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The Food!

By Belinda

Tonight I thought I'd write about the food in Israel, which I loved! Paul did not love it and to all who know Paul this is not a surprise. He lost 5 pounds while there.:)

Being accustomed in Canada to bi-lingual packaging (French and English,) it was mystifying to find the little packages of beverages in our hotel room and know only that it was Classic "????" I shook the packages and could guess which ones held instant coffee and which held a tea bag, but what kind of tea bag? I boiled water and adventurously opened the packages one by one, not knowing what treat the message on the package was advertising.

In the hotel restaurants, there was an array of various coffees, tea, and cold drinks. in the morning, but in the evening no coffee or tea! This was an adjustment to those of us addicted to a hot drink with a meal.

At sundown on the eve of Sabbath, or Shabbat, everything stops and as much as possible, even in hotels, it is "do it yourself," or not at all. At breakfast on the Sabbath, coffee is instant! No coffee pots working that day.

Our breakfast and supper meals were part of the package deal with the hotels, but lunch was on our own. Often when we stopped for lunch on  the tour, we had the choice of several options recommended by our tour guide. We enjoyed falafels, lots of salads and hummus and pita sandwiches.

This meal; chicken schnitzel, may not have been strictly Middle Eastern cuisine, but it was delicious, with the chicken coated with a thin crispy fried crust, sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Everywhere the markets had an abundance of Jaffa oranges and pomegranates that could be made into fresh juice on the spot.

This was breakfast one day: smoked herring, sardines, a delicious cheese,  yogurt and bread.

Breakfast buffets contained vegetables and salad, fruit salad, lots of fish, cheese, breads, bagels, hummus, honey and sweet loaves.

Supper buffets had couscous, rice or potatoes and an abundance of salad, roasted vegetables: eggplant, peppers, mushrooms and several choices of entrees. Being a vegetable lover I often was happy to pile on the vegetables and a little rice or couscous.

Dessert at supper time was a choice of sweet loaves/cakes; fruit salad or yogurt. And date honey was a sweet treat, made by crushing dates and extracting the juice in a thick sweet paste. Delicious on yogurt or oatmeal!

We walked for miles each day, making it easy to enjoy the food without paying for it in pounds and inches. We snacked on granola bars and almonds that we had brought with us from home. I had a big bag of left over almonds in my luggage going home and when I told the security customs officer who opened my case that I had brought them from Canada to eat in Israel, she politely told me, "We have these in our country."

I loved the Middle Eastern diet. This is one of my personal favourite recipes, shared by a friend. It is delicious.

Morrocan Vegetable Ragout

I haven't worked out the calories per serving of this recipe, but I don't think it's very high. The only ingredients with much in the way of calories are chickpeas and raisins, and it's not as though there are large quantities of them in each serving. There is virtually no fat except 1 tbsp oil and some in the chickpeas. Bulgur wheat provides the fibre. This really is yummy. Although it originated as a vegetarian dish, I add cubed, cooked chicken.
1 tbsp oil
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1.5 tsp coriander powder
1.5 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
.5 tsp ginger
.25 tsp cayenne pepper
4 cups cubed, peeled yams
2.5 cups water
1 can (19 oz.) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 can (14 oz.) stewed tomatoes
1 cup bulgur wheat, rinsed and drained
.5 cup raisins
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

In Dutch oven, saute onion in oil until tender and golden (7-10 min.). Add the seasonings and cook, stirring, for one minute. Add yams, water, chickpeas, tomatoes, wheat, raisins (and cubed chicken if using). Bring to boil. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer, stiring occasionally, until yams and wheat are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 25-30 minutes. (I do it in a slow cooker for a few hours.) Stir in cilantro just before serving.

Audrey Dorsch

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