Growing up in the New York, Tu B’Shvat was one of the Jewish holidays that slipped under the radar. Living in Israel, I can’t step into a grocery store this time of year and not know what holiday it is. Dried fruits and nuts are piled high, serving as a pleasant reminder that it is Rosh Hashanah La’Lanot, or the New Year for trees.
Although I don’t attend a Tu B’shvat seder (a tradition of the Kabbalistic communities here), I always mark the holiday by incorporating as many dried fruits and nuts as possible into my meals for the day. I combine them to make a trail mix suitable for an afternoon snack or outdoor hike, or toast them with oats for granola to enjoy with my morning yogurt. For dinner, I take a cue from North African tagines by braising dried fruits along with chicken or beef that I serve alongside couscous and a salad topped with nuts.
But my favorite Tu B’Shvat recipe is the one for these dried fruit and nut cookies, which I learned from my friend and colleague Orly Ziv of Tel Aviv-based Cook in Israel, which offers culinary tours and cooking classes. She teaches her students to makes these cookies, which are chock full of dried fruits and nuts (recipe below). Somewhere between biscotti and granola bars, these chewy, lightly crispy cookies are sweet enough to feel like a treat, healthy enough to serve as a nice breakfast, and are perfect for Tu B’Shvat.
Until recently, kibbutzniks came to Israel to experience communal living, pilgrims of all religions came to bask in the spiritual glow of Jerusalem, and revelers came to party in Tel Aviv — but gourmands? That all began to change a few years ago, as boutique farming and winemaking took root in the Negev, Mahane Yahuda market in Jerusalem was revitalized, and serious chefs started setting up shop and defining a new Israeli cuisine. With the newfound appreciation of — and curiosity about — food in Israel, came numerous culinary tours.
Culinary tourism is itself a relatively new industry. According to the International Culinary Tourism Association, the term was coined in 1998 but it didn’t become a cohesive industry until 2003. Israel was not far behind. Tali Friedman of L’Atelie Tali Friedman, who was the first to offer dedicated culinary tours, began leading excursions through Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market or shuk five years ago.
A culinary school-trained chef, Friedman found working in restaurants to be incompatible with raising a family. As a native Jerusalemite who grew up near Mahane Yehuda, she knows the market and its vendors like the back of her hand. So she decided to offer tours of the market combined with cooking classes.
See a slide show of the tours after the jump.