Can’t Stand the Heat?

Here is a guest post from my friend, Emily Segal, who is a certified holistic nutrition counselor and writes a blog on her website, Triumph Wellness. Be sure to sign up for one of her classes, such as Sugar Detox. You won’t be disappointed. I learned a lot and came home with recipes that helped relieve my sugar cravings.

Photo by Emily Segal

There’s no need to stay out of the kitchen just because it’s hot!  Here in Israel we have a long, hot, dry summer season.  From our last rain in April to our first rain in November, we have about 6 months of tediously bright sunny skies and brain-shriveling high heat.  If you’re anything like me, summer makes you feel like a dried out raisin in serious need of re-hydration.

The long days and bright sunshine of summer generally lift our spirits and moods.  But we should also understand that the heat of the summer can be a negative source of stimulation as well.  Due to longer, lighter days we are generally more active and all this activity produces heat within our bodies.  What’s more, larger crowds of tourists, and the general race to get as much done before going away on holiday can easily result in hot tempers, impatience, anger, and road rage, all outward expressions of too much inner heat.

How can we combat the effects of our seemingly endless summer?  Well, Mother Nature outfits us with the perfect harvest for each season and summer is no exception. Here are some seasonal nutritional tips to keep both body and mind refreshed and alert this summer and help you cope with the summer heat.

Cucumbers to stay cool

1.  Water-filled fruits and vegetables such as cucumbers and watermelons are cooling and refreshing.  The sweet stone fruits, nectarines, plums, peaches and even mangoes, all provide the high-sugar content we are going to need to meet our high-energy demands.

2.  Cooling spices and plenty of fresh green herbs, for example, fennel and cilantro, mint, and basil.  Here in Israel it is popular to make amazingly refreshing herbal iced teas from garden fresh herbs such as mint, fennel (shumar), lemon verbena (Louisa) and lemon balm (Melissa).  No need to add sugar!

Lemon Verbena

3.  Green or white fresh vegetables such as cabbage, artichoke, asparagus, lettuces, celery, purslane (regilat) and fennel, lightly steamed or served raw with a simple sprinkle of lemon and olive oil.

4.  Cooling cereals and grains like rice, barley or millet are preferred over potatoes and the other starchy root vegetables which should be harvested and eaten in colder seasons.

What about spicy food?  Have you ever heard that people who live in hot climates traditionally eat spicy food to cause sweating and cool themselves down?  While it is true that spicy food will cause sweating, and that the air moving across your sweaty brow will feel cooling, your body temperature actually rises when eating spicy foods and you are indeed hotter.  The probable reason for spicy food consumption in hot climates is that the hot spices worked as anti-bacterial, anti-fungal agents and helped people survive eating food that had perhaps spoiled in the heat.  So save your hot peppers for winter unless you question the freshness of what you are eating!

Here is a favorite recipe of mine, one I teach in my Detox Workshops, which is perfect for staying cool and hydrated in the summer heat:

Cucumber-Mint Refresher

Serving Size: 1

Fresh lemon and cucumber blend into pure hydration for beautiful cells and skin. Lemon is juicy with electrolytes to re-hydrate the body. Just a pinch of sea salt lifts the flavor and actually allows your cells to drink deeply. Mint is cooling and refreshing, but any of the herbs mentioned above can be substituted. A date is used as a natural sweetener and for energy needs.

1 cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped

1 handful fresh mint leaves

½ lemon, peeled and seeded

1 date, pitted and soaked 10 minutes

Dash sea salt

1½ cups water

Process all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour through a strainer or sieve for extra smoothness. Serve chilled.

Red and White Sangria – The Perfect Yom Ha’Atzmaut Refreshment

Sangria Fruit

Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, is on Monday. The whole country will be turning on their grills and the flavors of grilled lamb, beef short ribs, kebabs,  steaks, chicken, and fish will fill the air. I like to start the celebration with a big pitcher of sangria.

For some, Sangria is typically a Mediterranean drink served at Spanish restaurants in beautiful pottery jugs, made from red wine and fruit. However, sangria doesn’t originate from Spain. Legend has it that the British East India Company travelled to India and tried a drink known as Pac that contained five ingredients referred to in its name- eau de vie, sugar, lemon, water and tea.

The British took this recipe back from the East Indies and the name of the drink evolved into punch. The word punch became ponche in Spanish, used to describe sangria which is, in essence, a fruit punch. Even the French claim to have created this drink that they call sang-gris. Truth be told, the Greeks, Romans, and Ancient Israelites all had various drinks that they made from a base of red wine, fruit juices, and honey because the water was not fit to drink since it was used to bathe in and also used for various other unclean reasons.

No matter where it originates, it is a refreshing spring and summer drink that is perfect as a cocktail served by the pool or  with a light summer meal on the terrace. If you search, you will find hundreds of variations of sangria, some even adding ginger ale or Sprite! I prefer to make mine with the minimum of ingredients: wine, fruit, a cinnamon stick or ginger syrup, and a splash of Cointreau or brandy.

Red and White Sangria

Red Sangria

Serving Size: 4 to 6

2 orange, sliced thinly

1/2 apple, cut into cubes

2 small red plums, nectarines or other stone fruit, cut into cubes

2 cinnamon sticks

1 bottle red wine, such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, or other dry red

2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice

3 tablespoons Cointreau or brandy

Put all of the fruit and cinnamon stick in a large pitcher. Add the red wine, orange juice and Cointreau. Stir well and chill for 3-4 hours or overnight to allow the flavors to meld together. Serve over ice.


White Sangria

Serving Size: 4 to 6

For the sangria:

1 orange, sliced thinly

1 lemon, sliced thinly

1/2 apple, cut into cubes

1 bottle white wine, such as Emerald Riesling or Chardonnay

1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

3 tablespoon ginger syrup

3 tablespoons Cointreau or brandy

For the Ginger Syrup:

1 cup of water

1 cup of sugar

1/2 cup fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thinly

For the ginger syrup:

Place the water and sugar in a small pan, and bring to a boil. Add the ginger slices and simmer for 15 minutes. Cool and place in a glass jar. Keep refrigerated.

For the sangria:

Put all of the fruit in a large pitcher. Add the white wine, orange juice, ginger syrup and Cointreau. Stir well and chill for 3-4 hours or overnight to allow the flavors to meld together. Serve over ice.


Grumpy Scrumpy and Kurdish Kubbeh

This past Friday, Mr. BT, Mimi from Israeli Kitchen and I embarked on an adventure to a town a few kilometers from Jerusalem to crush apples  and press them for scrumpy, otherwise known as farmhouse hard cider. Mr. BT and I are virgin hard cider makers, but we knew that with Mimi, who makes some very nice red wines, fruit wines, and mead, that we had the potential to produce something great.

When we arrived at our destination, Mimi, also a great forager of wild edible plants, spotted a flowering caper bush. I had never seen a caper flower and as you can see in the picture above, they are quite beautiful. She also found a few leaves of  purslane for us to munch on.

Our host was already busy crushing apples when we arrived and we happily offered a helping hand. He had purchased 1600 kilos (3,500 lbs) of apples to crush. No, the apples were not all for us: we only purchased 20 liters (5 US gallons) of apple juice, which was probably the result of crushing 50 or 60 kg of fruit.

Mimi and I grabbed a crate of Granny Smith and a crate of Golden Delicious apples to crush. It was important to have a 50/50 mix of the apples in order to get the right balance of tartness and sweetness, and Israel doesn’t have the same variety of traditional cider apples that you find in Somerset or Herefordshire, the two main cider-producing counties of  England.

We then handed the crushed apples over to the strong, brawny men to do the hard part, pressing the crushed apples. We only pressed them once although some press twice in order to extract the maximum possible amount of juice.

The men, Mr BT included, took turns pressing the apples. This hard labor produces the lovely apple juice that we needed to make our hard cider.

Mr BT gave me a small cup of the juice to taste and it was lovely.

We worked up quite an appetite after we crushed and pressed a ton of apples, so we put the juice in a fermentation bucket, said our thank yous and goodbyes, and headed for a famous little hole-in-the-wall in Or Yehuda.

On our way to Or Yehuda, Mr BT, Mimi, and I were trying to come up with a clever name for our cider. I suggested Grumpy Scrumpy because Mr BT was a little grumpy that day. He wanted to name it Humpy Scrumpy after his beloved animal, the camel, but I told him it had a whole other meaning and didn’t think it was a good idea. So, Grumpy Scrumpy it is! I will keep you updated on the progress of our cider.

I know you are going to say haven’t you had enough kubbeh this month, well…! I have been trying to go to Pundak Moshe for the past three years and every time I wanted to go, we had something else we had to do that was more important. This time when I suggested going there, I wasn’t going to take no for an answer. We didn’t have the address with us, so we stopped at a petrol station to ask the attendant where “the kubbeh restaurant is”. Actually, there are two of them, but he immediately said, “you want to go to Pundak Moshe?”. Of course, we said yes and he gave us directions. It looks like a tiny shack from the outside, but once you enter the restaurant it is actually quite deep.

As we entered the building, I had thoughts of my grandmother coming with me to this restaurant: she would have walked in and immediately walked out. It is not dirty, but there are pots everywhere and it would have been too messy looking for my neat-freak grandmother (z”l).

I knew from the long line of people waiting to take home a variety of kubbeh that was bubbling away in huge pots, that this was going to be worth the three-year wait.

As we inched up closer to the rainbow of colors in the pots, I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy decision figuring out which pot to choose from. The pots contained kubbeh and a variety of other traditional home-cooked dishes, such as stuffed vegetables and meat stews.

They also sell charcoal-grilled meats.

But then I saw a beautiful pot of pumpkin bubbling away with bits of hot red pepper floating around and it had my name on it.

Moshe dished up the pumpkin with semolina kubbeh and put it in a bowl filled with plain white rice. Mr BT decided to have the same.

Mimi also got the same kubbeh, but over yellow rice and she also took some intestines stuffed with meat and rice that were flavoured with cardamom.

The kubbeh and the stuffed intestines were delicious. It is a good thing I don’t live in Or Yehuda because I would weigh 400 lb (180kg) from eating at Pundak Moshe every Friday.

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