Israeli food

Matbucha

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Spring has sprung and for me, that means more salad.

So I got to thinking about that word salad, which I realize means so many things that I was never able to fit all of my salad recipes into a file folder simply marked “salad.” I had to sub-categorize them into files such as “grain salads,” “tomato salads,” “fruit salads” and so on.

Over the years I’ve made salads of all sorts. Some based mostly on greens and some that had no greens at all.

I’ve made beet salads, dinner salads, fish salads and quinoa salads.

I could go on. But really, there is no one way to describe “salad,” even though a dictionary might say something like “a mixture or raw and cooked vegetables served with dressing.”

No.

Because recently I prepared some Matbucha, which is in an entirely different salad category.

Matbucha is a “salade cuit” — that is, “cooked salad.” In fact the word Matbucha, is an Arabic word that means “cooked salad".”

Cooked salad may seem odd to Western thinking except for the fact that most of us actually eat lots of cooked salads, such as potato salad and egg salad too. We just don’t think of them as “cooked salads,” but that’s what they are.

Matbucha is a Moroccan dish, especially popular in the Moroccan Jewish community, which was once large and thriving in North Africa. When good numbers of Moroccan Jews migrated to Israel, they brought their love of this dish with them and it is now wildly popular in Israel too.

For good reason: Matbucha is vibrantly tasty, easy to cook and is ideal for Shabbat because, even though it’s cooked, you can serve it at room temperature. Use it as a salad course or as a side dish with dinner. I’ve always served it with hors d’oeuvre, as a topping for crackers or pita wedges (it works well with other Middle Eastern nibbles and dips such as hummus, raheb, baba ghanoush and so on).

You can make Matbucha 3-4 days ahead. That’s handy isn’t it?

Matbucha

  • 2 large red bell peppers

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 serrano pepper, deseeded and chopped

  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • 6 medium tomatoes peeled and finely chopped

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons paprika

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste

Preheat the broiler. Place the peppers under the broiler, about 4-6" away from the heat, and broil for 2-3 minutes, until the skin has blistered. Turn the peppers and repeat this process until the entire surface is blistered and lightly charred. Remove the peppers and place them in a paper bag. Let rest at least 10 minutes. Remove the peppers from the bag, peel off the skin and discard the stem and the seeds. Cut the peppers into pieces. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the peppers, serrano pepper and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, paprika, sugar and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook for 30-35 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is thick.

 Makes 1-1/2 to 2 cups

 

Hummus with Zatar

I come from a talkative and political family, a family who discussed lots of different stuff at the table over dinner. I was the youngest child, but was still included, encouraged to have my say.  I remember that we yakked about all sorts of things from what happened at school to when we were going shopping for new socks to why we had to take polio vaccinations to whether the government should put fluoride in the drinking water.  On the drive back from college one year my parents, brother and I discussed the merits of Medicare.  On that same trip — during the 1960s — we drove through Tennessee to visit my father’s sister and we were all aghast at the signs in the restaurants saying “we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.” We knew what that meant and found it horrifying.  It prompted a family discussion about civil rights.  We were a lively bunch and, thinking back, a thinking bunch too. We actually cared about issues and people and what kind of country we were living in.  My parents and brothers always talked about the importance of voting. Not just because we were people who were passionate about issues, but because it is so important to exercise a right that so many people don’t have. And to voice your opinion.  Every vote counts. My one vote among the millions makes a difference. To the total tally and also to me, because if my candidates win I can feel proud to be part of the victory. And if they lose, well, it won’t be because of me.  Please vote everyone. You are too important not to.  I will be hosting an election night get-together, something I do every four years. My guests are friends and family who feel the commitment to vote as strongly as I do (including one of my brothers).  We’ll be having sandwiches (smoked fish, cream cheese, bagels) for dinner so we can eat in the family room and watch TV for hours.  But we’ll start with a few hors d’oeuvre. Including hummus.  I like zatar, the Middle Eastern spice blend, so I’ll make this easy hummus recipe and sprinkle the seasoning on top.  There will be popcorn for sure and leftover Halloween candy.  Plus a pie.  It’s always a comfort to share this evening with other people. I recommend it highly.  Please vote.   HUMMUS WITH ZATAR      1/3 cup pine nuts  1 15-ounce can chickpeas  1/4 cup fresh lemon juice  1/4 cup tahini  1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil  1 clove garlic  1/2 teaspoon salt  1/4 teaspoon ground cumin  2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley  zatar  pita chips     Toast the pine nuts until lightly browned. Set aside. Drain the chickpeas but reserve the liquid. Place the chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, olive oil, garlic, salt, cumin, parsley and pine nuts in a food processor. Add 4 tablespoons to 2/3 cup reserved bean liquid, depending on desired texture (start with the minimum). Process until blended to the desired texture. Place the hummus in a serving dish. Sprinkle with zatar. Serve with cut up pita wedges or pita chips.  Makes 1-1/2 cups

I come from a talkative and political family, a family who discussed lots of different stuff at the table over dinner. I was the youngest child, but was still included, encouraged to have my say.

I remember that we yakked about all sorts of things from what happened at school to when we were going shopping for new socks to why we had to take polio vaccinations to whether the government should put fluoride in the drinking water.

On the drive back from college one year my parents, brother and I discussed the merits of Medicare.

On that same trip — during the 1960s — we drove through Tennessee to visit my father’s sister and we were all aghast at the signs in the restaurants saying “we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.” We knew what that meant and found it horrifying.

It prompted a family discussion about civil rights.

We were a lively bunch and, thinking back, a thinking bunch too. We actually cared about issues and people and what kind of country we were living in.

My parents and brothers always talked about the importance of voting. Not just because we were people who were passionate about issues, but because it is so important to exercise a right that so many people don’t have. And to voice your opinion.

Every vote counts. My one vote among the millions makes a difference. To the total tally and also to me, because if my candidates win I can feel proud to be part of the victory. And if they lose, well, it won’t be because of me.

Please vote everyone. You are too important not to.

I will be hosting an election night get-together, something I do every four years. My guests are friends and family who feel the commitment to vote as strongly as I do (including one of my brothers).

We’ll be having sandwiches (smoked fish, cream cheese, bagels) for dinner so we can eat in the family room and watch TV for hours.

But we’ll start with a few hors d’oeuvre. Including hummus.

I like zatar, the Middle Eastern spice blend, so I’ll make this easy hummus recipe and sprinkle the seasoning on top.

There will be popcorn for sure and leftover Halloween candy.

Plus a pie.

It’s always a comfort to share this evening with other people. I recommend it highly.

Please vote.

HUMMUS WITH ZATAR

 

1/3 cup pine nuts

1 15-ounce can chickpeas

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup tahini

1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

zatar

pita chips

 

Toast the pine nuts until lightly browned. Set aside. Drain the chickpeas but reserve the liquid. Place the chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, olive oil, garlic, salt, cumin, parsley and pine nuts in a food processor. Add 4 tablespoons to 2/3 cup reserved bean liquid, depending on desired texture (start with the minimum). Process until blended to the desired texture. Place the hummus in a serving dish. Sprinkle with zatar. Serve with cut up pita wedges or pita chips.

Makes 1-1/2 cups

Egyptian Hummus with Tahini

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What’s the most popular hors d’oeuvre?

I think it has to be hummus. I don’t have any scientific proof but I once counted the kinds of hummus sold at one of my local supermarkets and stopped when I reached 38.

Thirty-eight kinds of hummus? That’s almost as many varieties as potato chips!

Of course there aren’t actually 38 different flavors. There are several brands and some of them are the same flavor, brand to brand — like garlic flavored or spicy, olive, tahini.

But there are also some that I will call post-modern versions because I can’t think of another word for it. Like Sabra’s chipotle or Buffalo style hummus or Tribe’s hummus topped with Cilantro Chimichurri. Wow, that’s what I call fusion cuisine!

Sorry, but when it comes to certain foods, I am a purist. Like with hummus.

In Egypt, hummus is still blessedly kind of pure and simple, so I’ve been eating it every day with breakfast and dinner. It’s basic stuff: pureed chickpeas mixed with spices, olive oil and lots of tahini. Mix it all up in a food processor, garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and a few cooked chickpeas and it’s yummy enough. You don’t need to make it more complex or add any sauce or topping. That way you can actually taste the hummus.

Try this version — it’s easy to make, cheaper than store-bought and you won’t have to make a decision about which of the 38 (or more) flavors to buy.

Egyptian Hummus with Tahini

  • 1 pound can chickpeas
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • pita bread

Drain the chickpeas but reserve the liquid. Set aside a tablespoon of chickpeas. Place the remaining chickpeas in a food processor with the tahini, 2 tablespoons olive oil, lime juice, garlic, salt and 1/4 cup of the reserved bean liquid. Process until the ingredients form a smooth puree (turn the machine off and scrape the sides of the work bowl once or twice). If you prefer a thinner hummus, add some more of the bean liquid. Spoon the hummus into a serving bowl. Garnish with the remaining tablespoon olive oil and the reserved chick peas.

Makes about 1-1/2 cups