Eighteen hours. That’s how long I am willing to travel to eat my mother’s food. It’s the time it takes to get from my house in Los Angeles to my mother’s house in the south of Israel. It is the food that gives me the most pleasure and comfort. It’s not just food – it’s medicine. I find it mentally and physically healing. I swear, it’s the ultimate healthy food. Always fresh and always made from scratch. Last month, after more than two years, we finally flew to Israel to visit our family and friends. We landed in Ben Gurion Airport and spent a few days in Tel Aviv before driving south to my mother’s house for the weekend. After all those years, the smell of Shabbat cookings is still the same as I remember, and the kitchen, as usual, is full of produce and pans and pots full of good things to eat. I would be lying if I said that my mother made all these beautiful dishes especially for us. Making tons of delicacies for Shabbat is a ritual, whether the kids come home or not.
I never stop bragging and raving about my mother’s home-cooking. She is truly a superb cook. Her food is spicy, aromatic, and combines a huge variety of produce, yet it’s clean and has an aesthetic, gourmet flavor to it. Even her traditional Moroccan food is delicate. I love it when I can taste each ingredient in a dish. It’s fascinating to watch her while she cooks. My mother, who’s a serious clean freak, somehow manages to keep the kitchen spotless, even while she cooks a huge meal – no matter how small the kitchen is. This olive salad is one of my favorites. My mother usually serves it at Shabbat dinner as one of many other cooked salads that she serves with Lechem Bait, or “home bread.”
Some of the traditional Moroccan Jewish culinary treasures
Lechem Bait – a must have with the salads above – there is nothing like homemade bread!
The cook in action
Moroccan Style Warm Olive Salad
- 1 can Syrian cracked olives
- 2 tomatoes, peeled and diced
- handful cilantro, washed carefully and chopped roughly
- 2 medium garlic cloves, pressed
- 1 tablespoon canola/sunflower oil
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- dash of white pepper
- Pit the olives (if the olives are not cracked, crush them first with a rolling pin and then remove the pits – this is the only annoying part in the process).
- Put the olives in a medium pan, fill the sauce pan with water and bring to boil. Cook the olives in the boiled water for a few minutes then drain. Fill the pan again with water and bring to boil – this action is required in order to get rid of the bitterness of the olives. While you bring the water to boil put the rest of the ingredients in a medium pan and cook on a low heat for 20 – 25 minutes.
- Drain the water and add the olives into the pan and stir. Continue to cook the olives with the sauce for five minutes, then turn off the heat and let it cool before you serve.
Both salads can be served as an appetizer or can upgrade any sandwich.
Fire Roasted Red Pepper Salad
This salad is so simple to make and so delicious with almost everything.
- 2 bell peppers
- Olive oil
- 1 garlic clove
- To roast peppers over a flame, use a “roasting rack.” (Honestly, I am not sure what this thing is called; I Googled all over the place but couldn’t find the answer. You can look in the picture and tell me if you know the name!) Then put the peppers over the flame. You can use a skewer or tongs to turn them around to char the skin on all sides.
- Once the peppers are blackened, rub or scrape off the charred skin, it’s easier to do it with a wet hand.
- Cut the peppers in half, remove and discard the seeds.
- Cut the pepper into ½” strips and put it into a small bowl.
- Add a splash of oil, crush the garlic on top, sprinkle some salt and toss. Store in the fridge until you serve.