Shalom from Israel!
I feel not the slightest remorse in telling you that I am absolutely thrilled to be sitting beachside in 24 C weather and typing this out, even as I know that my home and most of the North-Western Hemisphere is being smothered by freezing cold.
But, even if you are cursing me while snuggling into your fleeces, I have something warm for you in today's post in a spirit inspired by my location and my undying new-found love for tahini. So, if you are pissed off with me for being in warm country and just want the recipe, scroll straight down. If not, let me regale you with what I saw in my first day in this interesting country.
To be specific, getting here is not easy. If anyone has ever traveled El Al Airlines, you must be painfully aware of the interrogation that you go through at check in. In my case, this almost-and-justifiably-paranoidal attitude began when I applied for a visa to travel. Nevertheless, since leaving India, I have had to put up and politely answer entirely intrusive, personal and politically incorrect, questions for the first time. It was rather amusing to be honest, as they were polite and apologetic to dig so much but yet persistent in the line of questioning. This entertaining bit of schizophreny I realized was to set the tone of the visit.
Let me start by saying that the people are amazing, in every way. Tel Aviv is a beautiful city! By that I mean, it is filled with stunning, gorgeous, sexy and amazingly fit people, of all ages. On a run along the promenade, I must say that I felt rather inadequate for the first time I can remember, watching all the nary-a-sweat-cracking toned Israelis happily running and chatting away. In perspective, I have never felt out-classed in fitness in NYC!
What makes this an interesting is that, the food is amazing! Or, perhaps that is the contributor to the above. While I find it hard to resist eating it all up because I don't think I am going get it all again, I feel people here true connoisseurs of moderation as, well, they have it everyday. Every morsel I have tasted so far, and there were far too many as you can see, has been fresh, flavorful and unfussed. The last is what impresses me. Nothing is overdone. Flavors are clean and vibrant and the food is all surprisingly local! Apparently, the country grows most of the produce it uses, and even some exotic Asian ones.
Well, today being Shabbath, I am going to take a leaf from the country and not spend too much more time here and spend it with life and exploring the city. I will do more on the country in a later post with more details on food experiences and my explorations of the culture.
As promised, I leave you with the recipe for a Leek and Turnip Soup with Cauliflower Croutons and Tahini emulsion. This soup gets a touch of sour spice with an added daikon, crunch from the flash sautéed cauliflower. And, of course the binding gel and flavor component of sesame. This is a region inspired dish in affirmation of the super flavor and versatility of the humble sesame seed. Tahini sauce is a great vegan alternative for many creamy dishes and cheeses while adding amazing depth of flavor.
Roasted Leek and Turnip Soup
with Cauliflower Croutons and Tahini Emulsion
The soup itself makes a little more than one meal for two people and the leftovers are fantastic for lunch. The croutons are best eaten immediately for the crunch.
The soup is deliberately lightly seasoned with just salt and pepper, to allow unsullied flavor interaction between the vegetables. It also presents a clean canvas for the tahini itself to shine and do its magic in building up flavor into the meal.
As such, you can break this into two meals, with the soup on its own and making the cauliflower croutons a snack all by themselves served with the tahini emulsion.
4 leeks, chopped
2 medium turnips, chopped
1 medium daikon, chopped
1-1/2 cups, unsalted stock, warm
For the Crouton:
3/4 cup cauliflower flowerlets
1 tsp coarse ground aleppo pepper
salt, pepper and olive oil as needed
For the Tahini Emulsion:
2 T ground sesame seed paste
4 T cold water
1/2 tsp lemon juice
pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 400F.
In a baking pan, toss the leeks, turnips and daikon together with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Bake covered with foil for 30 minutes and then uncovered for 10 minutes, until soft and slightly browned.
Puree with all the roasted vegetables with the stock.
Bring the soup back to a boil on the stove and adjust the seasoning.
The soup can be made ahead and actually tastes even better the next day.
To make the croutons, toss the cauliflower-lets in aleppo pepper and salt. Heat oil on high in a heavy-bottomed frying pan.
When hot and oil is rippling, add the cauliflower along with a sprinkle of water and cook for 2 minutes covered.
The cauliflower will be softened but still crunchy in the center.
To make the emulsion, whisk all the ingredients by hand, adding water to make it runnier if preferred.
Serve the croutons atop the soup with sprinkled parley and finished with a drizzle of the emulsion.