I took a springtime walk through the Ramleh open-air market early last week. The sign wishing visitors a happy Passover was still up at the entrance. You can find seasonal vegetables there which don’t appear in my local market: green chickpeas, purple carrots, Jerusalem sage… I like to roam around there and see what I can find.
I mentioned last year that I’ll probably be posting about fresh green garlic every year, as long as I’m writing this blog. Well, it’s time.
And tell me, isn’t there something evocative about a bunch of purple-skinned fresh garlic? I confess, I feel the same esthetic satisfaction from one that contemplating a still-life of fruit by Monet gives me.
A sight for sore eyes – a nice bale of garlic.
Truth is, garlic season is already on its way out. I’d bought my yearly infusion of 20 kilos or so in the market near to where I live. I just like to see the stuff, it makes me happy. But the tired vendor taking a break doesn’t cherish romantic fantasies about garlic confit or anything like it. He just wants to move the produce and go home.
In fact, lazy saunterers and curious tourists like myself are few in open-air markets. Well, Machaneh Yehusah and the Carmel Shuk are exceptions. But most folks in markets are only intent on their shopping.
Although this lad seemed positively worn out.
It’s the time of year when milky green almonds are for sale, and fresh grape leaves. I left the green almonds for next year, maybe. Their bland, gel-like pulp doesn’t seem worth the bother of splitting the almonds and digging it out. But I did buy grape leaves to cook with mushrooms.
One of the things I love about any shuk is the mix of people you’ll see there.
An Arab lady vendor, always relaxed and willing to be photographed. I seek her stand out because I know she’ll have the herbs and vegetables that I won’t find in my local shuk: purple carrots in season, grape leaves, Jerusalem sage… Also, she’ll chat and tell you how she thinks you should cook your produce.
This woman’s thoughtful, stoic, mysterious look intrigued me, there among the onions.
This elderly Jew working hard and pushing a cart around the shuk made me wonder. Is it poverty that drives him to get up early and work like that? Or is he retired, bored at home and driving his wife nuts, so that he’s happier doing simple work in the shuk?
The lemonade vendor uses an ancient method to serve his fresh, clean drink : he plunges a glass bottle with its bottom cut out into the jug of lemonade, maintaining suction by pressing the top of the metal straw. Releasing his thumb, the lemonade pours into a plastic cup, and there you are. I’ve seen a photo of a Byzantine pottery vessel for drawing wine (titros) that worked exactly like that. Good lemonade, too.
A woman in formal Indian dress made her way through the hustling crowd and dirty alleys.
I haven’t seen loaves of white bread like these in a long time. They used to be the standard, everyday Israeli bread but now look oddly old-fashioned. I regret not having bought one, I’m sure the taste would take me back in time at least 20 years.
I bought several bunches of fresh za’atar to dry and to make some fresh za’atar pesto. I do have a small za’atar plant thriving on my balcony, but I’d have to strip it to get a bunch of pesto.
Fresh green chickpeas are another seasonal treat. I’ll show you what I did with my kilo a little later in this blog.
Ah, the soothing notion that there really is enough garlic in the world….
So here’s what I did with the green chickpeas. I just warmed a little garlic butter in a skillet and rolled the chickpeas around in it, over low heat. Then I raised the heat to medium let the chickpeas cook through. They were simply delicious, delicately nutty and just starchy enough to satisfy the need for a snack. Later, I tossed the cooked chickpeas with rice.
But they lose flavor after a day, so you must be prepared to eat them up as soon as they’re cooked. There are worse things.