If you are unfamiliar with Israeli cuisine, you probably wouldn’t know that Israeli’s believe “the spicier the better.”
As a newcomer over 25 years ago, spicy food was one of the hardest things for me to get used to. Until today, I can’t tolerate any more than a pinch of black pepper.
No hot pepper of any kind, including chili, of course, (can’t fool me into thinking it’s actually “chilly”…). I really don’t understand what Israelis see in peppery dishes. Whenever I ask I’m told “ze kol ha’taam!” meaning “that’s what gives it all its flavor!”
I strongly disagree. I feel that using pepper and hot spices in abundance prevents you from experiencing the succulent essence of the delicacy before you. This is because when your tongue is ablaze, you lose the ability to define other subtle seasonings that are meant to enhance your meal. I suspect that people use a lot of hot pepper in order to camouflage their otherwise tasteless dish (no offense intended…)
I believe – easy does it!
Once, I ordered falafel at an Israeli eatery. I was almost done when suddenly I felt my mouth go afire. A quick investigation showed I had bitten into a fiery-hot red pepper (called shifka in Hebrew), the remnants of which I found in the small piece of pita I held in hand.
At this point, not only was my mouth burning, but my throat – all the way down to my tonsils – was aflame too. I found it hard to breathe, let alone talk. Downing my cold drink, swallowing another piece of pita and even panting didn’t help a bit. I needed to call someone to put the fire out, but who?! The Fire Department? Hatzalah? What would I say – “Mouth on fire! Come quick!”?
I called a good friend. Maybe she’d have an idea how to extinguish the searing blaze, fast.
“You’re asking me?” was her incredulous reaction. “You’re the tip lady, you should know what to do!” she laughed.
Devastated, the hot breath I was holding came out in a hiss and I was sure I saw dragon-like flames rush from my mouth.
What now? I racked my quickly-frying-brain for an answer. Looking for immediate relief, my eyes fell on the ice bowl nearby. I hastily filled my jumbo cup with the frozen ice cubes and then my mouth – full capacity. Slowly, oh, ever so slowly, my singed tongue began to cool and after a full hour(!), the burning sensation was finally under control.
For your average Israeli, spicy hot might be fun, but not for me. Allow me to repeat – easy does it!
By now, you’ve probably noticed that that’s my motto in the kitchen as well. Why work hard when you can get great results with minimum time and ingredients?
Hard to believe? Easy can be delicious!
Take my “Nothing Chicken” for example. It’s amazingly simple and succulent – nothing can beat it! All you need to do after cleaning the chicken parts is put them on an oven tray lined with baking paper and slide into the oven. Don’t add anything! Bake for 1½ – 2 hours and the dark golden tone will announce “dinner time”! Or make it for your Yom Tov meal and keep it warm, covered on the stove. No one will resist a hefty portion or two so make sure to make enough!
Bet you won’t believe that you can make chicken soup with no chicken at all!
This is something we came upon totally by mistake. It was Friday morning and we were preparing our chicken soup for Shabbos. All the vegetables and spices were in the pot, minus the chicken bones, when someone put it on boil. Somehow I got tied up with the challah dough (pun intended), planning to add the chicken later on.
About the Author: Mindy Rafalowitz is a recipe developer and food columnist for over 15 years. She has published a best selling cookbook in Hebrew for Pesach and the gluten sensitive. Mindy is making progress on another specialty cookbbok for English readers. For kitchen questions or to purchase a sample recipe booklet at an introductory price, contact Mindy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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