What is Israeli cuisine? This was the question on everyone's mind during my 5-day Israel food tour in late June. My co-adventurers were all food bloggers as well, and we each came to Israel with vague notions of what to expect during our time there (lots of hummus and tahini!) but without a clear sense of what we were in for. Here's a quick look at what we experienced:
The state of Israel is only 64 years old, but the history is ancient, and the food a bonafide melting pot of different cultures and cuisines. Janna Gur, author of The Book of New Israeli Food: A Culinary Journey (a beautiful cookbook and a terrific resource for what is known as "new" Israeli food) sums it up this way in her forward:
A society of immigrants from more than 70 countries, Israel is constantly changing, and so is its cuisine. The food culture that has evolved is one of dynamic cross-fertilization between numerous influences. Arab and Jewish, Eastern Europe and North Africa, religious and secular, new immigrants and old-times, locals and foreigners. They all work together to create a synergy that is Israeli food today. Fusion is the essence and the journey goes on.
The biggest surprises (and delights) of my eating experiences: small salads with almost every meal piled high with fresh vegetables, grains, toasted nuts, and a variety of herbs, served alongside green olives and marinated fish; amazing breakfasts that included hearty breads served with a white, tangy yogurt cheese spread, butter, and preserves, bowls of smooth hummus topped with cucumbers and tomatoes, more vegetable salads and savory pastries, spicy tomato shakshuka, and a seemingly unending variety of yogurts and milks. Oh, and tahini. Did I mention tahini? It was the star ingredient at every meal, often served raw or with olive oil, a sprinkling of herbs, and warm pitas.
Burning sage! An end-of-the-meal ritual at one place we ate.
More Posts From My Food Tour:
• How To Make Stuffed Grape Leaves with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce
• A Food Tour of Israel: Machne Yehuda Outdoor Market in Jerusalem
• The Making of Mutabak at Zalatimo, Jerusalem: An Old Family Recipe Survives
• Preparing for Shabbat: A Visit to a Challah Bakery in Bnei Brak, Israel
(Images: Cambria Bold)