People always seem to ask me why I moved to Israel and I always had a really hard time explaining why until two nights ago.
I didn’t have some religious experience or fall in love with someone or hear a heavenly voice calling my name on Masada. I just came to visit for the first time at the age of 34 and something felt right. I really felt at home in Israel, so I came for a second visit and moved here two years after my first visit. I found a job and my future husband four months later. I am a real aliyah success story. What I haven’t told you is that I came at a very difficult time….. ten days before this Intifada. Then, a year later my birthday was never the same and is now known as 9/11.
So, now you are asking what does all of this have to do with the title of this entry…..
Wednesday night my husband and I went to Jerusalem to hear a concert performed by students of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance (formerly known as the Rubin Academy), to whose board of governors he has just been elected. And as I was listening to variety of music styles, I finally realized why I moved to Israel. It was because I could have a taste of everything in a very small space without having to travel all over the world to search for it. Israel is a melting pot with easy access to the best that different cultures have to offer, especially when it comes to food and music. This concert was an excellent example of the beautiful cultural mix and I decided to describe the music by using a food or spice that best described it:
Foie Gras: Gabriel Fauré‘s Requiem, Opus 48, for baritone solo, soprano solo, choir and orchestra
Baharat: Middle Eastern Music for Kanun, Oud and Violin by the Turkish composer, Tanburi Cemil Bey, Egyptian composer Riad al Sunbati, and one anonymous piece called Longa Sakiz which I assume is Turkish. The academy’s Oriental Music Department is regarded as the best in the Middle East and one of its graduates recently won first prize at an international oud competition in Cairo.
Baharat (arabic word Bahar means pepper) is a Middle Eastern spice mixture whose base is black pepper. There are many different types of Baharat, depending on what you are using it for: kebab, soup and kubbeh and also where it is from: Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia, etc. I like to mix it into ground meat and stuff a butternut squash or aubergine.
My husband has been abroad for the past three weeks and could only eat fish, so he has requested a stuffed aubergine for Shabbat dinner. This is one of my improvised dishes, so I am guessing on the measurements. Feel free to play around with the recipe. I substitute couscous with cooked rice, bulgar or quinoa. I also use ras al hanut instead of baharat. Sometimes I add garlic, sometimes not.
1/2 kg (1lb) ground meat (beef, veal or lamb or mixture)
1 large aubergine (eggplant)
1/2 cup medium grain raw couscous
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons baharat
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon coarse mustard
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons roasted pine nuts
2 cups of crushed tomatoes plus 1 cup of water or red wine
Preheat oven to 190C/275F.
Cut the top off the aubergine and cut it in half. Drizzle olive oil in a baking dish and place the aubergine cut side down in dish. Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until the aubergine is soft.
While the aubergines is roasting, mix the ground meat, raw couscous, onions, baharat, pomegranate molasses, mustard, parsley and pine nuts. Set aside.
When the aubergine is ready, turn the halves over and break up the aubergine flesh by cutting it with a knife, but do not cut through the skin on the other side.
Fill the aubergine halves with the meat mixture and cover with the crushed tomatoes and red wine.
Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for approximately 45 minutes until the couscous has plumped up.