Eran Weinberger, in front of his restaurant, Zula Hummus Cafe. Photographs by Yermi Brenner
Back in Israel, I used to eat a hummus plate for lunch about three times a week. When I relocated to Berlin this summer, reviving this delicious routine was high on my priority list.
On my third evening in town, while strolling East Berlin’s streets, I saw a restaurant with an inviting name: Zula Hummus Cafe. Zula is Hebrew slang describing a comfortable, relaxing place, and at the time — as I cluelessly searched for an apartment in this huge city, with zero German language skills — that’s exactly what Zula Hummus Cafe was for me. It gave me a feeling of home.
A bowl of Israeli style hummus at an event hosted by EatWith, a platform for sharing home-cooked meals. / Courtesy of EatWith
I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn. Periodically I receive an email from “Brooklyn Hummus” with the message that the following day there will be either hummus, masabacha (chickpeas swimming in a rich tahini sauce) or both for sale. Orders must be placed before the day is over; the hummus can be procured anywhere along the 2 or 3 subway line from Prospect Heights in Brooklyn to Chelsea in Manhattan the next morning. The email is signed “Noam,” no last name.
Last summer I met Noam Bonnie, a 40-year-old Israeli expat software developer, outside Brooklyn’s Boro Hall. He unzipped a small cooler and handed me a white plastic bag filled with warm Tupperware containers of hummus and masabacha, as well as pita. He instructed me to eat the hummus soon and not to refrigerate it. I paid him in cash — $7 for each container — thanked him and slipped the goods into my canvas bag.
Bonnie has been selling his hummus like this for seven years. “Before I moved here I knew I was going to miss it,” he told me. Anticipating his longing for the dish, he learned to make hummus before he moved to New York, experimenting at home and talking to talented hummus cooks. Once Bonnie arrived in New York, his Israeli colleagues and friends quickly caught on to his skills and asked to purchase the dip. A side business was born.
Local Israelis were grateful for a taste of home. “The first time he arrived at my place, I cried,” Naama Shefi, another Israeli living in New York who works on various culinary projects, told me. Similar underground hummus operations have popped up in Berlin and New Jersey, feeding expats as well as those like me, who once called Israel home.
“In Israel, hummus is a religion,” Bonnie said. More than a bowl of ground chickpeas, it provides expats with a cultural and emotional connection to home. The dish holds a unique place in the Israeli imagination; there is an entire culture of customs, etiquette and traditions that surrounds it. “The experience of eating hummus is the ultimate freedom: You eat it with your hands, outside, and with your friends. It’s very spontaneous. All of these characteristics are so typically Israeli. So it’s not just the flavor that’s so hard to bring to life [outside Israel], but also the experience of eating it,” Shefi said.
Bagels at Black Seed. Credit: Devra Ferst
As we predicted around Hanukkah last year, 2014 is indeed the year of the bagel and hummus. This week, the web’s filled with bagel recommendations and a savory hummus bread pudding recipe — oh, and the trade secrets to Katz’s pastrami.
Where to get your lox on: The 10 best appetizing shops in New York City. [Village Voice]
Another day, another list of the best bagels in New York City. This one comes from Alan Richman. [GQ].
Fattet hummus is a savory Middle Eastern bread pudding made with pita and chickpeas, give this recipe a try. [Food 52]
Try pairing that with this carrot salad with tahini and crisped chickpeas pistachios and parsley. [Smitten Kitchen]
Katz’s pastrami — in 8 steps. [Serious Eats]
Put down the hummus! Hot Mama’s Foods which makes hummus for Target, Trader Joe’s, and Giant Eagle has recalled 14,860 pounds of hummus that may be contaminated with listeria.
The company, which makes hummus under the popular brand name Archer Farms has released a full list of which “flavors” to avoid including Trader Joe’s Edamame Hummus and Target’s Archer Farms Traditional Hummus.
So far, no illnesses have been reported, but the company is urging shoppers to return their hummus for a full refund.
The falafel stand was a key stop on the “tour” of Israel. Organized within my son’s active imagination, the imaginary tour was inspired by a Happy Birthday Israel program at our synagogue. This trip was special because it included a participatory component beyond a float in the Dead Sea, a dip in the Mediterranean, a stop at the Western Wall, or, for that matter, visiting a falafel stand. The extra component was helping to “prepare” a special (birthday) meal for Israel–on a kibbutz no less. The menu, as arranged by our youthful tour guide (age 4), included falafel, pita bread, hummus and Israeli salad along with tahini. We had a wonderful time “preparing” the meal and enjoying it. Our son beamed as his satiated parents expressed their appreciation for his culinary creativity. It added a different dimension to the trip.
In a market in Acco years ago, Ezra Braves told me he had “one of the greatest food experiences of my life:” A lush bowl of hummus, topped with hot chickpeas, and serves with peppers and olive oil. “It was perfect, simple, and interesting,” he says. “When a chef makes something delicious out of so few ingredients, there’s more talent in that than in very elaborate haute cuisine.”
The experience stuck with him — as did his cravings for great hummus. Rather than return to Acco, Braves decided to recreate that memory in his native Toronto.
S. Lefkowitz, named for Braves’ grandfather, opened last month in a rough-hewn jewel box of a space with old-fashioned lettering in the window. Hebrew letters painted on the glass proclaim S. Lefkowitz’s “hummusia” (the city’s first dedicated hummus spot), and a line below cheekily declares it “The Hummus Institute of North America.”
Thursday May 15 is National Hummus Day. If you’ve been paying attention to Jewish food trends, you might also be aware that 2014 has been declared “The Year of the Hummus.”
That’s a lot of chickpeas.
To celebrate, Sabra (the official dips sponsor to the NFL!) has written a (not-so) handy guide to teach hummus philistines about Israel’s national dip. Here are just some of the things we learned from “Hummus for Dummies”:
1. How to pronounce “hummus”
Do you end in Oos, in Iss, in Uss? According to “Hummus for Dummies,” hummus is a “fun word,” yet difficult to pronounce. Pretty straightforward so far. Then it gets weird:
Some people will tell you that it starts with a “choo” sound made toward the back of your throat (less “choo-choo train” — more “achtung baby”).
If in doubt, you can always just call it “yummus.”
2. Hummus can be fruity
We are told that hummus is a “rich, smooth, creamy dip” made from chickpeas, tahini, garlic, spices, oils, vegetables — and fruits? Mango in your hummus, really?
If that’s not enough to satisfy your sweet tooth, the guide also offers recipes for hummus-based desserts like “Chocolate Hummus Truffles,” and “Chocolate, Coconut and Caramel Hummus Pastries.”
3. “Chickpeas are sometimes confused with nuts.”
Are they? Why? A section called “Browsing through interesting hummus facts” explains that because you can roast and season chickpeas, innocent bystanders could taste the crunchy — and yes, granted — slightly nutty legume and get confused. So once again, just in case you missed that class: Chickpeas are not nuts.
4. Hummus “loves you back.”
Any fan of the veggie-tray can tell you that it’s the dip that packs on the pounds. But now, you can enjoy those fresh carrot and celery sticks the way God intended you to — ”hummus can be the fresh flavorful answer to the prayers at the center of your vegetable tray.” Glad we cleared that one up.
Just kidding Sabra. We love hummus too.
Hummus might be a constant presence in many Jewish household fridges, but the delicious chickpea dip still has a long way to go to gain nationwide popularity.
Eighty million Americans, or a quarter of the population, have never heard of the Middle Eastern snack, Sabra, the biggest US producer, recently told Fast Company. According to data from the market research company IRI, only 26% of households eat hummus regularly.
To help address the hummus crisis, Sabra has started dispatching trucks loaded with hummus to those poor cities living in the hummus desert. In April, the trucks will stop in Orlando, FL, San Diego and Austin to preach the hummus gospel — oh, and give out samples.
Anthony Bourdain’s tour of Israel last fall left me (and most viewers) desperately longing for a real exploration of Israeli cuisine. Bourdain alluded to a meal of roasted baby watermelon in Gaza that never appeared on camera and somehow managed to skip one of the region’s culinary capitals — Tel Aviv — entirely. Where Bourdain failed, I hold hope American-Israeli chef Michael Solomonov will succeed, in his PBS special “The Search for Israeli Cuisine.”
Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until Spring 2015 to catch the entire program. In the meantime, filmmaker Roger Sherman who traveled with Solomonov to Israel last fall has released a taste of what we can expect.
Catch shots of stunningly bright food, simple hummus and a corned beef stuffed pita at that inspires Solomonov to declare: “You can keep your truffles and foie gras, this is where it’s at.”
Viewer digression is advised: Do not watch this while hungry.
At Hummus Lina in Jerusalem, bowls of hummus are topped with mashed fava beans. Photo: Courtesy of ‘Make Hummus Not War.’
On his hop around the world, filmmaker Trevor Graham sampled countless bowls of hummus. But which are his favorites? We found out:
Lina, Jerusalem: This Palestinian-owned restaurant is buried deep in the Armenian quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City and seats only a few guests at its seven tables. The owner, who has been making hummus for 35 years, inherited his recipe from his father. “There’s no air conditioning or fan; it gets quite hot, but the hummus is delicious,” and worth it, Graham said.
Soucci, Beirut: The owner of this famed hummus spot started making hummus when he was a child, 45 years ago, and “his father ran the place before him, and his grandfather started making hummus in the 19th century,” Graham said. While the hummus is some of the best, regulars also come for the atmosphere: “It’s just plastic tables and chairs, but you get prime ministers, opera singers, taxi drivers, locals going there.”
Pinati, Jerusalem: Outside the Old City walls, Graham likes to down his hummus at this small chain. “It became so popular, they opened up other shops in other parts of Israel,” he said. The shop’s hummus is super smooth and a bit lighter than others on offer around the country.
Hummus Place, New York City: Graham says the hummus at this mini-chain is delicious. though it’s been “slightly modified for the New York palette. The garlic’s been a bit toned down,” he noted.
To the great plates of hand-cut, house-smoked artisan pastrami, step aside — 2014 is the year of the perfectly crafted bowl of hummus. Until the opening of chef Michael Solomonov’s Philadelphia restaurant Zahav, few American diners recognized much beyond falafel as Israeli cooking. The cult-like popularity of “Jerusalem: A Cookbook” by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi only fueled the hunger for the cuisine, causing a rush for ingredients like za’atar, raw tahini and pomegranate molasses. Next spring, expect a two hour PBS special exploring the varied dishes of Israel hosted by Solomonov. Additionally, two new restaurants — a hummusiah, or hummus spot called Dizengoff by Solomonov and Bar Bolonat by New York chef Einat Admony — are set to open to diners hungry for the flavors of the Holy Land.
While Israeli fare may be the Jewish cuisine of the year, a staple of the Ashkenazi culinary cannon will see a renaissance this year as well. Appetizing shops, which stood stagnant as their deli brothers were updated for the 21st century, will get their own revitalization. After 100 years in business as a store front shop, Russ and Daughters is set to open a café on the Lower East Side early this year, and Shelsky’s Smoked Fish in Brooklyn plans to expand to a new location with counter seating as well. For dairy lovers and vegetarians, 2014 will be a particularly delicious year. B’tayavon.
Devra Ferst is the Forward’s food editor.
Is Philadelphia hungry for Israeli and Jewish foods? Chef Michael Solomonov certainly thinks so.
Solomonov and his business partner Steve Cook announced that they’ll be adding two more restaurants to their group, which already includes the award-winning Israeli-style restaurant Zahav: A laid back Israeli-style Hummus restaurant named Dizengoff, and a restaurant with “traditional Jewish Diaspora” foods named Abe Fisher. Both are slated to launch down the street from each other in spring 2014, on 16th and Sansom Street in center city Philadelphia.
The news of the latest restaurants in the works broke last week, as the two were in the air, returning from a food tour they had led in Israel.
At Dizengoff the focus will be “really great, consistent hummus,” says Solomonov, who was born in Israel and spent his childhood moving between Israel and the United States.
The menu at the 25-seat restaurant will be very limited, he says. At the moment, he isn’t willing to commit to serving anything beyond hummus and tahini.
“Minimalism is kind of going what we’re going for,” says Solomonov. The restaurant will be “accessible” in terms of both concept and price, he says.
Where can you get the best hummus in Jerusalem? The Wall Street Journal has a hummus bowl for every type of hummus lover. [Wall Street Journal]
A Jewish love of coffee goes back centuries — read about it during your morning Cup o’ Joe. [Moment magazine]
After trailing behind Toronto and D.C., New York City can finally claim a food truck on wheels. [Midtown Lunch]
We’re not so sure this hard squash hummus recipe with Serrano peppers, yogurt and cilantro is actually hummus, but it looks delicious. [Food52]
Americans waste nearly 40% of our food a year. The former president of Trader Joe’s is planning a restaurant and food store with healthy cooked just barely after its sell by date. [NPR]
Tama Matsuoka Wong shares with us how to forage sumac and make your own spice blend. [Serious Eats]
When my kids were little, I was always searching for that perfect lunch. What could I put in their lunch box which would not be returned to me in the afternoon? For each child it was a different challenge: this one didn’t eat bread, this one ate bread but only whole wheat, and this one would eat bread but no crust. The list of variations and challenges went on and on. For a while there, I was lucky and one child loved Morningstar chicken nuggets—phew, fabulous and easy. Another only wanted tuna fish on lightly toasted bread with lettuce and tomato and crust taken off. It kind of reminds me of the childhood song…”Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us; all we want is that you give us something to eat. We don’t want your yucky food; we just want food that’s good…” Now everyone in my house is older, lunchroom cafeterias are a thing of the past. Yet, the question still remains, “What should I take for lunch?”
A 2012 study by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Conagra Foods found that 62 percent of people with desk jobs usually eat lunch at their desks. Some choose to eat at their workstation because there is no staff kitchen, others would rather work 8 hours straight (not sure if that’s really legal). Some prefer to save money and bring a bag lunch. (It should be noted people do buy their lunch and still eat at their desk.)
Until recently, if you told someone you were going to visit Acre (known by most Israelis as Akko), you would probably have been asked, “What happened, did you lose something there?” or would have received a recommendation to try the delicious hummus at the Hummus Said restaurant.
The northern coast city was the capital of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the Crusader regime that was established with the European conquest of Jerusalem in July 1099, and which extended over a large part of Palestine and Lebanon. Throughout history, it has always been a magnet, having been captured, abandoned and resettled many times since its founding. However, after Israel became independent in 1948, Acre languished for years as a development town that just happened to have an old city of moderate interest, and to host an annual alternative theater festival that would attract outsiders to the city for a brief period. As Haifa flourished to the south, Acre continued to be considered a pale, northern version of Jaffa.
However, anyone who visits the city today can sense that something exciting is happening here. In 2001, Acre was recognized Acre as Israel’s first UNESCO World Heritage site. But since that time and, until a year ago, nothing much seemed to be going on in town. Although it could be argued that with elections coming up in October, someone in City Hall realized that Acre’s combination of antiquities, seaside location, and spice and food market could have great potential, and decided to make some improvements. Regardless, the emergence of new eateries is a clear indication that the city is raising its game. Over the past 12 months, a myriad of restaurants and places of entertainment have opened, and against the backdrop of a new culinary awareness in the Western Galilee and thanks to easy access to fresh raw materials, Acre is in line to become the north’s new culinary capital.
Read more at Haaretz.com.
Whether you’re craving creamy hummus, cheesy burritos, Indian dahl, grilled calamari, Druze pastries or fresh fish, eating well in the Holy Land doesn’t have to cost you much. We’ve compiled a list of where to get the best bite for your buck. From Israel’s northern border to its most southern tip, learn where to find delicious, hearty, local, homemade, and budget-friendly options, all for under 60 shekels (less than $17). It turns out foodies can be frugal, too.
Sabich HaNegba street 16, corner of HaRoeh street, Ramat Gan
The dispute over who made the first Sabich – fried eggplant, hard-boiled egg, tehini, hummus and salad stuffed in a pita and drizzled with amba (the Iraqi version of mango chutney) – in Israel is well known to Ramat Gan-ners and Sabich-lovers alike. The employees here and anyone else who grew up in Ramat Gan, claim the word Sabich originates from the name of the deceased Iraqi owner of this spot, Sabich Chalabi, who first made and sold the glorified sandwich in 1961, now considered a national gem. His ID card is proudly laminated on the wall of the place to prove his claim to the patent. True or not, this is the place for sabich.
If you’ve never heard of the dish, you’re certainly in for a life-changing vegetarian treat for the whopping price of 18 NIS. Half portions are also available. This may be a messy feast so devote yourself to the experience, don’t wear elegant clothing and you might even enjoy it when the first drop of tehini stains your shirt. Warm, simple and filling — you’ll never go back to falafel or shwarma. A small tip: if you don’t plan on smelling like you’ve just bathed in yellow curry, skip the amba — although I swear it’s worth it.
I have been making hummus from scratch for nearly 10 years now. I don’t think it’s a big deal — it’s the easiest thing to make — but nearly everyone I talk to who knows this is shocked. How do I do it? When do I find the time? Isn’t it labor intensive? Why would I make my own when I could just buy Sabra? y answer: It’s not time consuming, it’s not labor intensive, and Sabra sucks.
There, I’ve said it. I eat Sabra hummus when it’s the only stuff available (the other stuff is just goyishe bean-dip as far as I’m concerned) but I otherwise find it revolting. Why? Because it tastes manufactured. It’s the heavy overtone of preservatives and acidity that ruins an otherwise half-way decent product. I know my preference flies in the face of many an American Jew (particularly on the East Coast — I forgive the West Coasters because I know there isn’t much out there in the first place — except in L.A. and then you have no excuse) but I stand by it. It’s better if you make it yourself. It’s fresher, it’s creamier, and it’s more flavorful.
Some sports and food groups in the United States are easily associated with one another. Baseball and hot dogs clearly go together, for example. That’s easy.
But what about football? Tailgating parties, where people hold picnics out of the back of the car before a big game, may be an integral part of the football ritual in the United States (we’re talking about American football, of course) but one wouldn’t say that there is a specific dish that one immediately thinks of as official football food.
But let’s try to imagine such a thing for a moment. You’ve packed up the car, you pull out the picnic cooler to start laying out the pre-football-game spread, and you reach your hand inside and pull out a big container of all-American … hummus?
Sounds bizarre and jarring, but it’s now official. The National Football League has signed a deal with Sabra Dipping Co. that will make Sabra brand hummus the “official dip” of the league.
Read more at Haaretz.com.
How do you make the world’s tallest kosher sandwich? The Jewish community in Budapest decided it was high time to find out.
When Andras Borgula started planning the Budapest’s sixth annual Judafest, a cultural street fair celebrating Jewish life in Hungary held June 9, he had an ambitious thought: Why not set some kind of Jewish record?
Borgula, 38, founder and director of the Jewish Golem Theatre and artistic director for the festival, said the idea came to him as he tried to come up with something that would be both Jewish — and Hungarian.
“There isn’t so much Hungarian Talmud or Torah,” he said. “But we’re pretty strong in the kitchen. We like to eat, and we like to cook. So, why not a kosher sandwich?”
Borgula’s dream was almost cut short when he found out that the Guiness World Records did not have a category for unusually tall kosher fare. After much pestering and pleading, the world’s arbiter of unusual and outrageous things agreed to create a special category, with the requirement that the oversized lunch be at least two meters (almost 7 feet) tall.
And so, as the 7,000 attendees of Judafest (put on by the Budapest chapter of the American Joint Distribution Committee) crowded into Kazinczy Street in Budapest’s Jewish Quarter this week, Borgula and 25 volunteers were preparing over 400 sandwiches, to be stacked one on top of each other as “one big club sandwich.”
Sadly, they fell just short of the world-record setting goal, running out of bread just as the sandwich reached 1.9 meters.
But, “even if we had more,” Borgula said, “the tower was start[ing] to fall apart.”
Despite the setback, Borgula, who positioned the individual slices of white bread, kosher turkey, hummus and pickles himself, is proud of his community’s achievement. “It’s not an official record, but still, this is an unofficial tallest kosher sandwich of the world, built by myself, and I’m not an engineer,” he said.
So, what to do with such a masterpiece? Borgula thought of that too. With record-level flooding threatening Budapest, volunteers were put to work to fortify the banks of the Danube. Rather than letting the hundreds of sandwiches go to waste, Borgula and other festival-dwellers carried them down to the river and served them to people working to fight the rising tide.
“I think most of the people never heard about Jews, and never tasted kosher [food] in their entire life,” Borgula said. “They were pretty amazed by this.”
Move over tobacco, it’s time for chickpeas to shine.
It’s increasingly looking like Virginia’s tobacco-farming country may soon be known as hummus country, thanks to Sabra Dipping Company.
This week, the company famous for its plastic pots filled with hummus, matbucha, and other Middle Eastern salads and spreads opened an $86 million research and development center, dubbed the Center of Excellence, near Richmond.
According to Haaretz, the Center is “devoted to the science, production, engineering, packaging and delivery of the chickpea-based spread.”
Sabra is also prodding farmers in the area around the center to replace their tobacco crops with chickpeas, says the Wall Street Journal.