Jan 052014

jar of tahini

Before I moved to Israel, I didn’t know much about techinah. That is, tahini.

In Israel, if you say “tahini” people will look at you funny. It’s “techinah” or “tekhinah” – with that gutteral ch (or kh).

But I’d heard plenty about the fabulous Israeli street food, falafel. Almost as soon as my plane landed, I headed for a falafel stand and ordered a pita full of those hot, spicy chickpea balls and chopped salad. My more experienced friends encouraged me to drizzle the beige, bland-looking sauce all over the falafel. It didn’t look tempting, but I was willing to try it. I picked up a plastic bottle full of it and gave a good squeeze.

Open sesame! I discovered that  techina’s moist texture complemented the fried falafel and the flavor, between nutty and lemony, perked up the juicy vegetables.

Here’s a techinah bottle like the one I squeezed for that very first falafel. It’s standing next to one of amba, a pungent mango curry. Techinah’s far more popular than amba, as you see. And here’s my post about neighborhood falafel stands.

techina and amba squeeze bottles

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Aug 212013

image sinyeh druze kebabs

The Middle-Eastern way in cooking is to use simple, natural ingredients grown (or raised) close to where the cook lives. And in the village communities of the Galilee, traditional recipes – the ones passed down intact from mother to daughter, from one neighbor to another, over centuries – are cooked the same way each time.

You won’t see fusion cooking or dishes jazzed up to suit modern trends in Arab, Druze, or Circassian village homes. The families would simply refuse to eat them. That’s not how they remember their mother’s food. Memories preserve culture, so we’re grateful for those stubborn husbands and kids that resist innovative cooking. Original recipes would get lost otherwise.

With Rosh HaShanah approaching, you might consider cooking Sinyeh for one of the festive meals. It’s rich but not cloying, and almost a complete meal by itself. Just make a simple rice, mix up a leafy salad, and there, you’re done. A traditional dish borrowed from the Druze might become a welcome innovation on your yom tov menu.

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