Food for Thought on Yom Ha’atzmaut


Israeli flag.jpgIsrael turns 74 on the night of May 4. While 74 isn’t one of those big milestone anniversaries, we’re still ready to celebrate.

So we’re going to celebrate something that the early Zionists and founders — when they thought Israel would be a light unto the nations — never considered: food. Everyone loves food, right?

And like the Torah itself, recipes are portable.

On this page, we reprint a few Israeli recipes that have appeared in recent years in the Jewish Exponent’s food section.

Falafel Salad
Serves 2 for a meal

I am generally a homemade cook and tend to avoid premade

But I make an exception for things that are just as good (or better) bought than what I could create in my kitchen, or that are so labor-intensive and messy to prepare that I can’t justify the effort. Falafel ticks both boxes.

This salad can be adapted to your preference and your pantry. Olives would be a nice addition. Ditto peppers, either mild or hot, and red or sweet onions.

If you can’t find halloumi, feta is a reasonable substitute.

And if you want a pareve salad, skip the cheese entirely.

The heat/texture contrast of this dish make it unique and tasty. It also makes it feel a bit more substantial than a mere salad for dinner.

4 ounces halloumi cheese, sliced in ¼-inch pieces
Oil to spray cheese
6 store-bought falafel
6 cups lettuce, such as spring mix, romaine or Boston, rinsed, spun and torn
1 cup cherry tomatoes
½ cucumber, peeled and sliced
¼ cup prepared hummus
Juice of ½ lemon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Sprinkle of ground cumin, salt and pepper, to taste

Spray the cheese with oil and pan fry it in a skillet over medium-high until crisp. Place on paper towels and set aside.

Prepare the falafel according to package directions. If no preparation is needed, simply heat them up.

In a shallow bowl, mix the lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers.

Make the dressing: In a small bowl, mix the hummus, lemon juice, oil, cumin, salt and pepper. Mix with a fork and taste for seasoning.

When all the components are prepared, place the cheese and falafel on top of the salad and drizzle with dressing. Serve immediately.

Quick Pickled Cucumbers with Cilantro
Serves 4 with other sides/salads

A note on the cucumbers: If you use Persian or English cucumbers, they don’t really need to be peeled, which is my preference. But if you can’t get your hands on those, just peel and slice the cukes — or be OK with a thicker skin. This will keep for several days in the fridge, and the flavors will deepen.

2 cucumbers, sliced into discs
2 tablespoons white vinegar
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl. Let it sit at room temperature for an hour or two, or longer in the fridge.

Linda Morel | Special to the JE

Israeli Yellow Rice
Serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil, or more, if needed
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon turmeric
⅛ kosher salt, or more, if desired
1 cup basmati rice
A couple saffron threads, optional
2½ cups water
1 chicken or vegetable bouillon cube
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped fine

In a large saucepan, heat oil over a medium flame until warm, about 1-2 minutes. Add garlic, turmeric and salt and sauté. Add the rice and stir until grains are coated with oil.

Slowly drizzle in more oil, if the mixture is dry and rice is sticking to the pot. Add the saffron threads and stir.

Pour in the water, followed by the bouillon cube. Stir briefly.

Cover the pot and reduce the flame to low. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

The bouillon cube should be completely dissolved.

Check to see if more salt is needed and add gingerly, if desired. Add more water if it bubbles away too quickly.

Continue to simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes, stirring often, until the rice is no longer firm in the center.

Move the rice to an attractive bowl and sprinkle it with cilantro.

Serve immediately.


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