Baking in Israel
By Malka Levin | September 22, 2020
Baking in Israel! A daunting task before you try it, but you’ll learn quickly! Want to make your famous peanut butter cookies? Looking forward to using Saftas heavenly Babka recipe?
You may be a pro baker, but there a few things about baking Israel that may be different then what you are used to. Here are some important things to know before you get started.
The granules of sugar here in the holy land are much larger. You might bake some cookies and notice you can still see white granules of sugar! That doesn’t mean you did anything wrong, but finding recipes that work specifically in Israel is important. Sharing recipes is a great conversation starter, so ask around! You may end up with a delicious recipe and maybe even a new friend.
Brown sugar also is different than in America. It’s not “packable” and has a different flavor. There’s a sugar company called ‘maya’ that is most similar to the brown sugar you may be familiar with.
Most people in America don’t sift their flour, and you can also buy pre-sifted flour in Israel for the easiest baking. The cheaper, more common option though, is to buy unsifted flour and do it yourself. You can buy a sifter in Yesh, or any similar grocery or home goods store. Remember that when you sift, it adds some air into the flour making it lighter and less condensed. This can affect delicate recipes that need to be very precise so keep that in mind!
The peanut butter here is nothing like your classic Skippy! Peanut butter in The Holy Land is pure peanuts. Nutritious and delicious and very liquidy! One good idea is to leave a container of PB at work, or pack it separately for a peanut butter sandwich without spillage. The green container is your classic pure peanut butter, and the red container comes with added sugars.
Baking cheesecake in Israel is a world of a difference! You will find out pretty quickly that Gvina Livana is not cream cheese! Using an American recipe will leave you sorely disappointed. Here is a wonderful Israeli recipe using quark cheese, better known as Gvina Livana, and other Israeli dairy products. Click here for heavenly results, easy baking, and stunning decor ideas. In addition, because the cheese here is more liquidy, be sure to use a crust to absorb the extra moisture.
Know Your Oven
Ovens in Israel probably deserve their own article. For starters, each person really has to ‘learn’ their own oven. Try, fail, and try again until you get the hang of it. Sharing recipes is fun, but not when people ask you for cook time and temperature! Why? Because it’s so unpredictable! Each person’s oven is different, so make sure to check your food to see when it’s ready, instead of strictly following the recipe cook time and temp. Most people also find that the temperature in their oven is not accurate. You may find your food burning on top but still raw in the middle. Before spending 500 Shekels to fix an oven that’s not working, try putting it on convection, or put your oven fan on to help your oven more accurately gauge the correct temperature. Alternatively, you can buy a separate oven thermometer in any home goods store, including Olam Habayit on Paran.
You may also find that your oven can barely fit two 9×13 pans side by side. If you go one size down in pans, you can easily fit two dishes in the oven at the same time. Some people also find that their food comes out much better when only using one middle tray, versus a top and bottom oven rack. In that case, make sure you leave enough time for each food to cook on its own before Shabbos!
If you are new to this country, you may not know that baking soda is called Soda Lishtiya or sodium bicarbonate, and baking powder is called Avkat Afiya. Don’t confuse them or you may end up with a beautiful breakfast in the garbage.
Baking powder, vanilla sugar, and many other ingredients come in bags, vs containers. This can be extremely frustrating when you want to use only a bit, not a full package, plus it’s hard to store once it’s opened. Bugs are also a concern, not to mention how much harder it is to measure from a packet! A good tip is to open all your ingredients and pour them into small containers or jars right when you buy them. This will ensure safe and easy measuring and storage.
This might all seem overwhelming but you’ll get the hang of it really soon. Remember what a Bracha it is to use flour and sugar grown in the holy land. We’re lucky to live here
Cooking in a foreign country can be challenging and stressful. Especially when you’re not sure if you can get certain ingredients or where to buy them. We have put together two months’ worth of dinner ideas to help you live your Best Israel Life.
All of these recipes can and have been made in Israel with ingredients available here. Feel free to reach out for specific recipes.
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Click below for two months’ worth of dinner ideas, a Shabbos Menu, and a Yom Tov menu for night and day meals!
By Malka Levin | September 16, 2020
Do you ever find yourself too busy to eat? Running around with errands or work and you don’t have time to cook?
Meal prepping is a fun and healthy way to be proactive in your life! Meal prepping is when you cook and prepare food in advance; each night for the next day, or even at beginning of the week for the next few days! When you find yourself busy during the day, it can be hard to make time for yourself to eat a healthy filling meal-especially when you get to the point where you’re already starving. When you prep your food in advance you can count on having a yummy, filling and healthful meal ready to eat! Instead of making a grab for the chips, or gravitating toward fast food, you know there’s a homemade meal you love, waiting for you in the fridge. This mindset is especially important on erev Yom Tov. We find ourselves busy in the kitchen, doing last minute ironing, and trying to get the house sparkling before Shkiya…who has time for themselves? Here are some important tips and tricks to help you get started on your meal prepping journey!
- Make a menu! Step one is to make a list of all the foods you enjoy! (This is a great trick for dinners too, by the way) Instead of getting stuck deciding what to make, you have a list ready to refer to with your own food inspiration! Some good ideas include salads, quinoa or grains, (easy to pair with protein like chicken, meat, salmon or tofu) soups, sandwiches, wraps and of course leftovers! Having food ideas prepared will also help you shop right and have all the ingredients you need on hand. (Israel shopping tip! Read the package of grains before you purchase, to know if you have to check them for bugs! Often located near the Hechsher)
- Dedicate a special time for it. This may be the most important step! Although Sunday nights can be hard because Sunday isn’t a day off here in Israel, find a time make it happen. One of the main reasons meal prepping is so helpful, is because we tend to push ourselves to the side when life gets busy, and eating becomes an afterthought. By dedicating a special time for meal planning, you’re bound to end up with healthier and more thought out meals. This way you can grab one on the go no matter how full your day gets. You’re important! Don’t forget to take care of your body and your health. You’ll find yourself to be more alert and less grouchy after a well prepared and filling meal.
- Make it a whole family activity! Get your spouse involved! Even small children can help out by putting snacks in bags or smearing peanut butter on bread. Each person should decide what’s on their menu and get started! Preparing food can be a bonding activity that’ll help raise awareness of responsibility and the importance of planning in advance. Plus much less work for you!
(Israel Shopping tip! Peanut butter here is much more liquidy then in America. The green container is natural and the red one has added sugars)
- Use daily meal prep as inspiration for Shabbos and Yom Tov. Once you get into a routine of making your food in advance, you’ll be addicted to the calm feeling of knowing your well prepared. Many people cook and freeze- (although your Israeli freezer may not have infinite space)why not make it a habit? It’s always nice to have backup dinner in the freezer for crazy nights, and Shabbos food you can just pull out for last minute guests.
- Have the supplies you need on hand. Lunch time can be so much more stressful when you have just finished preparing your salad or pasta, and you have nothing to pack it into! Make sure you have containers handy, useful dressing containers, plastic cutlery and the works. It’s so much easier when you’re able to just grab what you need and go. (Israel shopping tip! Osher Ad is your Israeli Costco. Go there for stocking up in bulk – including lots of containers!)
- Freeze in portions. One way to do this is simply splitting your raw shnitzel or chicken on the bone, into small different bags as soon as you buy it. This makes for fast defrosting one (or a few) portions at a time. Another way to do this is once your food is already cooked. If you made an extra pan of lasagna, freeze it in portions so you can just grab and go. Your future self will thank you! (Israel shopping tip! Instead of buying already frozen poultry, buy fresh at the counter in many large grocery stores, or at a butcher. This way you can decide if before you freeze it)
- Utilize leftovers! Whether you’re just packing last night’s chicken and rice into a container, or repurposing that chicken to make some delicious tacos, always utilize your leftovers! If you don’t want to see your leftovers, or have the same meal twice in a row, find a way to repurpose the same food. Sides like rice or quinoa are easy to spice up and use for a new meal. Take your proteins from dinner and cut them up into a salad or sandwich for a good change. Some people are into straight leftovers, and I’m all for it! Why not enjoy your dinner one more time? If I enjoyed it last night, I’ll enjoy it today as well. This avoids food waste and makes for quicker and easier meals.
See what works for you! Not every trick in the book will work for every family! Notice you end up leaving your yogurts behind? Don’t enjoy next-day soup? Switch it up! You got to know yourself and keep improving what you got. Good luck!
The road to understanding a culture is through the stomach. Each culture has its own foods that perfectly embody the people, and Israel is no different. Israelis have a fierce pride in their dishes. Whether you are a tourist wanting to understand the country or an American who wants to replicate the dishes in your own home, Israel’s top cultural foods are powerhouses of flavor, nutrition, and spice.
While hummus, a chickpea puree, has become a worldwide favorite, the international community tends to use it as a spread, or dressing. In Israel, hummus can range from being an appetizer to a side dish to the entire main course. Try a typical Israeli meal: a plate smothered with a huge amount of hummus, with pulled beef or ground meat with Hawaj spice on top, served with pita to scoop up the creamy deliciousness. Hummus can also be served with roasted eggplant or any other roasted vegetables on top. In some places, the flavor-infused hummus served with soft, hot pitas is the dish in its entirety! Whether you eat the protein-packed, creamy deliciousness on its own, with meat, vegetables, or in a falafel, hummus in Israel is next-level awesome!
Nothing beats homemade hummus. The hummus making genius is James Beard award winner Michael Solomonov of “Zahav.” Zahav’s recipe for hummus is available in his cookbook or online. Beware: After making and eating his recipe, you will never be able to eat anyone else’s hummus again!
This dish, typically served for breakfast, has a base of tomato sauce and sauteed vegetables. The dish is then baked with perfectly poached eggs on top and is served with bread to dip it all into one incredible bite. Shakshuka is usually a spicy combination of red pepper, tomatoes, and spice, with the runny yolk on top providing another element of creaminess. There are many variations to shakshuka, some more vegetable-heavy than others. We’ve even seen some goat cheese/ spinach or beet variations. These tend to be more artisanal. The die-hard Israeli shakshuka eaters claim that if it does not include red pepper, tomatoes, sauce, and a whole lot of spice, it cannot be called shakshuka.
Sautee any vegetables (onion, jalapeno, pepper, zucchini, mushroom, carrot) in a pan, add tons of chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce or salsa, and a lot of fresh garlic, powdered garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, basil, chili flakes, or any other spice that you enjoy. Let that simmer for a bit, pour eggs straight on top of the pan, making sure not to crack your yolks. Sprinkle some salt on top of the yolks, cover, and let cook until the eggs are cooked to your liking. Serve with fresh bread.
Falafel is the quintessential Israeli food. Falafel and the state of Israel go hand in hand- and will never let go. In case you have never had falafel, go get one now! Falafel is a pita bread stuffed with Israeli salad (tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions), pickles, hot peppers, fried eggplant, french fries, fried falafel balls (chickpea and parsley balls), hummus, techina, and schug (an extremely spicy puree). Taking a bite out of falafel is like a wild party in your mouth- you get a bit of spice, a bit of cream, a bit of crunch, and a whole lot of flavor. Just walk on any street in Israel and will surely find a shop that seems too small to be true, along with a man making falafels at incredible speeds. Tell him that you want to try a falafel for the first time, and his face will light up with the inexplicable joy of sharing a part of his soul with you.
For a cultural dinner, serve falafel. Buy or make falafel balls, chop up an Israeli salad, bake or fry some eggplant, and stuff up your pita. Don’t forget to buy or make some hummus and tahini!
Although schnitzel is originally a Viennese dish, it has been adapted and adopted by the Israelis. Schnitzel is a coated and fried piece of chicken breast. The Israelis use it in the famous Schnitzel Sandwich. A long baguette or laffa, stuffed with schnitzel, pickles, tomatoes, fried eggplant, hot peppers, any other fillings of your choice, doused with sauce after sauce. The schnitzel sandwich is a fun and satisfying way to finish off your long day.
Bake or fry your schnitzel, add the fillings you want, and go for the sauces! This is a super easy but delicious dinner that is a win-win for everyone.
Shwarma is a vertical slow-roasting spit covered in thinly sliced pieces of meat (chicken, turkey, beef, lamb). Shwarma is served by shaving pieces of the meat off the spit. Shwarma can be served in a laffa, baguette, or served on a plate with salad and hummus. Shwarma is a very middle eastern type of dish and is absolutely delicious. This is a definite must-have: the melt- in your- mouth pieces of meat, covered in a delicious “shwarma spice”, and served with hummus is an experience in itself.
Sautee pieces of chicken, onion, and add a bit of shwarma spice (found at your local grocery store.) Serve this with hummus and salad or in a sandwich. Delicious!