August 2012 It was pretty exciting to go to Israel recently, a country that – of course – I'd heard so much about, but actually knew very little of.

       
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Israeli fruits

August 2012

It was pretty exciting to go to Israel recently, a country that – of course – I'd heard so much about, but actually knew very little of. But I've spent a fair amount of time dealing with how people view Americans, who aren't American, and how people see other cultures as well. But as most people who travel know, the best way to experience and understand another culture is to spend some time there to see beyond the headlines and stories that one hears. Someone recently asked me if it was safe to walk around the Marais in Paris, because there was a bombing back in 1982. Now it's all handbag and designer shops and although danger exists everywhere, you're more likely to get trampled by tourists shopping for shoes than anything else.

It's hard to separate the conflict and the image from people's minds, but I was really blown-away by the food I had everywhere, from tiny cups of coffee seasoned with cardamom seeds, to hand-rolled filo pastries filled with soft, warm, salty cheese. I wrote about many of them in my posts:

Haj Kahil: An amazing meal in Jaffa. It was truly unforgettable.
Jerusalem: A visit to the lively "shuk" (market) of this historic city.
Israeli Breakfast: The flavors of the world come together at the Israeli breakfast table.
The Hummus Factory: I got invited to see where hummus (and baba ganoush) are made!
Tel Aviv: I ate so well in this city and met great people, from chocolatiers to bread braders..

The spreads of food were unreal and all the things I like to eat – sparkling fresh raw fish, abundant vegetables in salads and dips, pickles of every kind, excellent coffee, and of course, wonderful baked goods, namely challah (braided egg bread) and chocolate rugelach, deceptively dangerous crescents of rich pastry dough rolled up with bittersweet chocolate. I actually carried a package around with me for a couple of days, since I never wanted to be too far from one.

(The recipe was promised to me, but since I don't speak Hebrew, I may need a little assistance!)

chocolate rugelach

Yet I was also fortunate enough to snag two great recipes from two Israeli bloggers - who were both kind enough to share them in guest posts:

Tahini-Almond Cookies: Buttery cookies scented with sesame paste, from Natalie Levin at Oogio.net
Israeli Salad: Maya Marom of Bazekalim chopped up this lovely salad for me in Tel Aviv.

I finally took a summer vacation, but since I'm not French, I had to limit mine to one week. Merde. So I'll have to keep this newsletter short, which is probably all right with you since you've got bbqs and other fun things to do. But to make it up to you, I have a recipe for hummus below.

Enjoy August!

-David

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Stuff Parisians Like

StuffParisiansLike-cover

Parisians are...well - complicated. And to get a glimpse of who they are, and why they do what they do, Olivier Magny in, Stuff Parisians Like, casts an analytic eye on his fellow compatriots.

Some of you may have come to Paris to attend one of his wine-tastings at the very popular Ô Chateau wine bar and restaurant. And if so, you know what a sharp and keen mec Olivier is. In chapters ranging from why cherry tomatoes so important to Parisians, to why it's imperative to have non-French friends if you're Parisian, to how "moderation" (no more, no less) is the keyword in life in this city, there are some extremely wry observations in this book.

Stuff Parisians Like has not only had success in American, but in France, where Parisians are just as widely critiqued & analyzed – if not more so – than outside of the country. And when I saw a Frenchwoman reading the book last week, I asked her how she liked it. "Très drôle!" ("Very funny!") The chapters are short and snappy, making it a good summer read.

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Hummus Recipe

photo

When I was in Israel, I had the most amazing hummus, which is made from Bulgarian chickpeas, which don't have the tough skins that other varieties do. I wanted to replicate the incredibly smooth hummus I had in Israel and when I plucked off the chickpea skins, my hummus was identical to what I had in Israel. The process takes a few extra minutes, but it's worth it. Believe me.

1 cup (200 g) dried chickpeas (rinsed and sorted)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
9 tablespoons tahini
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chickpea cooking liquid

Put the chickpeas in a large saucepan and cover them with water, about four times their volume, and add the baking soda.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a vigorous simmer, and cook for 1 to 2 hours with a lid ajar, until the chickpeas are very, very tender. Remove from heat and pour them into a colander set over a bowl, to reserve the cooking liquid. When cool enough to handle, remove the loose skins from the chickpeas.

In a food processor, grind together the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and salt until completely smooth. (You can use a blender, and if so, add the 1/3 cup chickpea cooking liquid along with the tahini.) Set a handful of chickpeas aside, then add the rest of the peeled chickpeas and grind for at least a minute, until completely smooth.

Taste, and add additional lemon juice or salt, if necessary. If it's too thick, add a bit more of the cooking liquid until it's at the desired consistency.

To serve, spread in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with the reserved cooked chickpeas and perhaps some toasted nuts. Serves 6 to 8 people.

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