“In the morning, yes I’ll cook for everyone oh 6, maybe 7, salads.”
– Michele, owner of the Alexandra Guest House in Nazareth
It was immediately apparent after my first meal in Israel that one thing was clear: losing weight on this trip was going to be impossible.
A Delightful Fusion of Cultures
Israeli cuisine is a delicious cultural fusion ranging in influences from North Africa, the Middle East, and of course from the Jewish immigrants from all over the world! It’s very clear that Israelis LOVE food and by virtue of their cultural hospitality, a large emphasis is placed on sharing plates! Each meal consists of many courses, lots of bread, hummus, tomatoes and cucumbers! Similar to Spanish tapas, meals are best ordered ‘family style’ with lots of choices for everyone.
Seriously, Try the Shekshuka
Local fresh vegetables and produce make up the majority of meals – even breakfast. In addition to a range of morning salads, there is the delicious dish shekshuka made up of tomatoes, onions and poached eggs, served with challah bread to soap up the juices. While simple in its design, to get the flavor just right requires a certain eye and culinary skill. Each Israeli we met swore their parents had the *best* shekshuka recipe…and it was a family secret, of course!
ALL the Falafel
Hummus and falafel are also featured in almost every meal as are a wide variety of eggplant salads and pickled vegetables. The best falafel can be found on side-of-the-road stands for a quick lunch break. At Mahane Yehuda Market, we had fresh, handmade falafel sandwiches topped with mountains of vegetables and tahini dressing!
Eat With Local Chefs
Perhaps our favorite dinner was cooked by Chef Tomer, as part of the Eat With organization in Tel Aviv. The concept is simple; chefs from all over Israel cook for you but in the confines of their own home, as opposed to a restaurant. The meal, the company, everything was superb! Spicy pita bread with warm olive oil and olive tartare was an instant favourite! Our first hummus, fried and served with local fish falafel, blue crab soup and winter green rice! Finally, we had ‘Beefroot’ – a tender beef cooked in beetroot juice for 72 hours, served with root vegetables and local winter potatoes.
Not all plates were for everyone however…
The Goods (AKA Dessert)
But no one in our group could deny the amazing sweets! Here are some of the delectable delights that Israel has to offer!
Baklava in its many forms is a staple. Each area in Israel adds their own local flare to this widely loved dessert. Another middle-eastern favorite was the sesame-paste candy – Halva. In Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda Market, we sampled many different flavors of this soft marzipan-like confection. Made fresh every day with pure sugar, we almost believed it was a ‘healthy candy.’
Kanefeh, a cheese based pastry soaked in sweet honey and finished with crispy filo dough
And no trip to Israel would be complete, without a fair sampling of local donuts! During Hanukkah, it’s customary to eat fried foods in honor of the miracle associated with the Temple oil. Plenty of shops pop up this time of yeah to help curb this demand.