Friday, July 23, 2010

Jaffa/Yafo at Dusk

After a long day at my desk, Dick and I took a walk to Jaffa/Yafo. It is just 10 minutes from Neve Tzedek, where we are staying and is one of the world's oldest cities. It is very hot here, even at day's end. We made our way up the hill and to look down over the port of Jaffa. This is the mosque that sounds the call to prayer.

It was Saturday, Shabbat, the day of rest and the famous flea market, shops, art galleries and most restaurants were shuttered. At first it was disappointing but then I felt it gave us the opportunity to really see the buildings and discover things we might otherwise have missed has we been dazzled by all the tchotchkes (STUFF).

We walked up to the top of the hill to look out over the port. There were signs and statues for Napoleon all over. That guy was everywhere - too bad there were no Frequet Flyer programs when he was tramping all over the world in his land grab.

The restaurant Dr. Shakshuka was recommended to us but alas, it was closed. We settled on one of the few restaurants open Puaa, a funky restaurant off on a side street. It was hot enough for us to opt for an inside table, just beyond the door;half in half out. Patrons were mostly families and the vibe was very homey. We opted for a vegetarian meal that was outstanding and had such a wonderful mixture of herbs and spices: brown rice and lentil salad with walnuts, raisins, parsley, coriander and fennel, then a tomato and cucumber salad with red onions with croutons made from bread seasoned with that wonderful zaatar mixture again and finally pumpkin dumplings in a coconut and coriander sauce with the most fragrant basmati rice. It was one of the best meals we have had here.

By the time we were finished it was dark and we walked back along the high street and people were lined up for stuffed sandwiches, shwarma -- giant cones of seasoned steamed meat that is shaved off the spiral with long knives and stuffed into pita and focaccia-type bread sprinkled with zaatar and the deep rosy and sour spice sumac on plates with hummus.

We found Dr. Shakshuka on our way back to the apartment. Definitely going back! This time when those shops are open!

Monday, July 19, 2010

SHALOM from Tel Aviv, Israel

It has been an age since I last posted on my blog. I have been AWOL! We have since been in China and Japan in January of 2010. But now I am in Tel Aviv, Israel for 2 weeks and then one week traveling to Haifa and Jerusalem. It is my first time in the Middle East. I am working the manuscript for my new cookbook on home style Japanese cuisine in our lovely apartment in the Neve Tzedek section of Tel Aviv, one of the oldest in the city. It is a very funky area with lots of wonderful bistros, cafes, an art and dance scene and the outdoor shopping area, The Hacarmel Market. During the day I write and at night my husband Dick and I go in search of a good meal. We are a 10 minute walk from the beach, where we spent our first night in Tel Aviv watching the final of the World Cup match on a large screen with hundreds of other fans. We
dipped pita bread into Hummus Shakshuka - Chick Pea Dip with Egg in Tomato Sauce. It was the creamiest spread of hummus I ever had.

Iplayed hooky for an hour today and went to the Carmel Market. I was able to buy baby okra and tomatoes for a stew I made in our little kitchen. I got a freshly squeezed pomegranate juice and picked up the spices zaatar (sesame seeds and thyme) and the sour red spice sumac for gifts. They are sprinkled on top of the thick creamy yogurt cheese, labne. A drizzle of olive oil is spread over the spices and fresh pita bread is used for scooping up this savory dip. Besides food, there are hats, T-shirts in Hebrew and lots of religious collectibles.

Tonight we had a picnic dinner on the beach with the sun setting over the Mediterranean.
We walked on the path toward Jaffa. People were swimming in the ocean, there were bike riders and runners and Arab families enjoying grilling meats on the grassy areas of this wonderful park. The windows of one of Jaffa's several churches began to reflect the pink glow in the dusky sky and the loud speaker on a mosque was calling the faithful to prayer.