Friday, February 24, 2012

El-Ajami and Hummus



Hummus and Tahini from El-Ajami


I’m back! Israel is such a grandiose small country with people and scenery and food and stories and one can never get enough. There are few places in this world that can match it- at least in my experience. It is possible to taste hospitality and I can assure you I did and on a grand scale. Whether you are Christian or Jewish or Moslem it is a place that is in our genes. It is a part of our make up and I can assure you that if you visit you will feel it. Three weeks was not nearly enough time to see it all (and I didn’t) but I promise that even if you go for just 10 days you will see what I’m talking about.  All right, this is not a paid announcement, but if they paid me I would still say the same thing.

I last visited Israel 30 years ago. Even though I’ve not changed a bit (hahhah) Israel has. One area that has really morphed is in the food arena. Goodie for me! Israel always had great fruits and vegetables but now they have even more. Where ever you go you see beautiful food. Pastries galore, cafes, falafel, health food, artisan bread, cheese and fresh pressed olive oil. It is not hard to be a gourmet here.

So-it’s a story! (A favorite friend of mine says that). I have many, but let me start with a bit of hospitality. After a week of Israeli comfort food my tastebuds were ready for a change. It began with friends/family planning a glorious day in the lower Galilee. Meggido Junction to be exact. Somewhere near there is where Armegeddon is supposed to occur but it didn’t happen when I was there. If it had my tummy would have been perfectly satisfied for what happened was a divine feast of food and Arabic hospitality.

                      It began with this man. Doesn’t he look like he belongs in the movies? 

He knew my friend and was very welcoming. And then he heard I had a food blog and he became even MORE welcoming. We barely had time to look at the menu, which I couldn’t read anyway, before the mezze started arriving. Quickly, so quickly I’m amazed I was able to eat and take photos. But this was a meal I wasn’t going to miss out on. And good thing because it was heavenly. (Have you noticed all my biblical adjectives?)


 Our Hummus and Tahini with    Pita 


  Red Turnip Pickles and Olives


  Herb Salad
Chopped Lettuce Salad
 
Chopped Eggplant


Mushrooms


Mudjharra


Ful


Grilled Meat (The best crispy part)




Rice Pilaf with Pine Nuts and Almonds


Below - Turkish Salad (a tomato, spiced concoction that I loved)


Mezze are really appetizers or tapas chosen not only for taste but by their color and texture. A whole meal can be made of these so one must be careful to not go overboard. Well, my man went overboard and it was sooo much fun. He brought out 12 different salads and pickles and you name it. There were only 5 of us and 2 that need to learn how to try new things, (you know who I’m talking about?!) but I love them anyway! I had already ordered an entrĂ©e as they specialized in grilled meat. I ordered grilled chicken which came butterflied, smoky, charred and delicious!

My grilled Chicken

                                                               A Major Beef Kebab

But back to the mezze. We had  at least 12 varieties:  babba ghanoush and chopped eggplant salad, Turkish salad which I loved and will have to come up with a recipe, mudjharra (a lentil, rice, onion combo that is great for vegetarians), taboulli, a veggie salad, mushrooms, ful (a dried fava bean concoction), hummus, pickles, rice pilaf, cabbage salad, and special grilled pita bread plus regular pita. And I am sure I’m still missing something though we did make a list so I wouldn’t forget.

I already told you about the chicken. But I haven’t made it to dessert or mint tea yet and thinking about this meal is making me hungry and homesick. Those will have to wait for another blog though I will tempt you with pictures.

                                                         Coconut and Pistachio Baklava

Kadaif



Mint Tea


                                                                         El-Ajami
El-Ajami in Meggido Junction. Do I need to repeat it? El-Ajami, where you get a movie star as a waiter. If we all treated each other so graciously there would be world peace. And now here’s a recipe for hummus. My brother’s hummus. He says it is delicious and I always believe my brother.

This comes from The Best Of the Mediterranean -   A Cookbook

Hummus

It calls for dry chickpeas and soak them overnight. Not on my watch.

2 cups canned chickpeas, save 1/2 cup of the liquid from the can
2/3 cup tahini
2/3 cup lemon juice
3 to 4 garlic cloves
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt


Put chickpeas into food processor. Add tahini, lemon juice, garlic cloves,
cumin, salt and the 1/2 cup liquid.

Process until smooth.

Usually best to put in fridge for a couple of hours to get less liquidy, although
I have no problem eating as is.

Put some olive oil and paprika on, and voila. Dip with pita or chips or veggies.

Gabi and Mr. Hollywood

                                                              Note the empty hummus plate