

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A big part of the garden’s magnificence is how impeccable everything appears:

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We didn’t climb all 19 terraces (that’s a lot of stairs!), but we did spend about 45 minutes walking around the garden and enjoying the views out onto on the town.

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After our day in Haifa, we headed to Tel Aviv for a couple days. While in Tel Aviv, we went to Jaffa for an evening. Jaffa is an ancient port city that was once separate from Tel Aviv, but urban sprawl has made the two cities essentially connected today. It is told that Jonah (of Jonah and the whale) set off from Jaffa, and many historians believe it to be the oldest port in the world. In Jaffa, we walked along the waterfront and strolled through the town center where there were shops, restaurants, and street entertainment. We got dinner at a restaurant called Dr. Shakshuka. Shakshuka is a North African dish that is quite popular in Israel as a breakfast any-time-of-day food. Traditional shakshuka is comprised essentially of tomato and eggs, but variations include adding eggplant or other vegetables as well as a ‘green shakshuka’ version that is typically based around spinach.

Dr. Shakshuka had about 25 different shakshuka variations as well as some other North African dishes like couscous and kebabs. From some reason, I don’t have a photo of the actual shakshuka, but here are a few shots of the couscous, meat, and salad we ordered:

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If you’re a shakshuka fan, I would definitely recommend paying this place a visit if you’re in the area!

 

Cafe Life

Cafes abound in Israel. Walk down any main street in Jerusalem, and you are likely to see a smattering of cafes – often with both indoor and outdoor seating areas – busy with customers at any time of the day. Popular for breakfast, lunch, dinner, as well as just a coffee or dessert, meals at cafes are often long and leisurely, fitting with the Israeli taboo of bringing the check before bringing directly asked.

In the last few weeks I’ve been to a few cafes (also see posts about The Grand Cafe and Fresh Kitchen). The weekend here is Friday-Saturday, aligning with Shabbat. In Jerusalem, nearly all stores and restaurants close down for Shabbat, so I’ve enjoyed going out for a Friday midday meal at a cafe to enjoy getting out around the city during the weekend before settling in for a restful Shabbat.

Two Fridays ago, I went with friends to Kalo. Kalo is another Baka neighborhood establishment very popular with both Israelis and visitors. While some cafes may be known for a particular dish or inventive menu item, the overall food line-up at each cafe is very similar: shakshuka, an assortment of omelettes, salads, cheese/eggplant/tomato/egg sandwiches, and the classic Israeli breakfast. Ordering an Israeli breakfast is a (deliciously) filling experience, and the meal typically comes with two eggs, cheese, salad, jam/cream cheese, a small serving of tuna, and bread. Something that I’m not used to from the USA is the inclusion of a hot and cold beverage with a breakfast meal. Typically, juices and basic coffee options are included for this option, and if you want to upgrade to a smoothie or shake there’s a small upcharge.

At Kalo, I ordered their version of the traditional Israeli breakfast and chose orange juice and a cappuccino for my beverages:

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Other noteworthy items at the table included a fruit smoothie and a ‘green burger’ salad:

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We enjoyed a relaxing couple hours at the cafe chatting and eating before asking for the check and heading out to do some Shabbat shopping and preparations. We especially got a kick out of watching a very human-like dog at a nearby table:

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This past Friday, I went to Tmol Shilshom for lunch (with my brother, Samuel, who is also here in Jerusalem!). Tmol Shilshom is near Ben Yehuda street. The restaurant is both a cafe and a bookstore and has become somewhat of a cultural establishment due to the fact that many Israeli writers have conducted readings of their work at the cafe. In fact, the cafe was mentioned in my Ulpan book! I also read online that their Shakshuka was voted ‘top 10 breakfasts in the world’ by Lonely Planet Travel Guide – a fact which was reiterated on their menu. 🙂

The cafe itself is on the second floor of a building, and the entrance is tucked away in a back alleyway so we followed a series of signs from the main road to get there:

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Eventually, we found our way to the stairs and made our way into the cozy cafe interior:

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BIG bonus points to them for quoting Joni Mitchell on the placemat!!

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It seemed like the right occasion for a luxurious meal, so my brother and I both got milkshakes…

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… and Noah got a decked out version of the Israeli classic: ice kafe. Unlike iced coffee in the USA, ice kafe in Israel is more like a frappuccino – a blended sweet coffee drink. To get the American version of cold coffee with ice, you would need to order a kafe kar, literally, cold coffee. Noah basically got the super version of ice kafe which added ice cream and whipped cream:

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After all the buzz about it, we obviously all ordered the shakshuka.

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Delicious!

The Grand Cafe and Shakshuka

Running at 7:30am in Jerusalem is much better than running at 10:30am in Jerusalem. Holy cow, it’s hot!

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But…sleeping until 9:00 is much nicer than sleeping until 7:00. What’s a girl to do?!

In other news, I have thoroughly enjoyed my first week and a half of exploration through my area of Jerusalem. I am living in the Baka neighborhood – southeast of the old city.

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There are a lot of French and American immigrants in Baka, and it is neighbor to another Anglo-area, HaMoshavah HaGermanit (the German Colony). The German Colony has a lot of Americans, Germans, and Europeans in general, and the cafes and languages heard on the street in both areas reflect peoples’ roots.

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Bagel Cafe in the German Colony

Both neighborhoods are fairly upscale and trendy, and the two areas are connected across a pedestrian walking and biking path called the rekevetRekevet means train in Hebrew, and the path is a tracks-to-trails project.

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Derech Beit Lechem is the main road in Baka while Emek Refaim is the primary thoroughfare cutting through the German Colony.

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While both are lined with cafes, restaurants, shops, and falafel joints, Emek Refaim is more bustling and has more establishments lining the road.

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This week, I went for lunch with a couple friends at The Grand Cafe – a lovely spot for any meal of the day. The cafe is right on Derech Beit Lechem in the middle of Baka, only a couple of blocks from my apartment.

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My friends both ordered the green shakshuka.

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Shakshuka is a popular food in Israel and throughout the Middle East. Traditionally, shakshuka is made by poaching eggs in a tomato sauce, often with onions, spices, and perhaps a little cheese on top. There are several variations, however, and this green shakshuka included spinach, leeks, and roasted tomatoes. The meal also came with a heaping basket of bread:

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Everything on the menu looked good, but I went with a fruits and vegetable salad that came with fresh fruit, roasted nuts, fried gnocchi, cheese, and a balsamic drizzle:

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The real reason I didn’t get shakshuka though was because I had plans to cook shakshuka with a friend later that night!

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We made a more traditional version with tomatoes, yellow pepper, and onion. Good food, good friends…yeah, I can get used to living here. 🙂

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