Living in Israel is About Eating Salad

If one foodstuff comes to mind when you think about eating in Israel, it has to be salad. From a tourist’s first encounter with the Israeli hotel breakfast buffet and its abundance of salads; to the array of first course salads in traditional Israeli restaurants that fill you up even before the meat hits the table; to the fresh vegetables that are mandatory at every table in every home, this is salad country.

While to most westerners, salad means fresh lettuce, cucumber and tomato covered with dressing, or taking it to its extreme, coleslaw, for Israelis, salads range from the chopped Arab salad to grilled eggplant, to spicy tomato salad, to hummus and even to a hot salad of stir fried fresh vegetables.

Served with fresh pita from the oven, or delicious sweet challah at the Shabbat table, the following Israeli salads are two of my favorites that I make on a regular basis. Both are based on home made tehina, which is very simple to make, and tastes so much better than the store bought version. The first is the classic Baba Ghanoush, eaten in various forms all over the Mediterranean Middle East (recipe from my brother-in-law Dov). The second is a roasted pumpkin and tehina salad.

For both these salads, you need to prepare tehina by following the instructions on any container of raw tehina (I’ve included instructions in my recipe below as well). In Israel, you can buy raw tehina in any supermarket. Abroad, you can find it in stores that stock health food products and possibly very large supermarkets. My recipes for these salads (as for most salads) are not scientific, as the proportions of vegetable to tehina are a matter of taste. My proportions are about one third tehina to two thirds vegetable. If you prefer the salad to taste more strongly of tehina, adjust it so the salad is half-half. Also, raw garlic is very strong, so you can reduce the amount to half a clove or increase it if you are a garlic fan.

BABA GHANOUSH 

Baba Ghanoush

Ingredients

1 medium-sized egg plant (the eggplant should be firm and smooth)

1/3 cup of raw tehina

About 1/3 cup of cold water

1 small clove garlic

Juice of half a lemon

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Salt to taste

How to do it

1. Rinse and dry the eggplant and place it whole on a tray in a 180°C (350°F) oven for 30-45 minutes until very soft or until it bursts or a fork slides through the eggplant easily. (Cooking time will depend on the size of the eggplant as well, so keep checking after 30 minutes.)

2. Let the eggplant cool down, then peel it, and shred and chop it into small pieces. (If there are hard parts nearer the stem, don’t add them. Only use the soft parts of the eggplant.) Place in a strainer and let the excess liquid run off. I give it a squeeze with my hands to get as much liquid out as possible.

3. Prepare the tehina: In a bowl, mix the tehina, lemon juice and crushed garlic. Slowly add the water, mixing until you get a thick, but slightly runny consistency (you don’t want it to be too runny, as the eggplant is watery; but it should be runnier than hummus…). Add the chopped parsley and salt to taste. Note: You can serve this on its own or with hummus as well. To serve it on its own, make it a little runnier than you would for this salad, adding a little more water.

4. Mix the eggplant into the tehina.

Serve with pita, challah or any bread you love.

ROASTED PUMPKIN AND TEHINA SALAD 

Roasted Pumpkin and Tehina Salad

Ingredients

500g (more or less) of fresh pumpkin

1 tablespoon olive oil

Tehina (as above)

How to do it

1. Removing the skin, cut the pumpkin into medium sized cubes (about 8 cubes) of about the same size and place them on a baking paper lined baking tray, that you have greased with the olive oil.

2. Bake in a 180°C (350°F) oven, turning the cubes around every 20 minutes or so to get an even roast on the pumpkin. Remove when the pumpkin is very soft and is browned on the outsides. This usually takes about 45 minutes – 1 hour.

3. Prepare the tehina as above.

4. Shred the pumpkin with a fork or chop it with a knife and mix it into the tehina.

Serve with pita, challah or any bread you love.

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