Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spicy Cactus


In the past few days I've eaten 300 grams, or an entire bottle, of schug. Schug is a Yemenite hot sauce, but what makes the kind I've been devouring unique is that it is primarily made up of sabrasim. Sabrasim, or prickly pears as they are referred to in English, are sweet cactus fruits that are popular in Israel. The sabrasim schug is still plenty hot, but has a unique sweet taste to it that the sabrasim provide.During the summer, when the sabrasim are the most in season, you can count on a sabras vendor at almost every major highway offramp/intersection. I'll be sure to buy some and make my own sabras schug. 


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Green in the Desert

I was in the Negev yesterday doing some food research and was blown away by how green everything was. The Negev region has received more rain so far this year than the yearly average, and it shows. The hills are dotted in with green plants everywhere, grasses are growing, flowers blooming, and its quite an overall sight. I just wanted to share this picture of wildflowers blooming near the ruins of the Nabataean city of Avdat. Most of the year the only colors you see in this landscape are golden yellow and brown, so the greens and purples are a nice treat.

Wildflowers outside of Avdat


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Can Apples Bring Peace to the Middle East?

Probably not...but this week marks the beginning of the now annual trade between Israel and Syria. Dozens of trucks, apparently driven by Kenyans in Red Cross vehicles, will be allowed to cross from Israel to Syria to sell the surplus of apples grown by Druze in the Golan Heights.

The trade results from a combination of the basic economics principle of supply and demand mixed with some regional politics. First and foremost, more apples are grown in the Golan Heights than is needed for the Israeli domestic demand. On the other side of the coin, the Syrians don't grown enough apples to meet their domestic demand. While Syria might not appear to the most likely of destinations for this excess of apples, since 2004, this is where many of apples are shipped to.

The Druze in the Golan Heights were Syrian citizens before the 6 day war, and many of them still view themselves as Syrian. Many of the Druze were also cut off from their relatives at the conclusion of the war, yet still maintain contact with their Syrian relatives. The apple trade represents an opportunity for the Druze on both sides of the border to show their support for each other and solve a simple agricultural trade issue. Some political analysts view the apple trade as a sign of thawed relations between Israel and Syria, and proof that a peace agreement is possible. We'll just have to wait and see...In the meantime check out this recipe for apple pie.

The new symbol of peace?


Monday, March 1, 2010

Schwarma and McDonald's Don't Mix

I was in line at HaKosem, one of my favorite falafel/sabich/schwarma places in Tel Aviv, when the person in front of me asked for "chips" (fries in Israel, amongst other countries) in their schwarma.

Before I finish the story, I want to share a culinary pet peeve of mine. Chips in schwarma!!! I just don't think they belong. I'm not one that says a food has to stay traditional, but chips/fries just don't belong in a schwarma. In Israel I am in the clear minority as most people consider them almost as important as the hummus and tahina. (that may be a slight exaggeration) In any case, HaKosem, despite its strong reputation and high prices reflecting as much, is taking a risk by not offering them.

HaKosem takes pride in not offering chips, and the worker had a huge grin on his face as he responded to the customer's request by saying, "go to McDonald's if you want chips". I couldn't agree more I thought to myself as I then proceeded to order...sabich.