Israeli Eye Candy: Traditional Cuisine & Lessons From a Local Chef

SK Parfait Culture, Food, Health & Wellness, Israel, Middle East, Recipes, Travel, Travel Tips Leave a Comment

Tel Aviv and Israel in general are known for their cuisine. People crave it, others rave about it, and I can now understand why. One of the most common dishes to start the day is shakshuka (pronounced shackshookah). This breakfast dish is a combination of tomatoes and spices, simmered into a stew, served with eggs cooked right into the savory sauce. I was fortunate enough to learn how to cook a vegan version with Tel Aviv’s healthy and organic guru, chef Phyllis Glazer.

Not only was Phyllis prepping for all of the shakshuka ingredients, she was also making homemade tomato sauce and shared some of her homemade sprouted mung bean bread with ghee, a clarified butter. To get these recipes you might just have to take one of her cooking classes at Phyllis’ Kitchen or check out her Facebook page.

Phyllis’ website is lovely, full of recipes and cultural tidbits on Jewish culture and beyond. Here is her recipe for a baked, healthier version of falafel. (Don’t worry as you can right click and translate the website into English.) Also, you’ll notice that the text is shifted to the right. This is because Hebrew is read and written from the right to the left. Check out the article, “7 Things You Should Know About Hebrew” for other interesting facts on the Hebrew language.

While making the shakshuka, one little tip was to cut tofu into circles and cook with spices to mimic an egg, traditionally used in this dish. The recipe is relatively easy to make, and allows plenty of time to work on other dishes and enjoy conversation. Phyllis shared so many tips on healthy eating and unique ingredients used at home and in the classroom. We even had time to make another healthy dish, sharing my recipe for Cauliflower Egg-less Salad.

Take a look at the final results of the colorful and nutrient-rich recipe for vegan shakshuka!

Shakshuka is only the beginning of the diverse and healthy cuisine found in Israel. Below explores some of the favorite dishes found in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

 

Main & Side Dishes

Harimeh is a common spicy fish dish, made with one of the many fresh fish options available from coastal Tel Aviv. Mussar, a neutral white fish, is pictured below.

Sabich is a pita sandwich made with fried eggplant, boiled potato, hard-boiled eggs, vegetables, tahini, and hot sauce (not pictured, not for me haha). This is an easy grab-and-go sandwich, found in little food stands in Tel Aviv. Who knew eggplant could be so good?

Hummus in Israel promises to taste like no other, so smooth, so pure, almost a sauce rather than textured, thick hummus. This is quite possibly due in part to the tahini, which you’ll also want to eat by the spoonful.

Tabouleh is comprised of mainly parsley, instead of mostly the grain sprinkled with greens. It’s very refreshing and a healthier version.

Falafel in Israel is very green in color on the inside from the parsley and preparation method. Sometimes falafel can be dry or overly greasy, but not in Israel, as somehow it’s always perfect.

 

Bakery

Khala is a sweet, white pretzel bread that is only prepared for Fridays before the Sabbath on Saturday. For a fun fact, Friday and Saturdays are the weekend in Israel and Sunday is the start of the new workweek.

Bureka is a phyllo pastry often filled with cheese and spinach.

 

Sweets

Kanafeh is made with crunchy pastry shreds soaked in syrup with a white cheese center and pistachios on top.

Baklava is a phyllo pastry made of several layers of phyllo, chopped nuts, and drizzled with sweet syrup or honey.

Lokma are fried dough balls soaked in honey, readily available in shops in Jerusalem.

Rugelach is a pastry shaped like a crescent with layers of an amazingly good, chocolate filling.

Halva not pictured, is a sesame, honey, and vanilla dessert, made from sesame seed paste. Think of it as a sweet, nutty fudge without chocolate.

 

Drinks

Arak is an anise-flavored liquor that’s quite strong, and interestingly turns white when mixed with water.

Sweet almond drink not pictured, is made with a sweet syrup, served at restaurants as a chilled beverage. It’s quite sweet, but a good non-alcoholic sipping selection.

There are many more dishes and interesting foods found in Israel and you can read more on where to taste some of these treats in the article, Israeli Eats: Your Guide to Great Food in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

-Stephanie Krubsack

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