Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to everyone celebrating. Clearly, Christmas is not a big deal in Israel, and even more so in Tel Aviv. I thought about going to Bethlehem or Nazareth this year, and I hope to one year. There would be some great Christmas food too, middle eastern style.

I wanted to share two food articles I've come across recently. The first article is on a petition to ban the govt. policy that all official foreign guests of the govt. can only be taken to kosher restaurants. I was not even aware of the policy before reading this, and whole heartedly agree that there's no need for such a law. Thanks to Elaine for sending the article.

The second article was on a reporter's quest to witness the butchering of a sheep in Yafo on the recent Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha, the Festival of the Sacrifice. The holiday and the ritual slaughtering of the sheep commemorates Abraham/Ibrahim's decision not to sacrifice his son Isaac/Ishmail, but rather kill a lamb/ram after being directed to do so by God at the last moment. The article was very well written and goes into fairly graphic detail about the killing of the sheep by one family in Yafo.

Have a great Christmas and Happy New Year too!


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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How to make Latkes with Adam Teeter

I want to wish everyone a Happy Hanukah, Christmas, Kwanza and whatever other holidays are taking place at the moment. Hanukah is not, in my opinion, a great food holiday. At least not in comparison to other food oriented holidays. Thanksgiving is probably the best with its traditions of Turkey, cranberries, pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, stuffing, leftover sandwiches the next day, etc. It's almost a full year away, but I'm ready for Thanksgiving already. Ramadan, ironically, is a great food holiday. While observant Muslims do fast (not the best way to enjoy food) during the daytime, each night there is a sumptuous feast. Even amongst the Jewish holidays, Hanukah doesn't do too well. Pesach Seder is an infinitely better meal than any Hanukah specific foods and meals.

Still, there are some unique food traits to Hanukah worth mentioning. Sufganiyot or jelly donuts are traditional to eat on Hanukah, and who doesn't love a jelly donut? However, I’m willing to guess though that most people identify latkes, or potato pancakes, as their primary Hanukah food treat. Who doesn’t like fried grated potatoes with applesauce on top? If you've ever wondered how to make latkes, well you're in luck this year. My friend Adam Teeter is now starring in his very own latke making instructional video. Learn how to make three kinds of latkes and enjoy the great soundtrack.




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Sustainability Conference

(Carmei Avdat vineyards in the Negev region of Israel)

Last month the first ever Israeli Sustainable Food conference was held in Tel Aviv. It was sponsored by Hazon, the American Jewish food and biking folks, and The Heschel Center, a leading Israeli environmental organization. Unfortunately, I was not able to go, and I am disappointed I can't give a first hand account of the event. I'll be sure to make the next conference, and am thrilled that this issue is more in the forefront in Israel. Israel is an agricultural powerhouse in terms of its production and technological advances, but the environmental impact of this production is rarely discussed. Can food production for 10 million Israelis and Palestinians in a small, desert be sustainable at all? Does sufficient food production have to come at the expense of diminishing water resources and pollution through mass use of chemicals that enhance yields? I hope to explore these issues much more in depth in future posts. Stay tuned...













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Coffee...Bauhaus Style

It has been a little bit since my last post, and I apologize for the tardiness of this entry. But to make it up to you I'm writing three posts today! Getting straight into the first one...

Tel Aviv is known for its hundreds of buildings built in the modernist architecture style known as Bauhaus. Brought to Tel Aviv in the 1920s and 30s by its European immigrants, the architectural style is one of the city's defining characteristics and much of the city is a UNESCO world heritage site because of these buildings. I had coffee the other day with a professor of mine from Emory at Sucar (sugar) because it was 1) close to where we both live and 2) apparently the last coffee shop (so he says) that truly adheres to the Bauhaus style. What does he mean by that?

The building the coffee shop is located in is of Bauhaus style, but so are many coffee shops in the city. The difference, my former professor explained, is the windows. The windows at Sucar are curved with the building, and apparently no other coffee shop has windows that truly conform and meld to the Bauhaus style of their building. As for the coffee shop itself..the coffee was strong and the variety of cookies we had were very good. There is probably better coffee and cookies at other coffee shops in the city, but if you want the true Bauhaus coffee shop experience you have to go to Sucar.

Cafe Sucar
(www. telaviv4fun.com)

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Trying to define Israeli cuisine

There's a new article in The Atlantic today that tries to tackle the issue of what defines Israeli cuisine. The article appears to be written by an American who spent a few months in a higher end restaurant in Tel Aviv. She writes well, brings up some good points, but nothing said is particularly new. In the end she shies away of trying to define what Israeli cuisine in, and while this may be the entirely correct thing to do, it feels like the easy way out for her. Read it, and decide for yourselves.



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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Vino!

I haven't written about Israeli wine yet, so...

NPR (the best radio station...ever) has an interesting piece about Israeli wine and geopolitics. Much of Israel's best wine is grown and produced in the West Bank and the Golan Heights, geographical areas claimed by Palestinians and the Syrians respectively. The article brings up the issue of how these wines' origins should be labeled, and what may happen to these vineyards should the areas one day not be part of the Israel.

Geopolitics aside, Israeli wine is really good and steadily gaining a strong worldwide reputation, and I'll talk about some specific brands in future posts.




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Saturday, November 28, 2009

The best thing about Thanksgiving is...

...turkey sandwiches the next day. I love waking up the day after Thanksgiving and foraging through the leftovers in the fridge to prepare an incredible sandwich.

I like to toast the bread and spread a high quality mayo on both sides. I love Hellman's mayonnaise. I don't think any other brand even comes close. (I'm going to write a blog post just about Hellman's mayonnaise) This morning I used some of the leftover arugula, sliced a tomato, and fried an egg. Fried eggs make everything taste better. Hashes, sandwiches, huevos rancheros, everything. (I'm going to have write another blog post just about fried eggs) This sandwich is the epitome of Thanksgiving to me, and the holiday would not be complete without one.





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Thanksgiving Recipes

Why I'm posting my turkey recipe after Thanksgiving and not before is a legitimate question...but better late than never.

Asian flavored Thanksgiving Turkey

Ingredients:
Turkey - size will vary
Cilantro - one package
Lemongrass - 3-4 stalks
Ginger - 1 good sized knob
Garlic - 4 cloves
Jalapeno - entire pepper
Red Curry Paste - 3 tablespoons
Olive Oil - 2-3 tablespoons
Salt Pepper - to season

Instructions:
1. Preheat your oven to 325 F. Prepare your turkey for the oven. Cut off the neck, take out the innards, clean the outside of any protruding feathers that are still slightly sticking out. Cut under the skin on the top of the bird, so that you can lift up the skin to place the herb mixture underneath.
2. Finely chop the cilantro, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, and jalapeno and place in bowl. Add curry paste and mix in well. Add olive oil and salt and pepper to season. Lift up the turkey skin and spread the mixture as evenly as possible around the top of the turkey and next to the legs. Season the top of the bird with salt and pepper and drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil. Spread evenly on the outside of the turkey. Tie the legs together so they don't fall to the sides and tear the skin. Stuff the cavity with half an orange and half an onion. These give off juices, instead of soaking them up.
3. Place the turkey in an oven tray uncovered and place in the oven for 30 minutes so the outside can start to brown. After 30 minutes add a cup or two of water or white wine to the tray. Cover the turkey with aluminum foil and place a thermometer in the turkey breast, being careful not to touch the bone.
4. Cook the turkey until the turkey reaches 165 F. This is enough to kill the salmonella and other bacteria, yet not overcook the turkey.
5. Take out the turkey when ready and let rest for approximately 30 minutes so the juices don't run out upon carving. Enjoy!

Tips: Do not stuff the turkey with bread or any food that will soak up the turkey juices and dry it out. Additionally, if you do insist on stuffing your turkey make sure the temperature of the stuffing also reaches 165 F. Often the stuffing is at a lower temperature than the breast meat, and if not cooked enough can increase the chance of salmonella poisoning.



The Turkey right before carving

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Thanksgiving in Israel

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving in whatever country they found themselves in this year. To accommodate the lack of a national holiday here and people's work schedule I celebrated Thanksgiving last night...on a Friday. My Shabbat Thanksgiving was delicious, a lot of fun, and reaffirmed Thanksgiving as my favorite holiday. First, a little Thanksgiving trivia. How fast can an adult Turkey run? The answer will come later in this post.

Joining me last night were my good old friends Becca, Alon, Tina, and David and my good new friends, Shiri and Ido, whom I met last night. My favorite part of Thanksgiving is actually the preparation of the meal, and the mini-courses I prepare before the main event. Once I got the turkey in the oven (more on the turkey later) I started making a stock using the classic french mirepoix, some of the left over veggies that went into the seasonings on the turkey, and the left over turkey neck. By the way, what do you call a baby turkey? (Answer later on in this post) Shiri made some guacamole and around 230 pm we had a nice bowl of spicy turkey soup with chips and guacamole. Oh, I had my first glass of wine, of many, at this time too. I had been really excited to cook the innards of the turkey (the liver, kidneys, etc..) and was disappointed upon picking up my turkey to learn that these had been thrown away. Not my first choice, but I bought some chicken livers and cooked them in the broth of the spicy turkey soup. I placed them on some thinly sliced cooked beets and had chicken liver on beet carpaccio. Yes, I was pretty full at this point, and the turkey wasn't even out of the oven yet. (Answer to the trivia questions: 20 miles per hour, and a poult)

I made an asian flavored (see the recipe in the previous post) turkey that I think was cooked perfectly. The breast meat was really juicy and nobody asked for gravy. We had stuffing (gluten free for Becca) a great quinoa/beet salad, a greenbean and chestnut dish, sweet potato and pecan pie, brownies, cranberry sauce, cranberry crumble, and more. Everything was delicious, the conversation was great, and it was a very memorable thanksgiving.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

True, I live in Israel, but that doesn't mean I can't celebrate my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving for a lot of reasons, but the food is the primary one. Even in Israel I look forward to each year bringing this bit of Americana into my life.

I want to wish everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving, and I will be blogging about my Shabbat Thanksgiving (I am doing this in Israel, so you have to adapt a little) in the coming days. Pictures too!

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Yarden's Roasted Eggplant

I just wanted to post this picture of some absolutely beautiful roasted eggplants with tehina, pine nuts, mint, and zatar. My friend Yarden made them for his two year old son's birthday party last weekend, and the moment I saw them I knew I wanted to 1) eat them and 2) take a picture to post on the blog.


The eggplants were perfectly cooked and had that delicious smoky eggplant flavor that was perfectly balanced with the cool refreshing tehina. People either hate or love roasted eggplant. I love them.


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Sunday, November 15, 2009

How do you make nachos Israeli?

Use goat cheese!




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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Shuk HaCarmel to be renovated...eventually

Haaretz reported today that the Tel Aviv municipality approved a plan to renovate Shuk HaCarmel and the surrounding area, which has not been renovated since it was first established in the 1920's! However, like any good Israeli public works project the plan is years away from actual implementation. Objections will be raised, revisions will be made, and even the municipality itself envisions a two year process before any work is actually started. I'll put my money on double that amount of time...at least.

In any case, its nice that there are plans in the works, as the shuk badly needs some renovations. The stalls are old and rundown, there is only partial cover from rain, and the surrounding neighborhood (the Yemenite Quarter) is in bad shape. The Yemenite Quarter is home to Irit, one of my favorite places to eat in all of Israel, which I highly recommend to everyone. Many of the quarter's residents are poor, and I worry that the renovation plan will gentrify the area and lead to an exodus by the few original inhabitants of the neighborhood. We'll see...



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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Corn and Carrots 2 Ways

I've been noticing on Top Chef, and some other cooking shows, that its become very popular to serve a dish that is a certain ingredient prepared in a few different ways. Beef three ways, for example. On the same plate you'll have a grilled steak, carpaccio, and a braised piece of beef. Today's recipe post is in that spirit as I share two different ways to prepare corn and carrots together in the same dish. By the way, did you know that corn in the plural is actually corns? Does anybody say that?

Corn and Carrots 2 ways

The first preparation of these two ingredients is to make corn and carrot fritters. The recipe is a variation of one I saw on the cooking blog No Recipes. They're easy and quick to make, and with the chili mayo dip are perfect for a cold evening. Should make approximately 12-15 fritters.

Ingredients:
Corn - kernels of two ears or one can
1 Carrot - shredded and squeezed of excess moisture
Cilantro (fresh) - 1 tbs chopped
2 Scallions - the white parts only, diced
1/2 Jalapeno - finely diced
Wheat flour - 1/2 cup
*can be replaced by corn flour in order to be Gluten free
Corn Flour - 1/4 cup
Baking Powder - 1 tbs
1 Egg
Spice mixture - 1.5-2 tbs total - Salt, Pepper, Paprika, Cumin, Curry
Mayo - 2 spoonfuls
Sweet Chili Sauce - 1 tbs

Instructions:
1. Mix the cilantro, scallions, corn, carrot, and pepper well together. Add the egg and mix until even.
2. Combine the flours, spices, and baking powder and whisk together.
3. Combine the flour mixture to the corn and mix well together. Add the water and mix again.
4. Coat a frying pan in oil until the whole pan is just covered. When oil is fairly hot add spoonfuls of the corn mixture making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Press down on the mixture if necessary to keep the fritters uniform in shape.
5. When one side is golden, flip over and fry until the other side is golden. When both sides are ready, take out and place on paper towels to drain any excess oil.
6. Mix the mayo and chili sauce until full incorporated and very smooth.
7. Serve with a small dollop of the chili mayo and enjoy.

The second recipe is a corn and carrot salad, using fresh corn and steamed carrots. Its a refreshing, tasty alternative to a classic green salad.

Ingredients:
Corn - Kernels of two ears or one can
2 Carrots - sliced thinly
Garlic - 2 cloves diced
Cilantro - 1 tbs chopped
Scallions - 1 white part diced
Dill - 1 tbs chopped
Lemon - juice of half a lemon
Olive Oil - 2 tbs
Red Chili Pepper Flakes - 1 tsp
Salt Pepper - to season

Instructions:
1. Steam sliced carrots until cooked, approx. 5 minutes. Combine with the salad hot, or if preferred to keep the salad cold, cool in the fridge for 30 minutes.
2. Combine the garlic, cilantro, dill, scallions, corn, carrot and mix well.
3. Add the lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper, and chili flakes. Mix and its ready to eat.



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Friday, November 6, 2009

Is there anything better than a great chocolate chip cookie?

There's nothing Israel related in this post, just a recipe for some amazing chocolate chip cookies courtesy of the food scientists at Cooks Illustrated Magazine. What makes these cookies special is the whipping process, which makes them really light and soft.

Ingredients:
1 ¾ cups flour
½ tsp baking soda
200 grams unsalted butter/margarine
½ cup white sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 ¼ cup chocolate chips

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 190 C. Whisk flour, baking soda in a bowl and set aside
2. Cut ¼ of the butter into a few pieces and set in a large mixing bowl. Cut the rest of the butter up into pieces and put on a frying pan until melts. Once melted, continuously stir for a few minutes or until it starts to darken and become a more golden color. At this point stir in the melted butter with the non melted pieces in the mixing bowl until it is all melted
3. To the butter add sugar, salt and vanilla and stir until its all mixed well together
4. Add the egg and yolk and whisk for about 30 seconds until mixture is smooth. Let the mixture stand for 3 minutes. Whisk for 30 seconds two more times and after each time let the mixture rest for 3 minutes. By the end it will be a very thick, creamy mixture and very difficult to whisk.
5. Stir in flour mixture and mix around until it’s all incorporated. Add the chocolate chips and mix in.
6. Divide dough into around 16 portions, no more than 8 per baking sheet. The portions should be in a ball and just over an inch high.
7. Cook for 10-14 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through.
8. Take them out and enjoy! And another amazing thing about these cookies is that somehow they get even softer the next day. So make sure you don't eat them all at once, and have some left over for later.


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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Simple Sabich Recipe

For those who want to try sabich at home, the recipe below is very easy to make. For those who want to make their own amba, view this recipe here.

Ingredients:
Pita (fresh and hot as possible) - 4
Eggplant - 1 medium sized
Hardboiled eggs (sliced) - 4
3 Tomatoes - diced
3 Cucumber - diced
1/2 Red Onion - diced
Juice of one Lemon
1/2 bunch Parsley - diced
Tahina - store bought
Hummus - store bought
Amba - store bought or from recipe above
Harissa - store bought
Canola oil - enough to cover thin eggplant slices by 1/2 inch

Instructions:
1. Slice the eggplant into thin slices, approximately 1/4 inch. Fry in canola or other vegetable oil until a dark golden color and pat dry with paper towels when done.
2. Dice your tomatoes, cucumber, onion and mix with the minced parsley. Add lemon, salt, pepper and mix together.
3. Spread hummus on the sides of the pita and place in one or two slices of eggplant and the slices of one egg.
4. Add a few spoonfuls of the salad (thinly sliced pickles can be added as well) and top with tahina, harissa, and amba as you like.
5. Enjoy on a relaxing Saturday morning as is traditional with Iraqi Jews.


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Everything Sabich

Sabich is one of the more popular streetfoods you can find in Israel, and it can be argued it's more "Israeli" than falafel or schwarma because its more unique to Israel than the latter. Sabich consists of fried eggplant, hardboiled egg, tomato, cucumber, hummus, tehina, and various spicy sauces. One of the spicy sauces (amba) is made from mango, cumin, turmeric, and a variety of other ingredients. While it may be used in other dishes, I have only seen it offered alongside Sabich. One thing I appreciate about sabich is that while the dish is vegetarian it is extremely filling, one of the strong points of falafel as well. You can order a sabich and have no remorse that you didn't opt for a schwarma instead.

Iraqi Jews are those credited with bringing sabich to the mainstream, as they would traditionally eat fried eggplant on Saturday morning. The etymological roots of sabich may come from this practice, as "sabah" means morning in Arabic. Others will argue that the name is actually an acronym of the foods that make up Sabich, and I'm sure there are multiple other explanations as well.

Throughout the country you can find many excellent sabich establishments, but in the Tel Aviv area there are four that I frequent. The most famous sabich in the city, and probably the country is Oved, actually located just east of Tel Aviv on Sirkin st. in Givatayim. Famous for its colorful creation of words specific to the process of ordering sabich, there are long lines pretty much any hour the place is open. For example, if you want to have a spicy red sauce all you have to do is say Hapoel, the name of one of the Tel Aviv's soccer team whose color is red. If you want the spicy mango sauce (amba) say Macabbi, the other Tel Aviv team whose color is yellow. Oved is a required experience for any Sabich lover or anyone interested in Israeli food in general, but its not the only option.

In the center of Tel Aviv there are three excellent places to get Sabich. Long lines are also prevalent at Sabich Frishman, at the corner of Frishman and Dizengoff St. Located in about a small of a location as possible, they always serve an excellent portion of Sabich. Right next door is Falafel Frishman, and while they offer good falafel, the much longer lines for sabich tell you which one people think is better. Just a few minutes away is Falafel Gabai on Bograshov street. The staff is extremely friendly and their variety of salads is very appealing and fairly unique. Gabai offers excellent falafel, soups, shakshouka, and other dishes, but I always go for their sabich. Finally, Hakosem, on the corner of Shlomo Hamelech and King George street offers another excellent sabich. Their staff is also very friendly, and when lines are long they are sure to pass you a ball of falafel to keep you satisfied while waiting. The food is great, and their very brightly colored chairs will cheer up anyone's day.

So next time your in line for falafel or schwarma, think about ordering a Sabich instead.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wine and Cheese in the Desert

This past weekend I was in the Northern Negev visiting some food sites for the tour. Outside of the wine and cheese tasting great, one of the most impressive aspects to visiting these farms is the fact they are able to thrive in desert conditions. There are acres of grapes, pomegranates, olive trees, and more. It seems absurd that anyone would even think to grow anything, let alone large farms, in such hot and dry conditions.

However, for thousands of years not only has there been agriculture in the Negev region of what is now Israel, but agriculture has thrived. The Nabateans developed some very advanced techniques to adapt to the desert conditions, primarily finding ways to provide water to their crops. By creating sophisticated irrigation systems they were able to water an area much larger than the land that actually received rainwater or runoff from rivers and streams. At the height of the Nabatean period, around the 2nd century BCE, they were able to have successful agriculture in an area much larger than what is in use today. Today, farms in the area use many of the same techniques the Nabateans used. Carmei Avdat vineyard, for example, has its vineyards in a flash flood plain. A few times of a year when floods come through they are able to siphon off the water into reservoirs that provide the grapes enough water throughout the year when there is little if any rainwater. Their wine is very good too, by the way. If you're interested in learning more about ancient agricultural practices in the Israeli deserts visit this interesting and very thorough site.

One of the highlights of the weekend was Naot Farm, a goat cheese farm very close to Sde Boker. Started by the former owners of the famous Argentine steak restaurant chain El Gaucho, Naot Farm has around 250 goats, producing 750 liters of milk per day! They make 10+ varieties of goat cheeses and yogurts, ranging from Camembert to hard cheeses. There's a red wine cheese, a house specialty, one infused with thyme, all of which are very good. My favorite was the "kesem" or magic cheese, that is unique to their farm. The plain tzfatit was also very, very good. You can stop by any day of the week during daylight hours and have a free tasting and walk around the farm. The goats are milked twice a day, and groups can call ahead for a tour of the farm with the owner. There is also a very good meat restaurant (going back to the El Gaucho roots) that offers excellent steaks, although at slightly expensive prices. If you're in the region travelling or just driving through I highly recommend a stop at the farm.


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Monday, October 26, 2009

The hummus controversy continues!

The regional fight over the national bragging rights to hummus has continued in force this week. The AP wrote an article about a bowl of hummus made in Lebanon that is apparently the largest ever made. The article was printed all over place and you can see it here, here, here, and here!

(Associated Press)

The driving factor behind the decision to make such a mammoth amount of hummus seems to be the Lebanese desire to claim hummus as their own, and to make it clear that it is most definitely not Israeli.

Why is it that the Lebanese feel so passionate about this issue? I have no doubt that the historical conflict with Israel is a large reason, but I think there's more to it. In Israel we have trademark rights protecting Jaffa oranges. The French are trying to have UNESCO recognize french cuisine as part of the world's cultural heritage. All over the world there are strong feelings over traditional dishes. Food is an important part of each person's cultural identity, and I think we're seeing this reflected in that enormous 2 ton bowl of hummus.



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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Yafo, The New York Times, and more Hummus

The New York Times released a travel article today about the revitalization of Yafo, and listed a few places to eat. The only one I'm able to comment on is Abu Hassan, which they claim is considered by some to be the best in Israel. While its true that some people say this, I strongly disagree. More on my favorite hummus in a later post.

In any case, its nice to see Yafo gets its credit. Check out the article here.

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Copyright infringment on hummus?

It appears that if the Lebanese get their way hummus will be legally a Lebanese national dish. This article in Britain's Telegraph newspaper details the legal appeal by an association of Lebanese industrialists to the European Union to afford hummus a protected status. They claim that hummus is of Lebanese origin and that Israeli companies have unfairly profited by selling the dish to the world claiming it to be a typical Israeli dish.

I know that Jaffa oranges have certain intellectual property rights as well as mangoes from certain regions and whole host of other foods. But hummus??!! Chickpeas/garbanzo beans have grown in a variety of countries for hundreds if not thousands of years. I don't think it belongs to any region or national cuisine. The variety of kinds of hummus is one of the things I like about it so much. Even within in Israel you have different flavors depending on the region. I find it difficult to believe this Lebanese group could prove that hummus is in fact native to Lebanon as well as satisfy the myriad of other legal hurdles required to obtain the special status on their hummus. We'll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, I'm pretty sure I know what I'll be having for lunch.



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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Georgia and Yemen in a Tel Aviv Weekend

I ate pretty well this weekend I must admit. Friday, for lunch, I went with my friend Jodie to a hole in the wall Yemenite restaurant near Shuk HaCarmel. Jodie calls the place Irit, because 1) there is no name or signs to the place to give it a proper name and 2) Irit is the warm, friendly owner who runs the place and makes the great food. Irit serves traditional Yemenite dishes such as Lahooch, Jahnoun, Malawach, as well as a great Shakshouka, a variety of soups, amongst others. The hot sauce, hummus, tahina, is all homemade and everything tastes delicious.

My favorite dish is the Lahooch, which is a doughy pancake that Irit folds in half over an egg that appears omelette-ey in its texture and consistency. She then lightly fries it until the outside of the Lahooch is slightly crispy. The Lahooch comes out moist, airy and when topped with her homemade tahina, spicy sauce, and grated tomato puree is really, really tasty. All of her dishes are accompanied by a nice Israeli salad. Irit also treats everyone to spicy Yemenite coffee to finish their meal.

(Lahooch)

Irit's is the kind of place where you always end up speaking with the other patrons (the entire place seats no more than 10-12 people) about how good the food is. Irit, never more than a few feet away engages everybody in conversation, and I feel that for taste and value, Irit's is one of the best places to eat in all of Israel.

Saturday evening I joined some friends for a farewell party at the classic Georgian establishment Nanushka. Nanushka is located on Lilenblum street in the heart of one of Tel Aviv's best restaurant and bar neighborhoods that centers around Rothschild, Lilenblum, Ahad Ha'am and the connecting streets. Georgian food is not well known worldwide, but it is a varied and flavorful cuisine. With a variety of different climates, all sorts of fruits and vegetables grow in Georgia, and the you'll find pomegranates, lamb, stews, dumplings, great beers, a variety of spices throughout traditional Georgian food. At Nanushka up-scale Georgian cuisine is served with dishes like: chicken marinated in tamarind and pomegranate sauces, dumplings, marinated lamb shank, stuffed vegetables, caviar, a variety of eggplant dishes, and much more.

I ordered Chaliya, which is chicken cooked with carmelized onions, tamarind and pomegranate syrups. It was pretty good, but slightly overcooked and a just a little too dry. The spicy, marinated lamb shank that a few of my friends ordered was amazing and the meat was as tender as could be. The starters plate full of different eggplant, beet, stuffed grape leaves was excellent. I could have eaten a variety of salads all night and have left very happy.

Nanushka serves excellent food, and while not cheap, their prices are reasonable. If I have to choose between Irit and Nanushka, though, Irit wins hands down. Irit serves excellent food, has a very unique warm, inviting atmosphere, and is the best value for money in the city. All in all, it was a great weekend for food, and ultimately, I have nothing but praise for the places I ate at.

Next weekend, Alon and I are heading to the Negev to check out some vineyards, goat cheese farms, and restaurants. I'll have a full report on the places we visited in a weeks time.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Chicken w/Oaxacan Mole

I was in the US/Paris for the past week and half, and upon returning my Savor Israel partner Alon and his wife Becca had me over for an amazing dinner. The two recently returned from their honeymoon, part of which took them to the Mexican state of Oaxaca. Oaxaca is known for beautiful beaches, mountains, colonial-style towns, and its incredible food. While in Oaxaca they took a cooking class where they learned how to make a kind of mole. A mole is a sauce that can have dozens of ingredients and is very difficult to make. The goal is that one tastes each ingredient that goes into the mole, and when done well you truly taste the complexity of the sauce.

Using ingredients they had brought back from Mexico they made an excellent mole, and one that you can make fairly easily at home. Moles containing chocolate are generally referred to as Mole Poblano, as they originally hail from the city of Puebla. However, because this recipe uses Oaxacan chocolate I'm taking the liberty of changing the name a little. Here are the pictures and the recipe.

04 Mole Ingrediants

All the ingredients that go into the mole

06 Mole Paste 07 Mole Paste

The mole before it reduces and after an hour on the stove

10 Mole Dinner

Chicken w/Oaxacan Mole Recipe

Ingredients:
Chicken
1 chicken – cut into pieces w/excess fat trimmed away
5 garlic cloves
1/2 onion
Salt and Pepper

Mole
6 pasilla chilies
4 guajillo chilies
½ cup raisins
½ cup almonds
½ cup pecans
2 tablespoons shelled pumpkin seeds
½ cup sesame seeds
1 sliced banana
2 medium tomatoes (10.6 oz/300 g)
4 garlic cloves
½ onion - roughly chopped
4 peppercorns
4 cloves
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon thyme
1 cinnamon stick
2 cups Oaxacan chocolate or any dark chocolate - broken into small parts

Instructions:
1. Heat a stockpot with a little oil under very hot. Sear the chicken pieces until slightly golden. Add the onion, garlic, salt and pepper and saute for a minute. Add enough water until all pieces are covered in at least two inches of water. Boil for an hour and a half or until the meat is tender. Remove the chicken pieces and save the broth.
2. Make a cut down the length of one side of the chile. Like a butterfly cut. De-vein and de-seed them. Remove the top/stems.
3. Heat up a frying pan and fry each chili individually on each side. Remove them once they blister, approximately 30 seconds, being careful not to burn them.
4. Saute the raisins until they plump, then put them in some water to avoid hardening. Saute the almonds, pecans, and pumpkin seeds until slightly golden and set aside. Separately, saute the sesame seeds until they start to brown and set aside. Saute the sliced plantains for a minute and set aside. Finally, saute the tomatoes, garlic and onion for a few minutes until the onions start to carmelize and set aside.
5. In a blender, grind the chilies first with as much water or chicken stock as is needed. Then grind all the other ingredients: the raisins, almonds, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, tomatoes, garlic, onion and spices.
6. Pour the sauce into a pot and bring to a boil. Add the chocolate and any remaining chicken stock. Reduce to a simmer and stir consistently for over an hour until the mixture takes on a dark color and turns into a paste.
7. Place the chicken pieces in the sauce and let cook for a few minutes until warm. Serve over rice and enjoy!


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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Redwoods

redwood This post has nothing to do with food or Israel (I’m breaking blogging rules, sorry) but this is too amazing not to post.

Mike Nichols, a National Geographic photographer, took a picture (above) of a 300 foot tall, 1500 year old Redwood tree. It took him multiple cameras and weeks of setting up to get this shot. Check out the video too on the making of this picture and click here for a preview of the National Geographic article. I promise the next post will be about food:-)


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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Reducing carbon dioxide emissions on Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is this Sunday night/Monday, which for me means no cars in the streets! Each year I'm blown away by how amazing it is to walk through a city with literally not a single car, save the occasional ambulance and police car doing regular patrols. The air quality is a lot better, kids play in the middle of the streets, and I go for walks on the main highways. It's awesome! I'll definitely be posting pictures of the no car phenomenon we can all thank Yom Kippur for.

Back to food...along with cars, cows are a huge producer of CO2 gases. In the spirit of trying to reduce CO2 emissions, here are a few recipes, perfect for breaking the Yom Kippur fast, that are meat free.

Zucchini Carpaccio w/Crumbled Feta

Ingredients:
2 zucchinis
Olive Oil
Salt
Pepper
Feta cheese - several ounces

Instructions:
1. With a mandolin or carrot peeler, slice the zucchini lengthwise to get very thin slices. Lay out on a plate with as little overlap as possible.
2. Drizzle with olive oil, sa
lt and pepper.
3. Crumble feta cheese over the carpaccio strips and let the strips marinade for 30 minutes.
4. Serve and enjoy!

Southwestern Salsa Stuffed Avocado

Ingredients:
5-6 Avocados
Corn - kernels of two freshly cooked stocks or half a can
1/2 Red Onion - finely diced
Jalapeno - half of one pepper, finely diced
Cherry Tomatoes - one package, quartered
Lemon juice - 1 lemon
Salt
Pepper

Instructions:
1. Cut the avocados in half, lengthwise and throw away the pit. Place on a serving tray.
2. Mix the corn, red onion, jalapeno, cherry tomatoes. Add lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
3. Place a spoonful or two of the salsa mixture in the avocado and serve.

No cars on the streets! (Tel Aviv, Yom Kippur 2008)

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Tel Aviv 10 block culinary walking tour


The other day I came across this article from The Atlantic food blog about a culinary walking tour of Brooklyn. I've heard stories about New York's culinary diversity, but somehow I've never really been to New York to see for myself. Ironically, on Tuesday I'm going for a week (Philadelphia and DC too) to visit friends and family. The article made me think about Tel Aviv's culinary diversity and what an ideal 10 block culinary tour of Tel Aviv would entail. Stay tuned for a future post once I have devised a route showing off the best that Tel Aviv has to offer.








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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Krembo

This blog post is going to be a tribute to one of my favorite Israeli snacks…Krembo! Krembo is not a kind of food unique to Israel, its similar to a s’more, but I’ve never seen them sold elsewhere. For those unfamiliar, Krembo is an individually packaged snack made of a cracker bottom, an airy cream filling and covered with chocolate.

One sign of winter in Israel is the appearance of Krembo in the stores. If its too hot than the chocolate melts, so they only show up around November. I think Krembos taste great, and I am amazed by their versatility. You can eat Krembo at room temperature which is the classic way. Freezing them makes them just a little bit better in my opinion. You can also zap it in the microwave for a few seconds to get a more s’more type taste.

Check out the YouTube video below on how Krembos are made (Hebrew only). One thing I found interesting was that the Krembos are so delicate they have to packaged by hand and not by machine. Next time you’re in Israel during the winter be sure to have yourself a delicious Krembo.


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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Cool Rosh Hashanah Article

Check out this NY Times article about recreating a typical Rosh Hashanah meal in...1919!
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Finished school and modern Israeli Ravioli

Hi, sorry for the delay between posts. I'm going to try to post more frequently, but I finished my MBA at the beginning of the week! and the last few weeks have been a little crazy. Now that I'm done with the MBA I have more time to focus on the Savor Israel blog, so keep checking frequently for new recipes and articles on food and Israel.

Rosh Hashana begins this Friday evening, and in honor of the Jewish New Year I'm posting a recipe worthy of a dinner for this holiday courtesy of the Israeli chef Aharoni. There are ingredients I view as very Israeli like the silan (date honey), lamb, garbanzo beans, and cherries. The silan (honey) is symbolic of rosh hashana, and it was in fact date honey, not bee honey, that was first eaten in biblical Israel. The fusion between Italian and Middle Eastern cooking also seems very modern Israeli cooking to me as well. So we'll call this is a modern Israeli Rosh Hashana dish. Wishing everyone a wonderful start to their new year.

Lamb Ravioli in a Silan, Cherry and Shallot Sauce (courtsey of Aharoni)

Ingredients:
Sauce

Shallots – 12
Cherries (seeded) - 1 pound
Cumin seeds - 1 tablespoon
Black Pepper - to season
Garbanzo beans - 1 can (cooked beans)
Sugar - 1/3 cup
Squeezed Lemon Juice - 1/2 cup
Silan (regular honey can be used as a substitute) - 1/3 cup
Chicken stock - 1 liter

Pasta - Ravioli
Pasta maker or rolling pin

Ravioli filling
Ground lamb - 1-1.5 pounds
1 Red Onion - finely minced
Parsley - 1/2 a bunch, finely chopped
Salt - to season
Pepper - to season

Instructions:
Sauce
Saute whole shallots with pepper and cumin seeds until shallots are well carmelized in a big pan
Add cherries and garbanzo beans and saute for five minutes on medium heat
Add chicken stock, sugar, lemon, and silan. Bring to boil and then reduce heat to a simmer
Cook for 45 minutes until almost liquid has almost completely reduced

Ravioli (altnernatively, you can buy ready made Ravioli at the store)
While the sauce is reducing prepare the pasta dough. There are hundreds of ways to make pasta dough, and I by no means know which is the "best". Here's a link to a good recipe if you don't have your own favorite way.

To make the filling for the raviolis, mince the red onion, and mix in a bowl with the ground lamb, salt and pepper. Saute until the lamb is cooked. Review the ravioli recipe link on how to prepare the raviolis once you have made the dough and the filling. Cook the raviolis for 3-4 minutes and place aside.

Putting it all together
Take the raviolis and lay them in the sauce once it has almost completely reduced and cook for another three minutes.
Lay the raviolis on a serving plate and pour the sauce on top. Enjoy and Shana Tova!






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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Gluten free and other food allergies

I am allergic to countless foods. When I was two years old I had an anaphylactic reaction to fish and later testing revealed I was in fact deathly allergic to all seafood. I have also developed lactose intolerance, severely limiting the dairy products I am able to deat. In addition, I have minor allergies to peanuts, pistachios, and citrus fruits give me heartburn. Often people comment on how awful it must be to be so limited, when in fact I think I am still able to eat wide varieties of different foods.

A good friend of mine is a Celiac, and is unable to eat any food with Gluten in it, knocking out all wheat products. My father is allergic to half the foods on the planet, and I more and more I meet people with significant food allergies.

I want this blog to reflect this increasingly reality and with that in mind I want to share a blog about cooking gluten-free, Gluten-Free Girl. The recipes are amazing, whether you're a Celiac or not.

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Figs and Alon and Becca are back

As Rosh Hashanah approaches certain seasonal foods are appearing in the markets including one of my favorite fruits...figs.

Roasted figs with goat cheese is one of my favorite foods and its so easy to make. Just pre-heat your oven to 350 F. Place figs in an ovenproof tray and make a slit almost all the way through the fig. Slice a thin piece of goast cheese and put in the fig. Season with a very small amount of black pepper and bake for 10-15 minutes. If you want, you can add a drop of balsamic vinegar on each fig once they're out of the oven. The sweetness of the fig and acidity of the vinegar blend well together.

Alon, co-founder of Savor Israel, just came back from his honeymoon in Mexico and Cuba today! Tomorrow evening he and his wife, Becca, are coming over and I'm making mojitos with the limes I was given at Mezcal and figs with goat cheese. I'll be sure to take pictures and post those.


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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mojito - Israeli Style

In the previous post I described a recent (last night) experience at Mezcal, an authentic Mexican restaurant and Tequila/Mezcal bar in Tel Aviv. At the end of the meal I was speaking with the chef and asking him where he buys ingredients that are characteristic of Mexican cuisinse yet hard to find in Israel, such as limes. The chef went back into his kitchen and came back with a bag full of limes, something special to get in Israel where limes seem to be in season for a week a year.

In honor of this gift of limes I thought I'd post a recipe for one of my favorite drinks, the Mojito, with an Israeli twist to it. A Mojito is Cuban in origin and traditionally consists of rum, lime, sugar, mint, and ice. After arriving in the US it became popular to add club soda, and most mojitos today are now made this way. I also prefer using club soda, and since moving to Israel I've made my own variations based on some local ingredients. Here's one such recipe.

Pomegranate Mojito

With pomegrantes just coming into season this seems like a good recipe to post

Ingredients
1-1.5 shots clear rum (high quality preferred)
2 spoons sugar or simple syrup (add more as you like)
Juice of 1 lime
Lots of mint - 2-3 sprigs
Pomegranate jewels and juice
Club Soda
Ice

Steps
1) Find a big glass (I like to have room for lots of ice in the drink)
2) Add the rum, lime juice, sugar, and mix well. Taste, and add more sugar or lime juice if needed. Add some of the crushed lime peel if you like.
3) Crush mint leaves from one sprig, add to drink and mix
4) Add a one second pour of pomegranate juice from either a crushed pomegrante or store bought juice. If you have an actual pomegranate add a handful of pomegrante jewels.
5) Pour a one second to second and a half count of club soda and top glass with ice
6) Crush the remaining mint leaves, add and mix well. Enjoy!


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Mezcal

Mexican Food Cravings

One of the more "difficult" things about living in Israel, at least for someone who grew up in the US, is the almost complete lack of Mexican food, let alone good Mexican food. Only after you move to a country with no Mexican food do you realize how much you appreciate great salsa, tacos, guacamole, tostadas, etc...available everywhere.

For several years, after moving to Israel, I did not eat Mexican food even once until I was introduced to the great intimate and authentic Mexican restaurant Mezcal. Located in the trendy Southern Tel Aviv neighborhood of Florentin Mezcal has the best (and only?) selection of high quality Mezcal and Tequila in the city and probably the country. I enjoy a good shot of tequila or its spirit cousin Mezcal, but for me the food is what makes Mezcal special.

Mezcal doesn't offer tex-mex cuisine, what most "Mexican" restaurants in the US serve, rather authentic Mexican cuisine. They serve corn tortillas, enchilades verdes (or rojos if you ask the chef nicely), tostadas, a great chile con carne (possibly Texan and not Mexcian), and my favorite dish Chicken in Mole.


Mole is a type of Mexican sauce that can involve upwards of twenty ingredients, and there are dozens of different kinds. The Mole used on on this incredibly tender chicken dish is a Mole Poblano, from the Mexican city of Puebla. This mole is fairly well known for its use of chocolate as a primary ingredient. The chocolate adds a very special dimension and creates an amazing complex flavor I'm not going to even try to describe. You just have to go to your nearest authentic Mexican restaurant, hope they have it on the menu, and taste it for yourself.

At the end of the night I was speaking with the chef about how he prepares some of his dishes and I asked where he gets limes from. For that don't know, you can't get limes in Israel. Once a year, magically, they'll show up in the market for a few days, and then they're gone...Keyser Soze style. After asking the question the chef went back into his kitchen and brought me back a bag full of limes, a truly special present for me. It's nice to know that when I get my Mexican food cravings I have a place to go.

Address:
Mezcal
Vital 2, Florentin Neighborhood
Tel Aviv


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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Weekly Recipe - Summer Salad

Its hot right now in Tel Aviv. I don't know exactly how hot or what the humidity level is, but that doesn't matter. Its really hot, and nobody wants to be eating anything that is hotter than the temperature outside. My first suggestions is a popsicle. The Arctic popsicles you get in Israel are the best, but I'm sure all frozen sugar water anywhere it is tastes pretty similar.

My other suggestion is trying out this great recipe to help cool you down a little, or at least not heat you up. It also tastes great.

Cherry tomato, Garbanzo and Hearts of Palm Salad

This salad is one my favorites any time of the year. Hearts of Palms is one of my favorite foods, and I try to put it in as many dishes as possible. You can call this dish an example of Mediterranean Latin fusion salad if you want. Add shelled Edamame beans (cold, of course) and you've got a Mediterranean-Latin-Japanenese fusion salad for whatever that's worth.

Ingredients
1 can of ready to eat Garbanzo beans
*you can also buy the dried beans and soak them overnight in water
1 cans worth of Hearts of Palms - cut thinly to 1/2 inch thick depending on taste
10-15 cherry tomatoes - quartered
1/2 red onion - finely diced
Basil - roughly chopped. You can use parsely instead if you prefer.
Juice of half a lemon
Olive Oil
Salt
Pepper

Steps
1) Drain the garbanzo beans from the can and rinse to remove the can liquid
2) Mix the beans together with the chopped hearts of palms, quartered tomatoes, diced onion and basil.
3) Add the lemon juice, a few second pour of olive oil, salt and pepper
4) Mix well and enjoy


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Things are moving along

The website is up and running, despite minor tweaks here and there, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive so far. Thanks to everyone who has helped with suggestions, ideas, finding typos, etc... so far. Keep it coming.

Below are a few links to some friends blogs that have had some food related posts recently.

Jo Mandel Cohen has a blog, Eat Jump Love, that talks about cooking in Israel. Here's a link to her latest post.

Benjie Lovitt has a blog on all things Israel, with a unique vantage point on Israeli society. He wrote about the differences between US and Israeli food in this post here.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Welcome to Savor Israel Blog

I think its fitting that the first post on the blog be a recipe. So here's one my favorite recipes because it is so unique. Courtesy of my friend Sherene Suchy.

Moroccan Kebabs in a Melon

This unusual dish combines simple yet wonderfully kebab-style meatballs and melon. The meatballs cook inside the melon soaking up the subtle sweetness of the melon. For some, the taste may be at first strange, but the result is complex and delicious! You'll be sure to wow your dinner guests with this dish.

Ingredients
4 canteloupe melons
1-1.5 lbs ground beef/lamb or combination
2 eggs
Raisins - roughly chopped
Pine nuts - roughly chopped Fresh Parsley - finely chopped
Cinnamon - 1/2 teaspoon or to personal taste

Salt - to taste
Pepper - to taste

Steps
1) Preheat oven to 350-375 F. Cut off just the very top of the melon, approximately 1/2 inch from the top. Put the top aside and save.
2) Scoop out with an ice cream scooper or a spoon, most of the melon inside. Leave about a 1/4 inch of melon on all sides. Put the melon aside and save.
3) Mix the ground meat, egg, raisins, pine nuts, parsely, cinnamon, salt, and pepper in a bowl and form meatballs. This should make approximately 16 small meatballs.
4) Saute meatballs on a very hot pan to sear the outsides and keep the juices from escaping. Saute for a few minutes, until the sides are starting to brown well.
5) Place four meatballs in each melon that has been scooped out. Add back in chunks of melon that were reserved and any extra raisins or pine nuts if there were extra.
6) Place top back on the melon and wrap in aluminum foil. Place upright in the oven and cook for 1hr.
7) Make sure the meatballs are fully cooked and enjoy!



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