“The breakfast of champions is not cereal, it’s the opposition” …Nick Seitz
Finding a breakfast cereal without sugar can be challenging. Finding one that doesn’t taste like sawdust even more so. I propose a solution to this problem: an Israeli-style breakfast.
I visited Israel for the first time almost 40 years ago. Israel is one of those places that floods one’s mind and senses with thoughts and images. It resonates with the voices of its history and culture, voices which have become part of so many of us through biblical literature although we may have never been to Israel.
One of the most memorable experiences I had on that first visit was totally unanticipated: an Israeli breakfast. Originally a very simple meal, Israeli breakfasts have become famous. Many contemporary restaurants specialize in elaborate versions of it.
Israeli breakfasts originated with the halutzim (early pioneers). Quickly prepared from local ingredients, the meal featured a salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, onion and perhaps avocado, dressed with olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Other typical components of the meal were soft cheeses, hard boiled eggs, pickles, olives and bread. Beans in the form of hummus (a chickpea “dip”) or ful (fava beans) might also be part of the meal. Ful is the breakfast food of choice in Egypt and is served up with lemon, chopped garlic, onions and olive oil.
When I returned home from that first trip, I began to make a simple version of the Israeli breakfast every morning. Although my knife skills are unfortunate, I became proficient in the small dice typical of an Israeli or Jerusalem salad. We sometimes enjoyed dicing contests to see who could make the salad most quickly and with the most precision.
I love to make Israeli Salad. Because of its precision (some would call it tedious), it requires focus, especially if you don’t have great knife skills. For me, it’s “vegetative,” that is, a meditative exercise involving beautiful vegetables:
Here is Israeli Salad that we enjoyed recently for breakfast (larger than the usual dice – I was lazy that morning). I added spinach on this occasion:
(Serves four along with other breakfast items)
Plum tomatoes, 6 ripe but firm
Pickling cucumbers, 2-3 or Persian cucumbers,* 3-4
Green onions, 2
Red bell peppers, 1-2
Avocado (opt.), 1-2 ripe but firm
Extra virgin olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Salt and pepper
*Pickling cucumbers are preferable because of their finer grain and because they require no deseeding. Persian cucumbers are even better where available.
Although not necessary if the salad is eaten immediately, deseeding the tomatoes extends the time the salad will last without drowning in its own juices. Cut all the veggies into a uniform 1/4″ dice. Chop the onions and cilantro. Add extra virgin olive oil, the juice of a lemon and salt and pepper to taste.
VIDEO #1: For a demo of the dice, see the video my son created of himself preparing Israeli/Jerusalem salad in my cafe (mandolin optional – I do it by hand): http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=bzEcBa9bzu0.
VIDEO #2: Here’s one more video – a session I did at our Woodstock Farmers Market on the Israeli Breakfast. I’m a good deal slower and less expert than my son, but here’s the good news: if I can make this salad, anyone can! – https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XNAdGkxq5vc
For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.