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the hummus

From the outside, The Hummus (18090 Collins Ave, Sunny Isles Beach, FL; 305.974.0031) looks like it might be just another of the trendy hummus houses that have popped up all over NY in the past few years (my favorite being Hummus Place in my old ‘hood). With a sign above the door that says “Fresh Hummus, Healthy Proteins” and the emphasis is on the nutritional value of the chickpea, this newly opened niche player is aimed at a vegetarian and health-conscious clientele.

wall

Walk in, and there is a bright friendly Miami vibe and a distinctive Israeli feel. The color scheme is apple green (or, what I personally call Kate Spade green) from the walls to the chairs. The A/C is on, but the door is open to let in the breeze just a block off the Atlantic in this strip mall (location might not be ideal, especially being perpendicular to Collins, but that’s kind of par for the course here in Sunny Isles, and this aint South Beach). And of course there’s a bar with high stools, wifi, and a laptop browsing Ynet (English version here).

I wasn’t sure what to order and stared at the menu in English and Hebrew on the wall for a few minutes, finally querying, “hummus shakshuka?” at this combination of familiar favorites. Alon, who I would soon learn is the owner-chef, said that it is their specialty and to the best of his knowledge, he is the first person to put these two dishes together. That was enough to convince me to try it along with some lemonana (lemonade with nana, fresh mint).

I felt perfectly comfortable walking in, dropping down my backpack, and plugging in my computer. Before I was even able to log on to the free wifi, setting up to do a little work out of the beating-down sun, Yael the waitress, set down several small dishes: pickles and marinated olives with lemon rind, radishes and onions, and seasoned toasted pita. Admittedly, I mainly nibbled on the pickles and olives.

little dishes

When my steaming hummus shakshuka was ready, Yael looked at my table already scattered with my papers and laptop and said, “Eh, there’s no place for your food,” and I promptly moved my bags over and pushed my computer to the edge. She serves everything up with a sweet but no-nonsense, “B’seder?” — Is everything OK? — and the patrons nod, already too engrossed in their food to mutter much more than a grunt and a simple non-verbal cue and a smile.

hummus shakshuka

I started by dipping the fresh pita, crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside, into the center of the plate, scooping up some slightly runny egg bathed in a spicy tomato and pepper sauce. A great shakshuka reminiscent of what I’ve eaten in Tel Aviv. Eventually I made my way towards the outside to hummus, mixing it with a bit of the sauce, another good combo, essentially a fresh, warm, dense hummus with matbucha. I couldn’t finish everything on my plate, and brought home nearly a pint of hummus and sauce which my family later devoured.

When my snapping pictures of all the food (including standing on chairs) made it clear to owner-chef Alon that I was more than a mere hummus consumer, he insisted that I try some falafel – refusing to take no for an answer when I explained that I was already quite full.

I passed up a full order…

falafel and tehina, hummus pitriot (with mushroom-onion stew)

falafel and tehina, hummus pitriot (with mushroom-onion stew)

… but did accept the filfil (singular of falafel) that he had fried up special for me.

030 crop sharpgreen

The falafel crust was uber crispy – the way it’s supposed to be (not baked the way that Chickpea in NY does it) — without being greasy. When I commented that the falafel was green the way I like it — Alon, eager to share his love of food and recipes, explained that there are two types of falafel: Egyptian which is completely green and made from fava beans, and Lebanese which is yellow and made purely from chickpeas. He said that most Israeli falafel is a mixture of both fava beans and chick peas, and that’s how he makes it. I had actually always thought that the green color came from parsley and other spices.

While I could had no room for dessert, I couldn’t resist one final picture of a gorgeous malabi, an almond pudding, covered with rose water sauce, that one of my neighboring diners ordered.

Malabi

While there is a familiar and homey feeling to the restaurant, I did stop short of asking my neighbor if I could grab a spoon and taste his dessert, so unfortunately I can’t report on how the malabi tasted.

The restaurant was a bit empty when I arrived around 11:30, but as I sat working on my computer, there was a rush of quick business lunches and beach picnic-ers around noon. And after a short lull, business really picked up around 2 pm with many families drawn in by the colorful and relaxed atmosphere, grabbing a late lunch, and several pre-shabbat snackers munching at the bar.

As a newly opened restaurant, there are some minor kinks to work out. A few diners seemed annoyed at the delay in getting checks promptly just before closing, coming up to the register rather than waiting for at their tables. But the staff, seemingly committed to ensuring that service quality remain high,was firm but pleasant in leading the customers back to their tables and bringing checks within moments.

The Hummus does a few dishes and does them well, reaching beyond the kosher customer. Overall, the food, atmosphere, and friendliness take the best of Israeli dining and culture and transplants it to the area of Miami that until recently was known as “Little Tel Aviv.”

Notably, The Hummus is open from 11 am – 3 am, or “until we run out of hummus” Sunday-Thursday, until 3:30 pm on Fridays, and 1 hour after sundown on Saturday night. I would suggest calling to confirm Saturday night hours. The restaurant is under the supervision of Kosher Miami.

The Hummus on Urbanspoon

***

As I was sitting in the The Hummus, there was mostly Israeli music playing in the background, including the band Shotei Hanevua (“Fools of Prophecy”) whom I had first heard when my dance company in New York performed to their song “Kol Galgal”…

… and then I later bought a few of their CDs. Below is one of the songs that was playing in The Hummus the afternoon when I visited.

Yefifiah

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sneak peek

Vic's olivey Israeli-style salad

I am no good at surprises. I come home from a trip with presents for family and friends, and I can barely get off the plane before I’m calling them up to say, “I’m home, guess what I brought you…No, don’t guess, let me tell you!” I have blown surprise parties. For real. Just don’t tell me about them. Or if you do, make sure I know it’s a surprise. And remind me that means I’m not supposed to tell the guest of honor. And that it means I have to show up on time (or in my case, early…or very very very late to avoid walking in with the guest of honor and saying something like, “How fun, I’m so excited for your birthday party…” as s/he reaches for the doorknob).

Yes. I’m that bad.

So, since I’m making dinner tonight for a friend, I can’t resist. Here’s the menu. And a sneak peek at one of the dishes since I made a test run earlier this week and I liked it so much, I’m repeating it. And, oh guest of honor, if you happen to check out my blog today, well, the surprise is ruined!

Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread, as reported by Mark Bittman in the NYT and as brought to my attention by Jess at Sweet Amandine

Unió olive oil for dipping — this stuff is good enough plain (there’s a pic of it in my kibbutz herb salad)

Roasted garlic

Warm za’atar olives

Spicy carrot tortellini

Bean and walnut paté

Vic’s salad: Israeli-style salad with olives (see below)

Green salad (maybe)

Spoon lamb – a sneak peek, after braising, before sauce: "falling off the bone"

Couscous

Roasted asparagus

Blueberries and golden raspberries with mint simple syrup (or a splash of lemon juice + mint)

If I have time: Almond butter cookies with just almonds (no chocolate chunks)

Just in case: a slice of apple strudel and min fruit tart from Catering by Andrew (the only place I know of here to pick up good kosher patisserie)

Vic’s Salad

Vic's Salad

Vic and Joe (and the adorable Jackito) were my gracious and amazing hosts during most of my time in Panama City. Not only did Vic make a decadent “chocolate explosion cake” that we took on our Santa Clara private beach picnic, but she shared this version of an Israeli salad of tiny chopped tomato and cucumber, salted with olive juice and seasoned with parsley. It became an instant favorite and I’ve been making it since I came home.

Makes 3-4 servings

- 2 tomatoes

- 2 small kirby cucumbers

- 3 scallions

- 10-15 kalamata olives (pre-pitted is easier), liquid reserved (don’t throw it out!)

- flat leaf parsley, chopped

- 1 lemon

- 2-3 T olive oil (to taste)

- freshly ground pepper to taste

Finely chop tomatoes and drain some of liquid in colander while chopping remainder of vegetables. Finely chop cucumbers (some remove seeds and peel, but I don’t bother). Slice white and light green parts of scallions. Slice  olives into ~4 pieces each.

Mix vegetables together and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Veggies, olives, and parsley

Season salad with juice of 1 lemon, 3-4 T of olive juice, 2-3 T olive oil (I used Unió — this oil really tastes like olives!).

Serve right away.

***

And of course, as I’ve been cooking, I’ve been listening to tons of music, including a favorite artist that I happened upon about a year ago: Hadar Manor, an Israeli who found her way to London and began busking in the Underground. I bought her eponymous demo CD that arrived over the Atlantic with a handwritten note and demos for her upcoming album, “Crossing London” which has recently been released. Some of my favorite songs, such as “Ir Miklat” didn’t make it to the album, so I feel like I have a secret stash, and other faves like “Cook a Man” did. One that I don’t (yet) have and would like to share with you is called “Queen of the Underground.”

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TLV in NY

This year Tel Aviv celebrates her 100th birthday.

TLV at 100

I found this video on the website of the Israeli Consulate of New England. It depicts the “other side” of Israel that the media rarely shows – largely the fun club scene of Tel Aviv.

And this past afternoon, the Israeli Tourism Ministry and various other Israel and local NY groups supported a Tel Aviv beach party in Central Park. I happened to be in NY where my family converged for a Father’s Day celebration, so I popped over to see what was going on. There was a DJ playing music (I missed the live bands)…

- 046 crop DJ

… El Al trip give-aways …

hands up for free RT airfare to TLV

… a few tons of sand dumped in front of the half-shell and covered with New Yorkers, Israelis, confused bystanders, and babies thinking this was just another normal day…

baby on "beach"

just standing around

I just took off my shoes and felt the sand run through my toes a bit.

me and my shadow

There were a fair number of sponsors, including El Al airlines, Aroma Espresso Bar that has two branches in the City (one uptown, one downtown) …

Aroma on UWS (W72)

…  and a hotel chain with a shelf full of tour guides of the city in various languages.

books on TLV - in French ("24 heures...), on design (Bauhaus architecture), etc.

books on TLV - in Spanish and French ("24 heures"), on design (Bauhaus architecture), etc.

I couldn’t walk very far without running into friends (including Neima, Shimon and Ruby) … and then had to run meet my family for dinner.

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soupe à l’oignon

The East coast seems to have been hit by a fair amount of rain over the past few days. I am accustomed to the summer thunderstorms that we often get in my hometown of DC — that crash-and-tumble excitement, the flashes of light thatbrighten the sky, a few torrential downpours that reveal a rainbow and hidden sun. Less so the Eeyore-inspired drizzle gray of Cantabrigia both new and old that has visited us here for the past few days. Combine that with a pulled muscle in my neck from dance class on Sunday and I need some comfort food.

Cookies? Nah…I want dinner. Mac and cheese? Maybe, but I had bucatini 2 nights ago and I don’t generally eat much pasta. My fridge is unusually bare after having made two big meals over the past few weeks, so I needed to scrounge around. I had just barely enough onions to throw together an onion soup, a meal in a bowl with the rich taste of caramelized onions, warm broth, toasted bread (or stale baguette, which I always seem to have around), and strings of melted cheese. When I was younger, this used to be my favorite dish to order in a restaurant, and the fancy presentation with cheese dripping off the side of a piping hot crock always impressed me. The childhood memory and thoughts of a steaming meal are a perfect recipe for uber-comfort on a weary dreary evening.

- 014 - Copy crop sharp crop

Soupe à L’Oignon Gratinée (ou pas)

This is such an easy soup to make with ingredients that you probably have lying around your kitchen. Onions. Butter. Spices. Leftover dry white wine or Vermouth. Boxed or dried vegetable (or chicken or beef) stock. The homey richness comes from giving the onions enough time to caramelize. I do not use beef stock and still my soup comes out a deep dark brown with an earthy flavor.

Makes ~ 4-6 servings, depending on size of your bowls. I made 4 bowls that turned into 3 full meals (I was really ravenous that first night).

I’ve written this recipe the way that it came together — my apologies for not writing it in “standard recipe format” with a list of ingredients followed  by directions, but this was my thought process as I was throwing this easy soup together and I wanted to preserve the feeling. I’ve highlighted quantities to make your lives a little easier.

Melt 1/4 C butter in a medium or large soup pot.

Slice 3 yellow onions, 1 red onion, 1 shallot (or whatever mild onions you have around the house) into thin half moons. Light a candle nearby to reduce crying.

onions and shallot

every single onion and shallot I had in my kitchen

Caramelize onions in butter over medium heat with 3 generous pinches salt, stirring  every 5-10 minute. This took me about 30-45 minutes. If you burn the onions, it’s not too big of a deal. Just turn the heat down a bit and keep stirring. You want the onions to turn a really dark brown but not to turn to mush. The red onion retained a bit of its purplish color.

onions translucent, after 10 minutes

onions translucent, after 10 minutes

caramelized onions, 30+ minutes

caramelized onions, 30+ minutes

Deglaze with ~1/2 C dry white wine – I used an open Pinot Grigio  that I had in my fridge (this was probably not the driest, but it worked pretty well…and I took a few sips while cooking) – and increase heat until most of the liquid evaporates (can also use vermouth). Make sure to scrape up all the good onion bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.

Add herbs: 1/2 t savory, 1-2 T thyme crumbled through your fingers

Add 4 C broth: vegetable or fake (or real) chicken/beef broth. I am embarrassed to admit that I used some of that powdered parve broth substitute because that’s all I had around. Yup, this stuff is little more than salt and MSG. But the soup still turned out great.

Add 3 bay leaves.

Bring to  boil, then simmer ~30 minutes.

Remove bay leaves before serving.

This makes ~ 5 cups of soup which is great plain or you can serve it gratinée: sprinkle with cut bread crumbs from stale baguette and  shredded cheese.The traditional cheese to use is gruyère but I have never found a good kosher one. I used some Raclette which I had left over from my zucchini tart, and it was a pretty good substitute. I also tried some Ermitage Royal Camembert that I had in my fridge, and this worked surprisingly well.

ready to compose

the broth is really dark

ready for the oven

ready to pop into the oven

 Pop in oven at 350°F for 10 minutes to melt cheese or put under broiler for 2-3 minutes (watch to avoid burning too much).

- 041 crop sharp

baked at 350

broiled, 2-3 minutes

broiled, 2-3 minutes

NOTE: if you want to make this for a meat meal, use margarine (I’ve done it before, it does work out) and obviously omit the cheese. You can make the soup completely parve with veggie stock, or use a meat or chicken stock. You could try melting soy cheese, but I’ve never tried it so can’t speak about how this will taste. I really do like this soup without cheese almost as much as I like it gratinée

***

As I was making the soup, I put on one of my favorite albums – a South African band called Mafikizolo‘s first recording called “Sibongile” that I bought when I was in Cape Town a few years ago. (Apparently, this CD has been discontinued and I can’t find mine; I have it loaded on my ancient 20 gig iPod that is on its last legs. I’ve backed it up, but if it dies, my music may be gone forever…sad Zahavah.) Sibongile means “Thank you, God” in Zulu, the album was released after two of its members survived a bad car accident. I love that they wear retro ’50s outfits and can pull off hats with panache to go with their swingy bluesy vibe, have a broad range of styles (some of their more recent music — not what I’ve uploaded here — is more clubby with a techno beat), and take pride in their roots (from what little I know) with references to townships in their recent album title and their music.

Here are some of my favorite songs from this album (the first three songs) that I play to chase away the clouds.

“Gugo’thandayo” – check out the stylin’ hats

 

“Marabi” – very toe-tapping, cheerful with a nice relaxed rhythm

 

“Ndihambe Nawe” – a little bit more of a percussive beat

 

Here is a newer song that I just dicovered:

“Emlanjeni,” meet you at the river

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Eurovision update

Well, Noa and Mira Awad, who I first mentioned here represented Israel well in Eurovision 2009, coming in 16th place, but Norway took first place with Alexander Rybak  singing “Fairytale.”

One of my favorites among the top 10 is Hadise from Turkey (came in 4th), singing “Düm Tek Tek” — it’s the Middle Eastern rhythms that I like.

I was not a fan of the song sung by one my favorite singers, Patricia Kaas, to whom I was introduced by the family I lived with during a summer exchange in the Loire Valley and the Vendée,  who represented France. I did really like Estonia’s  “Rändajad” performed by Urban Symphony (came in 6th).




Rändajad

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on to the finals

About six weeks ago, I wrote about one of my favorite duets representing Israel in the Eurovision contest in Moscow.

http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1085211.html

Noa and Mira Awad after performing in the 2009 Eurovision Semifinals (AP)

Well, Noa and Mira Awad made it to the Finals last night and will be competing on Saturday, May 16th against Turkey, Sweden, Portugal, Malta, Finland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Romania, Armenia and Iceland.

Good luck, ladies!

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shake it off

Hangin’ around

Nothing to do but frown

Rainy Days and Mondays always get me down.

That Carpenters song is sometimes hard to kick when the beginning of the week goes something like this:  rainy Monday, rainy Tuesday, rainy Wednesday, rainy Thursday…

I like songs that go with my mood, but there’s a problem when that mood sticks around for too long. And, I don’t need to tell you how hard it is to get a song out of your head once its stuck.

But then there’s the power of music to change your surroundings. My friend Tammie suggested a song yesterday when we were chatting, and I liked its title, “Shake It Off” and its chill beat. (Apologies for not embedding, but Mariah’s business team seems to be blocking all embed abilities – which I can respect – protect those artists’ dollars!).

The best part of yesterday was my decision to take a modern jazz dance class. And it was a great class. Just what I needed and long overdue. The teacher (more info below the recipe) focused on technique and positioning and placement. Her warm-up and choreography were organic and felt good. And there was no rush to end class – the 90 minute class ran well over 2 hours. We finished the evening with a several minute cool-down and stretch. I returned home feeling great.

Knowing that I would be ravenous after class, I was thankfully prepared. I made a salad that required several hours of marinating. So it was waiting patiently to replenish my body after the music and dance class had replenished my spirit.

Panzanella

Panzanella is a bit like a savory Italian version of pain perdu (French toast) — coming up with a use for one- or two-day old, stale bread. I make it with baguette because that’s what tends to go stale on me these days. There are endless varieties and I found a few that I’ve tucked away in my files, such as an artichoke version from Sam at Becks & Posh and Giada De Laurentiis’ traditional version with capers, olives, and peppers in addition to tomatoes. I just stuck to what I had in my fridge and pantry – the cucumbers give it a nice crunch. This can be tossed atop a bed of greens, or eaten as is.

Makes 3-4 servings, depending on how hungry you are. All measurements are very approximate.

Slice stale baguette and then cube (~3/4 inch).

2-day old baguette

Toss in olive oil, salt and pepper and toast in oven for 5-10  minutes (250ºF).

Prepare remaining vegetables that you will add to salad by cutting into bite-sized pieces. I decided to use 1 cucumber for crunch, 1 yellow tomato, and about 3/4 C of slow roasted tomatoes (the remains of a pint that I had roasted the other day – directions here). Chiffonade some basil as well.

my mise-en-place!

Place the toasted bread cubes in a large bowl with the cut vegetables and basil. Toss with ~ 2-3 T extra virgin olive oil and ~2-3 T good balsamic vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow to marinate for 1-3 hours at room temperature, adding additional oil and vinegar (in equal quantities) if necessary to help bread soak up (but not drown in) the vegetable juices.

panzanella

***

As usual, in any post that mentions dance, I must leave you with a video. I chose my class carefully based on location (so that I could hopefully return) and the reputation of the teacher. Andy Taylor-Blenis teaches at the premier Boston jazz dance school – the Jeannette Neill Dance Studio where I took classes when I was in college (I only took with Jeannette) — so I knew she was quality. She is a senior company member with Prometheus Dance and has a history in folk dance which I explored last year when I performed with Nishmat Hatzafon. This seemed like a great blend of where my dance has come from and where it’s heading, since I want to start a Nishmat-like group up here mixing lyrical jazz, emotion, Jewish and Israeli themes, hopes of peace, and a rich sense of history. I found this excerpt of some Prometheus pieces to share.

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Music seems to be inspiring a fair amount of my cooking these days. No big surprise since I like to consider myself a dancer.

One of the most amazing groups to come out of Israel over the past few years is the Idan Raichel Project.  My Frenchie friend Lau did it once again — she introduced me to this collaborative a couple years ago and I find them utterly inspiring and a taste of the beauty of Israel.

- Raichel’s start in the army rock band – such a common career starter for many Israelis where compulsory conscription is a way of life

- His rare ability to bring together the different musical styles that have coalesced upon Israel, mixing and matching instruments and languages without the cacophony that sometimes exists in real life

- The sheer variety of his work, from mystic notes that seem to emanate from Tzfat to prayer and verses that might be heard at the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem to reggae or electronica that could hold its own in a club in Tel Aviv to ballads that are universal anywhere in the world

For Israel’s 60th anniversary, Raichel was interviewed for the “My Hatikva”  project and speaks about his hope (“hatikva,” also the name of Israel’s national anthem) for Israel as a melting pot and land of immigrants while still maintaining tolerance for different cultural and religious identities.

The official video on the “My Hatikva” website is at http://www.myhatikva.com/MultiMedia.aspx?MI=68

When I learned that the Idan Raichel Project would be performing here in Boston, I booked my ticket and organized a group of friends to come with me immediately. I was just that excited (I don’t normally plan very far in advance!). And the concert last week did not disappoint.

The music performed was a mix of their prior two albums and their newest one that has a bit more of a global feel but is still distinctly Israeli. Despite the Project being named after him, Raichel seemed content to sit off to stage right, playing his keyboard most of the time and leaving most of the stage work to the three vocalists who not only sang but swayed, rocked, and even jumped to the music – not to entertain an audience, but because they really seemed to enjoy their work.

Musicians were also given a chance to shine — for example, the percussionist responsible for the water sounds in the following clip, Mei Nahar (“River Waters”), performed a several minute long solo on a few wooden bowls filled with water. The audience, judging by the silence that allowed us to hear (miked) water drops and rhythms played on the surface of water, was enraptured.

The  namesake song of Raichel’s third album, Mima’amakim – “Out of the Depths,” starts with what I have come to learn is a typical traditional Ethiopian melody (“Nah no nah no na’ay…”) that is emblematic of his earlier work and leads into a haunting song in Hebrew.

The concert last week and songs like this inspired  me to make a lentil dish that can go either Ethiopian or Yemenite depending on which spice mixture is used — berbere (which can be approximated with red chile powder and onions in a pinch) or cumin, respectively.

“Salata Idan” – East African Fusion Lentil Dip, the Yemenite Version

Salata Idan

Adapted from Gil Marks’ Olive Trees and Honey. In celebration of Idan Raichel’s artistry, bringing together the diversity of Israel’s people, and sharing our rich and varied culture with the world.

Makes about 3 cups. Best served at room temperature; flavor improves after ingredients mingle for a day or two.

- 1 C brown or green lentils, picked over and rinsed (use plain lentils; save the fancy French de Puy lentils for when you want to make a salad (like the Ethiopian version below) of soup since these keep their shape nicely and do not break down as easily)

- 4 C water

- 1 bay leaf

- ½ t dried thyme

For dressing:

- ½ C tehina – I use Joyva, which is a pure puree of sesame seeds, many others contain chickpeas and other ingredients, so they are closer to tehina spreads

- ½ C lemon juice (2 lemons) + zest of 1 lemon (why not!)

- 1 C of fresh green herbs — my preference is a mix of cilantro and mint, but you can also use parsley

- 1 t kosher salt

- Scant ½ t ground black pepper

- 1 clove garlic (can substitute 1t garlic powder or 1t garlic salt and reduce regular salt if you don’t have fresh garlic)

- 1 t ground cumin

- 1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil

In large saucepan, combine lentils, water, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to boil, cover, and reduce heat to medium low; simmer until tender but not mushy, ~ 25 minutes.

Cooked lentils

Remove bay leaf, drain (if any water remains, especially if using de Puy lentils) and put in large bowl.
Add all ingredients to lentils and use mortar and pestle, potato masher, or (my personal favorite) immersion blender to smush the combined salad into a paste.

lentils and dressing

no need to make the dressing in a separate bowl...I just did it for illustrative purposes

Serve at room temperature with pita or fresh vegetable crudité. I made some toasted lavash crisps lightly sprayed with olive oil and sprinkled with garlic salt.

"salata Idan"

funny...it looks almost exactly like the dressing alone

To make the Ethiopian version: This is more of a lentil salad, so de Puy lentils will work better. Saute one onion and 1-2 seeded and minced jalepeño or other hot peppers in vegetable oil and add to lentils. Adjust dressing as follows – omit tehina and reduce lemon juice to 2 T.

***

And I’ll just leave you with one more video — a trailer of Tomer Heymann‘s documentary, Black Over White, about the Idan Raichel project concert tour to Ethiopia with a short exerpt of the song Milim Yafot Me’eleh (Words More Beautiful than These).

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we can work it out

salad close-up

When my friend Lau (the one who gave me the piggy and likes compote aux pommes) played a few songs off of Israeli singer Noa‘s “best of” CD from France (“Le Meilleur de Noa“) a few years ago, I was hooked. Within a year, I had bought almost all of her CDs, importing many from Israel. In particular, I love her 2002 remake of the Beatles hit “We Can Work it Out” with Palestinian Mira Awad. A note on Awad’s nationality — on her website, she refers to herself as Palestinian, so I am deferring to her preference; I have elsewhere seen her called “Israeli Arab” and “Israeli Arab Christian.” I think this song is a beautiful cover with a great message.  And it appealed to my love of music and art (and dance) bringing people together.

 NOTE: This video is from a Dutch TV show that includes Noa’s and Mira’s opinions on the political situation in Israel. The  song is on Noa’s CD “Now” and on iTunes.

And then about 2 months ago, I learned that Noa and Mira Awad are again collaborating and I have been eagerly waiting to find out what they would come up with: they will represent Israel in the Eurovision song contest in May 2009. They composed 4 different duets and the winner, “Einayich” means “Your Eyes;” the English title is “There Must be Another Way” and it is sung in Hebrew, Arabic, and English.  Since I first heard it a few weeks ago, I have found myself humming its refrain, loving how Noa and Mira’s voices mix so beautifully.

Here are the words to the song, from Noa’s website:

There Must Be Another Way

Words and music: Noa, Gil Dor, Mira Awad

There must be another way
There must be another way

עינייך אחות
– your eyes, sister -
כל מה שליבי מבקש אומרות
– say everything my heart wants to say -
עברנו עד כה
– we’ve come a great distance -
דרך ארוכה
דרך כה קשה
– our road has been long and hard -
יד ביד
– hand in hand -

והדמעות זולגות זורמות לשוא
– and the tears fall, flow, in vain -
כאב ללא שם
– our pain has no name -
אנחנו מחכות
– we are both waiting -
רק ליום שיבוא אחרי …
– for the day ‘after’ -
There must be another way
There must be another way

عينيك بتقول  (עינייך אומרות)
– your eyes say -
راح ييجي يوم وكل الخوف يزول (יבוא יום וכל הפחד ייעלם)
– one day, the fear will be gone.. -
بعينيك اصرار (בעינייך נחישות)
– in your eyes there is determination -
انه عنا خيار (שיש אפשרות)
نكمل هالمسار (להמשיך את הדרך)
– that we can continue our journey -
مهما طال (כמה שתיארך)
– for as long as it takes -

لانه ما في عنوان وحيد  للاحزان (כי אין כתובת אחת לצער)
– for there is no address to sorrow -
بنادي للمدى, للسما العنيده (אני קוראת למרחבים, לשמיים העיקשים)

– I cry to the open plains, to the merciless sky -
There must be another way
There must be another way
There must be another, must be another way

דרך ארוכה נעבור,
– a long and hard journey lies before us -
דרך כה קשה,
יחד אל האור,

– together, on our way to the light… -
عينيك بتقول (עינייך אומרות),
– your eyes say -
كل الخوف يزول (כל הפחד ייעלם)
– all the fear will someday disappear -

And when I cry I cry for both of us
My pain has no name
And when I cry I cry to the merciless sky and say
There must be another way

והדמעות זולגות זורמות לשוא
– and the tears fall, flow, in vain -
כאב ללא שם
– our pain has no name -
אנחנו מחכות
– we are both waiting -
רק ליום שיבוא אחרי
– for the day ‘after’ -
There must be another way
There must be another way
There must be another, must be another way

Obviously I’m not the only one to recognize the overt symbolism here (for example, there was an article written in Time about it last week) — an Israeli and a Palestinian, their voices rising together on the same stage, representing one country.

But, perhaps I was one of the few people inspired to make a salad!

The first time I made this particular salad was for my graduate school’s multicultural food festival. I managed to step into a little controversy by being an American helping out the Israeli club and not quite following directions. We divvied up responsibilities – falafel, hummus, tabbouli, and Israeli salad — and I chose to make the salad because it was the healthiest.  Plus, I figured I knew how to make typical Israeli salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, and parsley or mint because  when I volunteered with the Israeli army through Sar El after my freshman year in college, we ate this salad with every single meal including breakfast.

of course I'm smiling, I'm 18, in a kitchen, surrounded by tall handsome Israeli soldiers!

of course I'm smiling, I'm 18, in a kitchen, surrounded by tall dark Israeli soldiers!

Never satisfied to leave simple enough alone, I had just bought a new cookbook — Joan Nathan’s The Foods of Israel Today — and browsing through it, found a recipe called “Kibbutz Vegetable Salad” that was described as follows:

Sometimes called Turkish Salad, this typical Israeli salad, served at almost every meal, has many variations. But one thing remains the same: the tomatoes, onions, peppers, and cucumbers must be cut into tiny pieces, a practice of the Ottoman Empire…

It sounded to me like a traditional “Israeli salad” with some peppers thrown in. I actually think of “Turkish” salad as a cooked salad, almost like a tomato sauce spiced with roasted peppers. In my mind, the salad described in the recipe seemed like a more colorful version of traditional “Israeli salad.”

1354

But when I brough this salad to the food festival, proud of my beautiful confetti of colors, one of my Israeli classmates looked at it, sneered, and said, “that’s not Israeli salad, that’s Arab salad.” Hers looked something like this:

tomato-cucumber

just tomatoes and cucumbers

While perhaps not perfectly authentic, my salad didn’t deserve a snub. This comment  just made me want to throw my hands up in the air and say, “Can’t we all just get along?”.

And, actually, in doing my research, my understanding is that “Arabic salad” is more similar to “Israeli salad” than it is different. Both have finely diced cucumber and tomatoes. Both usually add onion,  often spring onion. Both are dressed with olive oil and lemon. Both add a green herb, either parsley or mint or both. Neither ever includes lettuce.

So what was my classmate objecting to? The peppers? Was that supposed to be a statement? Please! The food festival was about food and sharing culture, not political statements. Granted, never having lived in Israel, I know I cannot understand the intricacies of Arab/Palestinian-Israeli relations nor can I fully appreciate the depth of the feelings and animosity between these two groups.

But I love the message that Noa and Mira Awad have shared with each other, with their communities, and, now more than ever, with the world. The current situation is unsustainable. There must be another way. And if Israelis and Palestinians come together and find common ground, slowly … eventually… we can work it out.

Yes, I am an idealist.

So, I used to call this Israeli salad. I no longer know what it actually is. But now I’m reclaiming it and renaming it.

Salade Mira-Noa vegetable still life with za'atar

Salade Mira-Noa

Adapted from Joan Nathan’s The Foods of Israel Today. Dedicated to Noa and Mira Awad, and wishing them luck at Eurovision 2009 in Moscow.

This does take a long time to prepare because there is a lot of fine chopping. The salad is best eaten fresh alongside hummus and pita.

Serves about 10 people.

- 1 onion (I prefer red for its beautiful color)

- 1-2 T mild vinegar, either white vinegar or cider vinegar

- 2 cucumbers

- 5-6 tomatoes

- Peppers – I like a multicolor mix – 1 each of green, red, yellow, and orange to get that colorful confetti effect

- 2-3T olive oil

- 1 or 2 lemons

- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

- 1/2 – 1 t za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice mix that includes sesame and sumac)

Prepare onion first: chop and allow to soak in 1-2 T vinegar and a pinch or two of salt for ~30 minutes while you chop the rest of the veggies. Essentially this will  give it a quick pickling to cut the onion’s sharpness.

quick pickled chopped onions

quick pickled chopped onions

Finely chop the remaining vegetables – cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers — and mix in a large bowl with the onions.

salad ingredients, ready to mix

Dress with juice of 1-2 lemons, a few pinches of salt, a few grinds of pepper, 2-3 T olive oil, and za’atar. Mix again.

Enjoy with friends.

[A very special thank you to Veronica and Joanna for helping me edit and edit and edit this posting, and to Judy for lending me the glass bowls.]

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on the radio

… public radio that is

But, I love that Donna Summer song even though it’s an oldie.  And how true it is, well sort of, today.

My recent post, sticky fingers, was featured today on Public Radio Kitchen – a collaboration between Boston’s NPR station (WBUR 99.9) and its listeners. OK, so I actually submitted the post, but don’t let that take away from my glory! Check out their site and some other local food-related bloggers.

And, if you have an old Donna Summer CD (tape? record?) play it or just go watch it on YouTube because I can’t figure out how to add music to my site.  Actually I can’t seem to add anything but pictures and PDFs. Tech support anyone?

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