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

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

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!



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.

Vital 2, Florentin Neighborhood
Tel Aviv


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.

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

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


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.


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.

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

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!