Katherine Marinelli is a super pleasant and talented food and travel writer, photographer and a self proclaimed wanderer. Only this native New Yorker's wanderings took her across the Atlanic east of the USA while I went the opposite direction. Hailing out of the Israeli Southern dessert city called Beer Sheva she is a welcome addition to the Israeli series. Katherine's bourekas photo was recently featured in Nov. 2011 Food and Wine magazine's The World’s Best Cities for Street Food she was also featured in Women's Health magazine and a fellow The Jew and the Carrot contributor you can read about all of her credentials here. Please follow Katherine on twitter @MartinelliEats and like her page on FB so happy to have her on board!
Wandering Mahane Yehuda Market
If you’ve been to Israel then chances are you’ve at least passed through Mahane Yehuda, Jerusalem’s bustling shuk, or market. The vibrant colors, intoxicating smells, and distinct sounds provide a sensory summary of Israel in a nutshell. It’s with good reason that Mahane Yehuda is the main culinary artery of the city, the place locals come to for deals and chefs visit for inspiration. While I don’t live in Jerusalem, I make the hour and a half trek regularly, and no trip is complete without a stop at the market.
Mahane Yehuda has been around since the late 1800s and underwent much needed renovations in the 1980s, transitioning from a seedy, unsanitary market to the tourist destination it is today. And now it is home to more than 250 (some figures say 600!) vendors hawking everything from produce and olives to spices and halva. The market also houses an increasing number of high-end fromageries, bakeries, restaurants, specialty stores and more.
I love to wander the winding, crowded alleys of the shuk to see what’s in season. Although the market is relatively small, it’s somehow easy to get lost in its belly. A turn here will direct you into the Iraqi shuk, for instance, while a turn in another direction leads you to a little square known as the Georgian Market. It took me many visits to the market before I stumbled on this little area.
Untold culinary treasures lie in Mahane Yehuda. The best burekas I’ve ever eaten can be found at Chokmat Haburekas Mehaifa, which translates roughly as “Burekas from the Wisdom of Haifa.” Here they use oil instead of margarine, and their huge burekas are flaky perfection. To satisfy my sweet tooth I head to Marzipan Bakery, which has been around since 1986 and has a loyal following for good reason: their gooey chocolate rugelach are out of this world. And the variety of halva at the Halva Kingdom is unbeatable. Even people who claim not to like halva can’t help but fall in love with their crumbly rendition.
I often return to Be’er Sheva loaded up with cheese from Basher Fromagerie. Their selection of fine local and imported cheeses is unreal, and their knowledgeable staff help you pick out the perfect cheese for any occasion.
For a truly Israeli experience, there is nothing like the shuk on a Friday market. The energy at the already bustling market is amped up even further as shoppers prepare for the impending Shabbat, when everything shuts down and people retreat to their homes. It’s common practice to sit outside on Friday mornings and catch up with friends over bowls of hummus. Even if you can’t make it to Mahane Yehuda, you can make some killer hummus at home to bring a little bit of Israel to you.
Chokmat Haburekas Mehaifa
Mahane Yehuda 24, Jerusalem
10 & 72 Etz Haim
Agrippas 14, Jerusalem
Adapted from The New Book of Israeli Food by Janna Gur
500 grams small dry chickpeas
1 tablespoon + ½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup raw tahini
Juice of 2 lemons
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup chopped parsley or cilantr
¼ cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon cumin
Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with cold water plus 1 tablespoon baking soda. Allow to soak overnight, or at least 8 hours (do not refrigerate).
Drain and rinse the chickpeas and put them in a pot. Add water until it comes 1-inch above the chickpeas. Add the remaining ½ teaspoon baking soda and bring to a boil (watch the pot as the baking soda can cause the water to foam and boil over). Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 2 to 3 hours, until the chickpeas are very tender. Cool slightly and drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid.
Reserve at least ½ cup of the chickpeas. Put the remaining chickpeas in a food processor and add 2/3 cup tahini, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and garlic and process until smooth. If the paste is too thick (it will be) add some of the reserved cooking liquid. Taste and season with additional tahini, lemon juice, and salt as needed until the desired taste and consistency is reached.
Put some of the hummus into a bowl. Pull a spoon around the middle in a circle to create a little trough. Drizzle with olive oil and top with reserved chickpeas plus parsley, onion, and cumin. Serve immediately with fresh pita for dipping.