Tiyul to the Shuk

For my first month in Israel, I am doing an ulpan. An ulpan is an intensive Hebrew-learning program, designed to help olim (new immigrants to Israel) learn the national language quickly and practically. There are many places to do ulpan in Jerusalem and throughout Israel, and in addition to multi-month classes for new olim, there are week-long and month-long classes that are popular with students and tourists. Traditional ulpan is a huge time commitment, with participants being in class for 4-8 hours each day. I am doing ulpan through Ulpan-Or, and I am in class for 3.5 hours every day (besides Friday and Saturday – the Israeli weekend).

In addition to the daily classes, once a week I go on a tiyul (trip) with the ulpan. The idea of the tiyul is to familiarize ulpan students with an important area of Jerusalem as well as to give them the opportunity to use their Hebrew out on the street. This week, we went on an incredible tiyul to the shukShuk means market in Hebrew, and a visit to the shuk is an absolute must-do for any visitor to Jerusalem. The shuk is heaven on earth for any foodie, cook, bargain shopper, people watcher, or human being with a decent appreciation for fun. Most of the food is sold by weight, and the colors at every fruit and vegetable stand are enough to make you stop and stare:

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salatim

salatim

Nuts and dried fruit also make a strong appearance:

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As do tea and spices:

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And things that used to be alive:

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The shuk is full of amazing bakeries, featuring bread, pita, bourekas (baked phyllo dough pastries), and many other types of gluten-filled goodness.

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A trip to the shuk also necessitates a visit to Marzipan – Jerusalem’s most loved rugelach shop:

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With all the fabulous ingredients available, it would be easy to overlook the amazing eating to be done in the shuk itself…but this would be a great mistake! Ima is a Jerusalem restaurants with a few locations that specializes in kibbeh soup (seasoned ground meat dumplings served in a rich broth).

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Uzi Eli’s juice bar offers a remedy for everything, and if you go in to say ‘hi,’ Uzi is likely to tell you about his family whose Yemenite secrets he inherited as the key to his profession. Oh, and that if you are optimistic between the ages of 9 and 17 you will have a longer life. And that you should laugh for no reason.

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Mousseline is an ice cream shop offering homemade and unusual flavors – and featuring ingredients bought in the shuk! Flavor highlights include Grapefruit with Basil, Masala, Cinnamon, and Tonka (a South American vanilla bean).

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Visiting the shuk got me excited to make a regular routine of finding new and fresh ingredients to use in cooking; I definitely want to make it a habit to buy food there each week.

In closing…

SPOTTED: A GIANT GOURD!

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Pirot v’yerakot: adventures in Israeli Dining

Oh Israel, your food is a splendor.

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Here’s the breakdown…

Foods that are better in the USA: pizza, yogurt, plain black coffee

Foods that are better in Israel: everything else

No, I am definitely not using hyperbole. Just look at this banana:

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I rest my case. 

One of my great Israeli adventures so far is venturing to pirot v’yerakot (fruit and vegetable) stands, selecting a few things I’m unfamiliar with, taking them home, putting them in my mouth, and consulting google to learn what I’m eating.

Last week I shared my encounter with prickly pears. This week, I mystery grabbed these:

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Turns out this is what a passionfruit looks like! I had only ever had passionfruit as part of a juice or smoothie – not on its own. You can eat it by scooping out the insides with a spoon (don’t lose the precious juice!). The outside shell is hard and relatively easy to separate the fruit from:

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Salatim (salads) are also a great part of Israeli cuisine. Salatim doesn’t refer to simply the mix of lettuce that we Americans refer to as salad. In Israel, salatim refers to a wide array of appetizer-like spreads, dips, pickled vegetables, and overall deliciousness. Nearly every Supersal (a large grocery store chain), mikolets (smaller grocery stores – almost like convenient stores), and small specialty shops (cheese, meat, bread, etc.) sells a selection of salatim that you can buy in various sizes. This week, I picked up a few salatim to try:

Matbuha (a spicy tomato dip, also sometimes called Turkish Salad):

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Eggplant with tahini:

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And I am now on my first second third tub of hummus (also considered a type of salatim). In defense of my hummus consumption, however, I will point out that one entire tub was consumed by Shabbat guests on Friday night. I had a group over for Shabbat dinner where I got to break out my kiddush fountain (you pour wine from the main kiddush cup into the ‘fountain’ which distributes the wine into several smaller cups):

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And purchased challot from the popular Jerusalem bakery, Marzipan:

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Also before Shabbat, I popped into a shop near my apartment that sells prepared meats, salatim, and side dishes. Observant families don’t cook on Shabbat, which requires a lot of preparation in advance for the weekly holiday. As a result, it’s common for many families to buy some prepared food to lighten the amount of preparation that’s required.

When I say prepared food, I’m not talking frozen meals or processed faux-meats. There are freshly cooked meats, vegetables, appetizers, and soups. I decided to buy a mystery foil-wrapped cylinder because for once in my life I don’t have to worry about what sort of meat could be inside (halleluyah for kosher everywhere!!).

When I got home, I opened up the foil and discovered this:

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It was some sort of phyllo dough encased ground meat/potato/onion dish. I cooked it in the oven for about 30 minutes and this is what came out inside…

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Yum! I had it with some very delicious (and long) green beans as well as the aforementioned salatim.

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And…what is more appropriate to close out my Israel food rave than Tim Tams?

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Okay, so they come in a package. And they’re actually made in Australia. And they are a far cry from any semblance of healthy. But ask anyone who has participated in an Israel summer program, Birthright, or school trip, and you will quickly learn that Tim Tams are an essential part of the Israel experience. The double-layered wafers with a chocolate cream center can be found on the front shelf of each Supersal, mikolet, and every other food-selling establishment. But, the magic of Tim Tams goes far beyond chocolate or cookie. The true love of a relationship with a Tim Tam comes in the consumption.

There is really only one right way to eat a Tim Tam.

Step 1: Get a glass of milk. Coffee is also acceptable and tea might do in a pinch.

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Step 2: Take a small bite from one corner of the Tim Tam:

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Step 3: Take a small bite from the opposite corner of the Tim Tam:

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Step 4: Dip one open corner into the milk/coffee, and put the other open corner into your mouth. Use the Tim Tam as a straw and suck until you taste the milk.

Step 5: Eat the Tim Tam – whose chocolately wafer has now absorbed the milk and become oh-so-juicy-and-delicious.

Step 6: Ecstasy

And, because I am not completely oblivious to the state of the world, some brief comments about life in Israel over the last week.

The mood was very heavy at the beginning of last week. Last Tuesday was Tisha B’av, an annual Jewish fast day that is described in the Torah as a day of crying and misfortune for all generations. This damnation is in response to the report of 12 spies who were sent to take a peek at the promised land and report back to the newly-freed-from-Egypt Israelites. While the land was indeed flowing with milk and honey, the spies came back with a negative report, saying that the people in the land were great and fierce and the Israelites should just turn back now since they would surely never be able to truly enter the land. Furious that the Israelites would so easily fall into grief and despair when the land had, in fact, been promised to them, God decreed that the Israelites would not enter the promised land until that generation died out, leading to the subsequent 40-year wander in the desert. The tragedy of the day – the 9th (tesha) day of the Hebrew month of Av – would also continue indefinitely through all generations. Hence, Tisha B’av. 

Interestingly enough, the day truly has been one of great sorrow for the Jewish people throughout history. It is on this day that both the first and second temples were destroyed in Jerusalem (some 657 years apart), Jews were expelled from England in 1290, from France in 1306, and Spain in 1492 (Columbus sailed the ocean blue…no? different theme?), Germany entered WWI in 1914, formal approval was received for the Nazi “Final Solution” in 1941, and mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto began in 1942.

Clearly, it’s not a good day. The mourning of the day is also intensified because of safety concerns resulting from the day being used as a target for terrorist attacks in recent years. This past Monday, just before the start of the fast, there were two attacks in Jerusalem including one that involved a stolen tractor plowing over a bus and killing one person. Monday also marked the day that Hamas resumed rocket attacks on Israel, breaking yet another ceasefire and resuming the war that many Israelis had hoped and believed was coming to an end. Beginning tonight at midnight, another ceasefire is supposed to go into effect…hopefully this will last.

In closing, I recommend this op-ed by the always brilliant and ever insightful Thomas Friedman.

“3,000 years with no place to be and they want me to give up my milk and honey. Don’t you see, it’s not about the land or the sea, not the country but the dwelling of his majesty. Jerusalem, if I forget you, fire not gonna come from me tongue. Jerusalem if I forget you, let my right hand forget what it’s supposed to do.”
– Matisyahu

Turkey Spinach Meatballs and Broccoli

Now that restaurant week is over, it’s time to get back in the kitchen! A few weeks ago I found a recipe for spinach and turkey meatballs on Fast Paleo (a paleo recipe-sharing site) that caught my eye, so I decided to make that. I had originally planned to serve it with spaghetti squash, but I forgot to buy some at the store, so I improvised and decided to pair it with broccoli and toast.

For the meatballs, I combined 1.25 lbs of ground turkey (Jennie-O extra lean) with one egg, a heaping teaspoon of garlic powder, a few shakes of garlic salt, and a generous 1/2 teaspoon of cumin.

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I added one cup (plus a little) of chopped spinach:

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Mix it all together:

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And form into balls on a baking tray:

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The mixture held together well enough to shape, but it wasn’t too moldable (I think there may have been a little too much spinach). I cooked for 23 minutes at 350°.

Meanwhile, I prepped some broccoli. Tina at Carrots N Cake has raved many times about a roasted broccoli recipe. I decided to finally try it for myself. The prep was pretty easy. Just chop up your broccoli:

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Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil and a couple tablespoons of sugar (I really did more like 1.5 tablespoons of sugar):

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Broil on high for 8 minutes:

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Although any broccoli is good broccoli to me, I definitely don’t think I did this recipe quite right. First of all, I think I was using a larger quantity of broccoli than in the original recipe, so I may have needed a little more oil/sugar. Additionally, the broiling time wasn’t sufficient for my oven, and I think I should have left the broccoli in there to cook a little longer. Oh well! I don’t know if I will try this recipe again anyway though – something about adding sugar to my veggies feels like sacrilege.

Here’s the final product – plus a few mini portabellos on top…

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…and some wheat toast with hummus:

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Restaurant week was fun, but it’s nice to back in my own kitchen.

Roasted Veggies and an Emergency Rescue

I’ve gotten in the habit of making batches of veggies, rice, potatoes, etc. at the beginning of each week to use for lunches and dinners over the next several days. This week I made roasted brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes. For the brussel sprouts, I chopped them in half and tossed with some coconut oil and cinnamon…

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…then roasted at 375° for 30 minutes.

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For the sweet potatoes, I sliced them and tossed with olive oil, curry, turmeric, and cumin…

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… and roasted at 375° for 45 minutes:

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The baking was definitely a success. After the food was done, I received a call from my roommate. Her car had unfortunately broken down and she was stranded in the middle of the road waiting for a AAA tow truck. I quickly transformed from cooking-mode to rescue mission-mode when I went to find her. Since her car had broken down, the heat wasn’t working and it was cold! I pulled car up behind hers, put my hazard lights on, and we waited for the AAA man to come.

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it’s dead!

It took a while, but finally the AAA tow truck arrived! Here’s the man attaching chains to the bottom of the car to pull it up onto the tow:

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He borrowed my roommate’s keys to put the car in neutral and allow it to move forward. There was a slight mishap though when….

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uh-oh, I’m locked out!

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good thing I work for AAA and have a special tool to get into locked cars

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problem solved

How appropriate that this disaster would be prolonged. Finally, the car was brought onto the tow truck and we went home!

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Moral of the story: it’s good to have AAA!

Cottage Cheese Biscuits

I stumbled across a recipe for cottage cheese biscuits on the Healthy Recipes Blog (I recently discovered this site and fell immediately in love). I thought the biscuits looked interesting, and I happened to have cottage cheese in the fridge, so I decided to give it a whirl. I modified the original recipe slightly, and you can see my full recipe below.

First, mix flour, baking powder, and sugar together in a large bowl:

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Add cottage cheese and milk:

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I started to mix everything together in the bowl, but that wasn’t working very well, so I poured the whole mix onto a lightly floured board and got to work with my hands:

before using hands - very crumbly!

before using hands – very crumbly!

My hands were just what the dough needed, and it got perfectly sticky without any additional liquid. Once the dough seemed shapeable, I divided it into 6 segments, formed them vaguely like biscuits, and arranged on a lightly greased baking tray:

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Cook for 15 minutes at 450°.

beautifully golden!

beautifully golden!

Cottage Cheese Biscuits

makes 6 biscuits
Ingredients
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 cup cottage cheese
- 1/2 cup coconut/almond milk
Method
Mix together flour, sugar, and baking powder and a large bowl. 
Once combined, add in cottage cheese and milk. 
Stir or knead with hands until a shapeable dough forms. 
Divide into 6 biscuits, arrange on a lightly greased baking tray, 
and bake at 450° for 15 minutes until the tops are golden.

I try to have three components to my meals: starch, vegetable, and protein. (Breakfast is exempt from this policy) With the biscuits as this week’s starch, I decided to roast up some brussel sprouts to go with.

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I tossed the brussel sprouts with a little coconut oil, arranged on a baking tray, and sprinkled with salt, pepper, and thyme. I cooked for 30 minutes at 400°. I always struggle to determine how long and at what temperature to roast vegetables. This timing/temp combination worked very well and I will definitely be using again.