Sunday, August 18, 2013

Salad Love

Let's set one thing straight- the title of this post probably made you think that it was going to be a sales pitch about being healthy, nutritious, low-fat, or low-carb.  In fact, the salad pictured above is probably one of the unhealthiest i've eaten.  Fried halloumi cheese with mushrooms, sprouts, and tomato. YUM. While I'm all for being healthy, this post is really just about me loving vegetables.  like, a lot.

I've always been a bit of a vegetable junkie.  I suppose being crazy about vegetables is comparatively tame on the scale of obsessions, but I've definitely been known to run around fanatically in the Whole Foods produce section yelling "where is that gorgeous kale from last week??" It is simultaneously both sad and kind of cool that a trip to Whole Foods pretty much makes my day.

Anyways, it turns out that vegetable salads are a big deal in Israel.  Cold salads, warm salads, bean salads, pasta salads... you name it, I've eaten it all here :) The produce in Israel is so fresh and flavorful (and not to mention, cheap) that we end up eating a ton of fruits and vegetables.  Personally, I am partial towards the tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and sweet peas.

I'm coming back to the United States with tons of salad inspirations!  Although it's harder to find all of these gorgeous vegetables in Boston all year round, I really hope I can keep up with the variety. After all, I have been eating salad with almost every meal in Israel :)

happy eating to all! enjoy your week!


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

On Being Vegetarian

For the past couple of months, I have been consistently surprised with how easy it is to find good, healthy vegetarian food in Israel.  I suppose that I really shouldn't be this excited- after all, it is relatively easy to find kosher dairy restaurants where I can eat most things, and falafel stands at practically every corner.  in fact, whether or not i will fit into my jeans when i get back home is the main issue ;)

Anyways, what I find most interesting is that several people in Israel have asked me why I choose to be a vegetarian, and what significance it holds for me. Growing up in the liberal Bay Area, and then living in Boston, I have never really been questioned on my food choices, nor have I ever had trouble finding food that I can eat.  My experiences this summer have definitely prompted me to think more deeply about why I am a vegetarian.

The main reason I keep a vegetarian diet, although seemingly trivial, is habit.  My family is vegetarian,  so I never tried meat or felt an inclination to do so at home when I was young.  By the time I was old enough to think about what being a vegetarian meant to me, I was convinced that my body would just have a hard time digesting meat after years of not having it.

I also support the idea of eating lower on the food chain.  I'm not exactly vegetarian because of this reason, but I do think it's one of the reasons that I have never wanted to start eating meat. It takes more resources to produce meat than it does to grow vegetables, grains, and legumes, and being vegetarian plays a small but valuable effort in consuming less energy in this world.  While it is certainly true that indoor heating, cars, air travel, and several other factors play into energy usage, I'd like to think that maintaing a vegetarian diet is still a good step towards being conscious of the effect we as humans have on our environment.

Lastly, there is religion.  Certain sects of Hinduism emphasize a nonviolent lifestyle, and this includes abstaining from killing animals and eating meat**.  This is the main reason that generations upon generations of my family have been vegetarian, and I am proud to uphold the tradition!  I feel truly fortunate that I can lead a healthy lifestyle as a vegetarian, and I hope to continue it for as long as possible :)


**Edit, with input from my family: Hinduism does not actually prohibit the consumption of meat.  However, it suggests that the last sentiments of the animal which is killed (namely fear) will be transferred to the person who eats it.  Because these feelings might not be best for someone seeking mental nourishment and spiritual growth, a vegetarian diet is suggested.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Israeli Breakfast

Hi, friends! Apologies for the lack of posting in the past few weeks- with work, GRE prep, and trying to go out and have fun in the middle of all of this, i haven't had too much time to sit down and write.

Looking through my posts, I realized that I haven't blogged about food-related matters in quite some time.  For me, this is absolutely crazy.  The foodie in me is dying to tell you about all of the foods that I've tasted and fallen in love with this summer right now, but i'll have to space them out over the next few weeks.  I have done some serious eating this summer (here's hoping those jeans still fit!), and taken a lot of pictures of food to boot.

So, I thought we could start with the first meal of the day, a typical Israeli brunch/breakfast! A few weekends ago, with a friend's recommendation and some good online reviews, my friend Michele and I went to Dylan's Art Cafe in Tel Aviv.   I can always count on Michele for an insightful, lively conversation, and this time it was accompanied by equally awesome food!

The breakfast started off with two drinks for each of us- we picked hot tea and orange juice.  This was closely followed by an assortment of breads accompanied by cheese, yogurt spread, olives, roasted red peppers, and eggplant. I could have made a meal of just the bread and cheese, but we hadn't even got to the main event yet!

In true Israeli fashion, our meal came with classic Israeli salad, which consists of tomatoes and cucumbers, dressed with lemon juice, olive oil and sometimes parsley. I've had Israeli salad many times this summer, and it's definitely a staple that I'll hold on to when I go back to the United States.

Just as we had caught up on each others' summers and began talking about our respective plans for The Future (sob, sob. Luckily, Michele is a year older than me and gives out great advice), our main dishes arrived.  I ordered Shakshuka, and Michele ordered eggs on toast.

Shakshuka is this great tomato-based egg dish, which is basically a few eggs cooked into a savory tomato/vegetable sauce.  In a word, YUM. Talk about starting your day with a bang! Shakshuka is delicious, and this was one of the best I've had in Israel :)

After eating all of this food, we rolled out of the restaurant feeling pretty damn good.  We walked around Tel Aviv in that post-meal coma that I love so much, until I headed back to Rehovot on the train.  I can't wait to do another Israeli breakfast one of these weekends before I head back home :) Also, thank you Michele for a great day!  Whether it's in Israel or the U.S. or anywhere else, I hope we get to meet up again soon!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Festival of Paper

A couple of weeks ago, my friends and i started seeing street banners for a paper festival in Rehovot.  I don't know about you, but when I think about a paper festival, I picture tiny booths of delicate stationary and weakly built origami cranes.  boy, was i wrong! i'm glad i took my camera with me, because we saw some of the most exquisitely made paper artwork and sculptures at the festival :)

after a few minutes at the festival, we scurried around the different booths- "this is made of paper!! wait, and this too??" I was pretty much in awe the whole time, and didn't stop taking pictures.

and now, my favorite one- a paper witch, with her owl!

I'm not sure when I'll next attend a paper festival, but I'm so glad I went to this one.  It is truly amazing to see what people can do with the simplest of materials.  I wanted to buy one of the small paper cards, but I was told that I had to wait until the end of the three-day festival to purchase them. Oh well.  I'm happy that I have these pictures to remember the experience! 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Hiking in the Desert

Over the weekend, a few friends and I decided to camp out in the Negev desert to do some hiking.  We stayed at a small campground near Mitzpe Ramon with a few tents, a bathroom, and a communal kitchen.  Because Mitzpe Ramon is a pretty small town, most of the restaurants and grocery stores were closed for Shabbat.  Luckily, we had prepared for this ahead of time, and had a cute candle-lit Shabbat dinner at the campsite :)

Mitzpe Ramon's main attraction is the Ramon crater- a 40 kilometer long crater that's 500 meters deep.  The crater is quite a site in the daylight, and even prettier just as the sun is rising!  

We spent most of Saturday hiking in the crater.  Let me tell you, seven hours of hiking in the desert is no joke.  We each took 3 liters of water with us, and drank most of it through the day.   Although the desert heat is usually dramatized in movies, books, and TV shows,  I can assure you that they were, for the most part, pretty accurate! I truly felt like i was in a scene from the book "Holes" :)  

I went through about a quarter of a bottle of sunscreen that day. 

The good news is that something about being in the heat really brings people together, and the 8 of us are now definitely better friends.  a desert bonding experience at its best!

"is this the real life??? is this just fantasy?? caught in a laaandslide... we sang songs to keep ourselves from passing out in the heat!

I thought this would be a good moment to start singing "the hills are aliiiiive, with the sound of muuusic!"  but my antics were unappreciated :( i blame dehydration.

while were in Mitzpe Ramon, we also visited an alapaca farm.  I'm not sure why, but a long time ago, someone decided that it was a good idea to transport 400 alpacas from the Andes Mountains to the middle of the Negev desert, in Israel.  The alpaca actually do very well in the desert climate, and we got to see how their hair is used to make wool!

an alpaca gang

alpacas spit a lot. i was uncomfortable!

by the end of the weekend, we were all pretty tired, sweaty, and ready to be back in the real world.  however, it was nice to get away from emails, cell phones, and computers for that long! i didn't check my email for a whole 24 hours, and it was pretty relieving. i conclude with a picture of our water collection at the end of the hike- the moral of the desert story is, always have plenty of water with you!!  

thank you to the friends (old and new) who made this trip especially awesome :) hiking in the desert wouldn't have been same without you guys <3

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Fourth of July

hi friends! i hope everyone had a great Fourth of July, and enjoyed long weekend.  Sadly, I did not get the day off in Israel, but my friends and I had a little Independence Day celebration that evening with some s'mores :)

they were delicious! we couldn't find graham crackers at the grocery store, so we had to make do with tea crackers. Nevertheless, our toaster-oven version of s'mores with melted Israeli chocolate (yum) and pink and white marshmallows was perfection.  I can't count the number of times I've said this, but sharing food with friends just makes me indescribably happy.  As I start get sentimental about leaving college (only one more year!!), I can safely say that my happiest memories in the last three years in school mostly involve eating with friends :)  

Remember last Fourth of July, when I had barely started blogging? I still remember how great it was to eat those crumble bars with everyone. I am so grateful to have friends to eat with, regardless of where i am in the world.

 Beth (pictured above) was the mastermind of Project S'mores. Thanks, Beth, for joining us in Rehovot for the weekend and making this happen :) May we have many more cooking adventures together!

Saturday, June 29, 2013


Last weekend, a few friends and I went to Jerusalem to visit the market and tour the Old City.  The market, or "Shuk", was basically a collection of small alleyways, lined with small vendors selling fruits, vegetables, bread, and tourist items.  It was like going to a carnival! 
the watermelon looked especially tempting in the burning heat. Israel is quite hot this time of year!

a fruit/slushy drink with mixed flavors- so yummy!

Something I will definitely miss when i head back to the United States is the smell of freshly baked bread at the market.  Whether it's at the Shuk in Jerusalem or the little bakery down the street in Rehovot, the fresh bread both smells and tastes like heaven! 

After walking through the market (feeling considerably fuller and with less cash) we headed for the Old City.  In the Old City, we did a fair amount of exploring in the Jewish Quarter as well as the Armenian Quarter.  It was absolutely unreal to walk through tiny streets loaded with so much history and religious significance.  I hope that I can come back at least once more to take a detailed tour of the Old City.

An entrance to the Old City
From a distance, Dome of The Rock

At sundown on Friday, right at the start of Shabbat, we went to the Western Wall in the Old City.  The Western Wall is one of the most sacred Jewish sites, and it was moving to see so many people praying and celebrating Shabbat together.  Because it is so sacred, I wasn't inspired to take pictures like I usually would have.  Although my knowledge about Judaism is somewhat limited, when I made my way up to the Wall and placed my hand on it, I immediately felt a spiritual connection that I had not experienced before.  Even though many of us were praying through different religions and different languages, everyone was united in their faith and devotion.  It was definitely one of the most unforgettable experiences that I have had in Israel so far.

Each weekend in Israel has been so packed with adventure that I've had to split up my blog posts.  Next up, more on our trip to Masada and the Dead Sea!