So as many of you already know, I accompanied my advisor on a trip to Israel to help out some Israeli researchers with our fungal expertise. So of course the purpose of this trip was for research, but you all know my ulterior motives already – FOOD :) As I fanatically took photos of all the delicious food we ate, Hagai, one of the Israel researchers, asked my advisor Tom if all of his American students were crazy like that. Nope, I think it’s just me! I had an amazing time in Israel and really did not feel quite ready to return to the States after my brief 10 day trip, but I can take solace in the awesome spices and treats I brought in tow.
My stash from Israel – rosewater, spice mixes for red and green zhug, and sumac
I spent my last shekels on date syrup at the duty free shop at the airport and I bought rosewater, sumac, and spice mixes to make red and green zhug at the Arab shuk in Jerusalem. I also couldn’t help myself and bought some gorgeous Armenian pottery to highlight my future cooking.
Buying Armenian pottery in the old city. Can you see me with my purchases?
Tom and I spent the first part of the week in Beer Sheva hanging out with Ofer Ovadia and his grad student Stav at the Ben Gurion University in the Negev. We ate at an amazing Moroccan restaurant but unfortunately I forgot to bring my camera for that meal! Tom, however, brought his camera and sent me this picture from the menu, which he insisted that I include in my blog post. Internal organs anyone?
Restaurant from Moroccan restaurant featuring internal organs
While I lack photos of the delicious unadventurous non organ meat meal that we did end up eating, I did remember to bring my camera for our travels through the north of Israel so you get pictures of our meals in the north instead! I like to joke that I took the anti-touristic tour of Israel – I saw a lot of places that most tourists and probably most Israelis too have never been! We took a hike in the Negev searching for the Terfezia desert truffles, which unfortunately we did not find. We also spent a bunch of time trekking through pine forests in the mountains near Jerusalem and the mountains in the north trying to find mushrooms. Alas, we were not so successful with mushroom foraging, and the only edible mushroom we found is Suillus collinitus. This is not known to be a prized edible and I have not yet tried it, but Russians apparently love it.
Suillus collinitus. Would you want to eat it?
Stav and I took a train from Beer Sheva to Akko, which is a city in the northern tip of Israel. Hagai and Tom met us there and took us for an awesome picnic in the woods. I was too hungry to stop and take a picture of the pita, hummus, and burrekas that we ate for lunch, but I did capture the lovely baklavas that they brought for dessert. The orange thing is called kenafe, which is made of sweetened goat cheese soaked in honey and covered in orange crispy things:
Enjoying coffee and baklava in the Israeli pine forests.
Stav, Hagai, and Tom enjoying a picnic in the pine forests
We even took time to do some science!
Tom using a traveling dissecting scope to look for mycorrhizal root tips in the woods
After science we got hungry again and Hagai took us to this amazing restaurant up in the hills called el Arisa located in the town of Rama. I would return to this place for the view alone, which was truly spectacular:
View from El Arisa in Rama
And how awesome is the interior?
interior of the El Arisa
The view was just incredible, and luckily the food was amazing too! We ordered a bunch of “salatim” to share. Here is the hummus:
We also got fattoush, which you know how much I love:
My favorite though was this eggplant, chickpea, and tomato dish, called Manzala, which I had never tried before but was so savory and delicious:
Manzala – eggplant dish with chick peas and tomatoes and parsley
Here is my plate all loaded up!
Hummus, fattoush, tabouli, eggplant dish
I also got my first taste of limonada, which is a super refreshing lemonade drink made with crushed ice and mint. I cannot wait to make it at home!
This was definitely one of my favorite meals in Israel. Arab food is soo good! I love all the fresh herbs. Everything just makes you feel good while eating it. After stuffing our faces with pita and hummus and salatim I was so full, but Hagai ordered a dessert called Sachleb so I had to try that. It’s sort of hard to describe but it’s similar to a pudding. It is vegan and made of coconut and corn meal and flavored with flowers.
Sachleb for dessert
After this amazing meal Stav and I went to Hagai’s house in Kamon, which is a bit like a garden oasis out in the mountains. Off the mountain there is a view of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) to the left and the Mediterranean to the right and it is just breathtaking. He has 2 adorable children, 2 spunky dogs, and 13 chickens.
Incredibly, they made 24 eggs, which were some of the freshest and best tasting eggs of my life. Who wants to help me build a chicken coop?
Fresh out of the chicken’s butt!
For dinner Stav made us some Shakshuka, which is a traditional Israeli dish of eggs on a sauce of tomatoes and peppers. Shakshuka always seemed intimidating to me but Stav says it’s super simple and you can make the sauce from whatever vegetables you have lying around. We used carrots, sweet potato, peppers, tomatoes, and tomato sauce.
Shakshuka sauce made with carrots, peppers, sweet potato, and tomato sauce
When all the vegetables are super well cooked and you’ve added all the spices, you dig little holes and place the eggs in them. It is so fun! I can’t wait to try making this at home.
Shakshuka with fresh eggs
The day after our visit at Hagai’s house we hiked through some more pine forests and looked for mushrooms in the morning. While again we were not super successful with finding mushrooms, we did find the remains of a lower jaw of a wild boar, which Tom graciously modeled for us:
Tom modeling the wild boar jaw
Before meeting up with another of our Israeli collaborators, Yohay Carmel, at his lab at the Technion University in Haifa, Hagai took us to enjoy another utterly delicious Arab meal. We went to this restaurant in the hills in the north of Israel located in a town called Um-el Fachem called El Babour, which did not disappoint! Also, super excitingly, I found out that Yotam Ottolenghi himself loves this restaurant because he replied to one of my tweets about it :) They brought out plates and plates of different salatim. Eggplant covered in tahini and tomatoes covered in tahini, and stewed carrots and all sorts of things I couldn’t tell you what they are but they tasted fabulous.
Salatim at El babour in town in the north of Israel called Um-el fachem. Ottolenghi himself loves this place!
How gorgeous is this hummus?
Hummus from El babour
I couldn’t prevent myself from breaking into the pita before taking a picture:
pita at el babour
We also got tabbouli and an amazing salad made of mustard greens and red peppers:
salad of mustard greens and red pepper
How vibrant are those colors? As you can see, we enjoyed the food:
As you can see, we enjoyed the food.
Tom and I were super stuffed after all the salads but Hagai told us this place is known for their meat so of course we had to order more dishes. Tom got the kefta with tahini:
Lamb and beef kefta with tahini
And I got the chicken kebabs:
Chicken kebabs from El babour
I was so full at this point but they tasted delicious, and I got to keep the leftovers and eat them for dinner on the train ride from Haifa back south to Beer Sheva. Stav took me to a really cool funk show out at a pub in the middle of the Negev that evening and we saw an awesome Israeli funk band called Bintel Funk perform. After my last night in Beer sheva I took a bus to Jerusalem on Friday morning where Yohay took Tom and me on an awesome tour of the old city.
Spice shop in the old city in Jerusalem
Pretty rocks in the old city in Jerusalem
Menorah shop in the old city in Jerusalem
Jewish husbands everywhere can appreciate this t-shirt
We also got to climb up the towers of this Lutheran church and see a 360 degree view of Jerusalem.
View of the dome of the rock from the towers of the Lutheran church in Jerusalem
Roman ruins in the Jewish quarter of the old city of Jerusalem
Of course we stopped for lunch in the old city as well :)
Hummus in the old city in Jerusalem
I’m sure you’ve had enough for now, so I will stop here! But stay tuned for Part 2 where I will post about my visit to meet my Israeli cousins in Beit-El and more of my eating adventures through Jerusalem with my cousin Geula!