Foie Gras, Goose Schmaltz and Baharat

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

Goose Schmaltz: Klezmer music and a Porgy and Bess Suite for clarinet and string orchestra with the one and only Giora Feidman

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.

Stuffed Aubergine

Serving Size: 4 to 6

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.

Aubergine raw

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.

Meat mixture

Meat Mixture II

While the aubergines is roasting, mix the ground meat, raw couscous, onions, baharat, pomegranate molasses, mustard, parsley and pine nuts. Set aside.

Roasted Aubergine

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.

Stuffed Precooked

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.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/06/08/foie-gras-goose-schmaltz-and-baharat/

Neve Tzedek – Old Tel Aviv

Neve Tzedek, which means Oasis of Justice built outside of Yafo’s walls. It was founded in 1887 by Aharon Chelouche, 22 years before Tel Aviv was founded.

Many of the neighborhoods turn of the century houses can still be seen and it has retained much of its old charm thanks to a re-gentrification of the neighborhood in the 1980s. The Nobel prize winning author and poet S.Y. Agnon lived there, as did the famous artist Nahum Gutman.

Neve Tzedek’s narrow winding lanes, colourful plaster walls and tile roofs have become one of Tel Aviv’s latest fashionable districts. If I could afford property there, I would move there immediately.


They have some beautiful galleries and boutiques there; my engagement ring and wedding band came from Agas v’ Tamar Jewelers. The make beautiful 22k gold and silver jewelry.

And, there are some really nice cafes, such as Caffe Tazza d’Oro, Michelle Bar and Ninawhere you can sit and relax as you people watch in this charming neighborhood of Tel Aviv.


Or you can go to Bellini restaurant across from the Suzanne Delal Center and try their delicious antipasti buffet for lunch.

Since Neve Tzedek is so close to Yafo, we usually go and eat at one of the fish restaurants on the seaside. We usually end up at the Arab-owned Succah Levana (The White Pergola). It is a casual restaurant, reasonably priced with a nice choice of grilled fish. The meal comes with a large assortment of meze which are made in-house. You can have your meal al fresco with a view of the Mediterranean Sea.


The White Pergola, 72 Kedem Street, Yafo. (03) 682-6558. Open Sun – Sat 12:00 – 01:00.


First, they bring a table full of mezze. The salads are nice and fresh. The pita is prepared on-site, so they are nice and warm when they come to the table. One was covered in za’atar.


Hummous and eggplant with mayonnaise salad


Syrian olives and pepper salad


Another eggplant salad, carrot salad and matboucha and labane with cucumber


Israeli salad

Then, grilled Gilt-head Seabream. They also have trout, seabass, drumfish and a few others. And, they also serve shellfish. The food is simple, but delicious.

Israeli Salad

Serving Size: 4

The sad thing is that I am allergic to raw tomato, so my husband always has the Israeli salad all for himself. This salad is dead easy to make, but the key is to have the freshest, tastiest ingredients possible and to finely chop the vegetables like in the picture above.

2 tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped

2 cucumbers, peeled and finely chopped

1 green pepper, seeded and finely chopped

1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

1 small onion, finely chopped

Juice from 1 lemon

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon of za'atar (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

In a non-reactive (not metal) bowl, combine chopped vegetables. Toss gently.

In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, olive oil, za'atar, salt and pepper. Drizzle over vegetables and toss. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Keeps for two days.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/04/18/neve-tzedek-old-tel-aviv/

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