(Haaretz) — All has already been written about the famous Israeli breakfast of a large chopped Arabic salad, eggs, labneh, feta and other cheeses, Greek style yogurt and bread: that it’s fresh and healthy, that it’s Middle Eastern, that it’s just too much.
Everything was said, except the truth, and the truth is that Israelis have this exact meal for dinner, not breakfast.
Many Israelis still have heavy, hot meals at lunch. Kids come back from school early and have their schnitzel and mashed potatoes. Dinner is light and includes the dishes listed above.
Summer, when light cooking or no cooking at all are a plus, is the best time to try and follow this diet. Tomatoes and cucumbers are at their peak this time of year and yield the best chopped salad. To the regular chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and onions add grated radishes, chopped peppers and fresh mint and finish with lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Offer good bread to absorb all the goodness accumulating at the bottom of the salad bowl. You can also add a simple salad of squashed avocado with chopped egg, green onions and olives to spread on bread.
Finish this Israeli-inspired dinner with a fresh watermelon. You’ll leave the table full but not heavy. You might even sleep better!
There’s one staple that requires cooking, but still fits summer dinners (or brunches) really well, and that is shakshuka. Shakshuka is a Northern African dish of cooked eggs in tomato and red pepper or paprika stew, usually with the addition of hot pepper. It was brought to Israel by the Tunisian Jewish immigrants and is popular both in Israeli homes and restaurants. The most common version is made of cooked tomatoes, crushed garlic and paprika. Some recipes include sliced chorizos, some call for feta cheese, and there’s also a green version of Swiss chard or spinach stew with eggs cooked in it is gaining popularity as well.
Shakshuka made with canned tomatoes can be quite good, but there’s really nothing like one made of fresh summer tomatoes. The dish has such few ingredients- it relies on the tomatoes alone, and those must be of the best flavor. Try mixing different heirloom tomatoes- but any good, red, ripe tomatoes will work well.
With slices of ciabatta or sourdough bread, this is a whole vegetarian meal on its own. I just wish I could say it was cheap, since no meat is saved. Unfortunately, if you’re living in America, tomatoes, even in the summer, can be as expensive as meat, or even more expensive- something I still cannot understand. But you’ll be comforted to know you’re following the MyPlate recommendations of the USDA, and serving your family real goodness in a skillet.
Below are two versions for shakshuka, one is a classic tomato-paprika base with roasted eggplant, the other is a summer version of Swiss chard and fresh corn.
“Would You Make This?” is a sporadic column where personal chef Alix Wall evaluates a cookbook by making some of its recipes, sharing them with friends and asking what they think of the results.
When tourists want to learn more about local food in Israel, they often end up in the kitchen at the home of Orly Ziv. A trained nutritionist, Ziv who has been leading culinary tours and teaching classes under the name “Cook in Israel” since 2009. In a typical class, she takes her hungry students shopping in Tel Aviv’s Shuk HaCarmel and to a pita bakery, and then back to her home to make classic dishes like hummus, Moroccan fish and plum cake.
If a trip to Israel isn’t in your near future, getting your hands on a copy of Ziv’s new cookbook “Cook In Israel: Home Cooking Inspiration” with Orly Ziv with photos by Katherine Martinelli, will easily satisfy your cravings.
The book has a healthy bent and most of the recipes are vegetarian with some mouth-watering sounding fish dishes and only two meat dishes (Ziv herself has been a pescaterian for almost 30 years, but, on occasion, cooks meat for her family). Not surprisingly, Israeli favorites like tomatoes and eggplant are the stars of this book as are salads of all kinds — including some more unusual options like a raw beet and apple salad. The book ends with a surprisingly rich dessert selection with recipes for an orange, semolina and coconut cake and chocolate/halva babka.
This version of shakshuka can be found in Israeli cafeיs and restaurants for those who want a change of pace from regular shakshuka. The color is great, as is the taste — especially with fresh bread on the side.
3-4 Tbs. olive oil
1 onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 spring onions, sliced (optional)
1 bunch Swiss chard, roughly chopped (leaves and stalks separated)
1 bunch spinach leaves, roughly chopped
2 Tbs. white wine
½ cup heavy cream
Salt & pepper
Feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
1) Heat olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the onion, garlic, spring onions and Swiss chard stalks until the onions are golden brown.
2) Add the spinach and Swiss chard leaves. Cook for a few minutes, stirring, until the leaves lose half of their volume.
3) Stir in the wine and cream and season with salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.
4) Bring to a boil and lower the heat. Cook for 20 minutes on low heat.
5) Break an egg into a small dish and gently slide into the pan. Repeat with remaining eggs, evenly spacing them within the pan.
6) Cover and cook until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still soft (or to your preference).
7) Remove the lid, sprinkle with cheese, if using and serve with plenty of fresh bread.
Serves 4 to 6
Keren Shahar-Karbe’s Israeli Shakshuka with Feta Cheese:
Ingredients (Serves 2):
6 tablespoons vegetable oil (not olive oil)
1 diced red paprika
4 grounded garlic cloves
5 very ripe diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
120 ml water
1 teaspoon of sweet paprika
1-2 chopped hot dry chili sea salt
¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder
80 gram crumbled soft feta cheese
Fry the diced paprika until tender, then add the garlic. When the garlic gets golden – careful, it happens quickly! – add the diced tomatoes, the tomato paste and the water. Cook on low fire until the tomatoes get tender.
When the tomatoes are ready, add the spices and the cheese and stir carefully.
Open an egg in a small bowl. Carefully scoop a ‘hole’ in the tomato sauce and slide the egg in. Repeat with all the eggs. Cover the pan and cook on low fire.
When the eggs are cooked but not too hard yet, sprinkle the fresh chopped parsley and serve fresh with warm challah.
I’m going to be honest with you. I signed up for Birthright mostly because I wanted to spend ten days eating Israeli food. When I found out I was chosen for a summer 2012 trip, my daydreams were filled with visions of pistachio-studded halvah, mounds of falafel, juicy shawarma, and creamy hummus. You could say I was going on the trip for all the wrong reasons, that gorging oneself on Israeli delicacies was not a moral reason to take advantage of a free 10-day trip to the Holy Land. Well sometimes karma bites you back.
I arrived in Jerusalem on a breezy July night, accompanied by my best friend and about 40 other college students, still strangers to me. Jet-lagged and exhausted from the 11-hour flight, we trudged into the hostel’s dining room. My eyes perked up at the sight of roasted chicken, hummus, and juicy watermelon. Yes, this is why I had traveled for nearly half a day. I happily ate my dinner and played the obligatory name games with the group.
Not even 12 hours after the meal, I was struck with a certain discomfort. I’d been sick from traveling before, and I assured myself this little stomach upset would pass. I sullenly skipped out on the next morning’s breakfast of hard-boiled eggs and Israeli salad.
It’s the ultimate big bucks breakfast. “You are invited to a photo opportunity and breakfast roundtable with Governor Mitt Romney,” reads the bold blue print on the invitation sent to a select few. Then comes the price: $50,000 per couple.
Politics aside what about the two questions that are really on all our minds: what is on the menu, and what’s the profit on each plate?
The breakfast will be at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, where an insider tells the Forward that around 40 people will attend. The menu will include croissants, coffee, cheeses, eggs, salads and shakshuka, an Israeli dish consisting of poached eggs in tomato sauce. It will be served in one of the smart banqueting rooms.
As you may have noticed, the menu isn’t different to the breakfast you get in most Israeli hotels, or to the King David’s standard breakfast, which costs 128 shekels, around $30. This means that the Romney campaign should make at least $998,800 from the event.
If you closed your eyes, you could easily imagine the scent of rich tomato and onion wafting from Jennah Craig’s East Bay apartment, and the joyful colliding of conversations ricocheting down the hallway coming from an airy apartment complex in downtown bustling Tel Aviv. That was exactly the feeling this gathering was going for. A group of ten young adults who’ve all settled in the Bay after years living in Israel, we rolled up our sleeves to create a Middle Eastern-style feast of Shakshuka (see recipe below) and homemade pita, and toasted to some of our most memorable meals cooked in the Holy Land.
Danna Rubin, Northwest Regional Director for Masa Israel Journey, spearheaded the edible effort after hearing from a number of MASA Israel program alums that the thing they missed most from their time spent in Israel was spent making a mess on the stove, in good, raucous, company. “A big part of living in Israel is gathering together and cooking meals together; something less prevalent in American culture,” says Rubin.
My happiest memories of my father are of mid afternoon Fridays, the only time we would find him in the kitchen. A flock of six kids, like turtles making their journey back to the sea, trekking back home tired and famished on mid afternoon Fridays.
A couple of my younger siblings, walking a few miles back home from school, moments ago just jolted out of their seats in their classrooms, at the much awaited sound of the bell signaling the end of school week and freedom.
Another brother or a sister, stepping back home, dusty from an excursion on the patchy green, mostly sandy play area or from a playful ride outside on our lone brand new bike. I am hitchhiking in the scorching sun, from my army base somewhere in central Israel and heading home south, after an entire week or two of being away. Us all famished and cannot wait for Friday night Shabbat dinner.
This spicy, tangy and herbed sauce is dubbed “Magic Sauce.” It would certainly liven up any Shabbat chicken. [101 Cookbooks]
Changes in school lunches could take years to implements says Marion Nestle. [The Atlantic]
“The Hangover Cookbook” (come on, we’ve all been there) has a recipe for the Israeli dish shakshuka. [The Daily Meal]
A culinary confession: During my first weeks as an exchange student in Israel, I walked by a roadside café and peered at the fare on offer, and there it was, right next to the hummus and salad: something that looked like eggs swimming in tomato sauce. I thought it was probably the most unappealing dish I’d ever seen.
Little did I know that, years later, I would become a passionate devotee of shakshuka, one of Israel’s most popular cuisines, where eggs are nestled in a bed of steaming tomatoes, onions, and spices, and are cooked on a stove top.
The beauty of shakshuka preparation is its flexibility. It’s the ultimate meal to prepare at home when it seems there is nothing in the pantry. Like making spaghetti sauce for pasta, it can either be composed of completely fresh ingredients or quickly whipped up out of a can. And, like any egg dish, it can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It is the ultimate brunch cuisine, quick and easy enough to be able to sleep late and still impress your guests.