It had been seven years since our last visit but as soon as we exited the plane everything felt familiar. We drove straight to Jerusalem where we spent the next several days. Staying in Rechavia, we walked everywhere, but mainly we returned to the places we had been before, including two of my favorites, Yemin Moshe and Machane Yehuda. Walking through the shuk was a great reminder of Israel’s love affair with fresh fruits and vegetables. The consumers were passionate, maybe more so than the vendors, both young and old, men and women, looking in stall after stall before making their final choices. There were things I had not seen before, miniature dark green acorn squash just big enough for an individual serving, mounds of colorful mixes of dried fruits for tea infusions, dried legumes including roasted and salted fava beans ready to eat, tiny melons the size of a grapefruit, and of course the spices….
We had one week to pack in as much as possible. The days revolved around seeing our family and friends but always over a meal. The food, much of it home cooked, was always delicious, but for me the highlight were the breakfasts. From Glenda’s cheesecake on Shabbat morning (recipe coming soon) to Debbie’s pashtedot, to the numerous borekas that we sampled. I loved the small plates served as sides to the main dish, little bowls of leben, tuna, olives, pickled lemon, tehina, etc. I tasted two new kinds of jam, one made with eggplant and the other with cherry tomatoes. The small servings were just enough to tempt your palette but left you wanting more.
We didn’t get to do everything we had hoped to do, or see everyone we had wanted to see. Like the sides served at breakfast, it was just a taste, a reminder to come back soon, and though we left happy, of course we also left wanting more. Chag Sameach.
Note: My mom used to tell me about a tomato jam that they ate in Poland. With Pesach around the corner, and the tastes of Israel still fresh in my mind, I tried this cherry tomato version which I’ll serve with matzoh and butter, but not for another week!!
Cherry Tomato Jam
20 oz. cherry tomatoes, washed and cut in half
1/2 cup plus 4 Tb sugar
1 packet vanillin sugar (for Pesach use)
2 Tb freshly squeezed orange juice
1 Tb orange zest, thinly sliced
1 cinnamon stick
Bring all ingredients to a boil and then reduce to medium high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, for about one hour or until thickened. Strain to remove tomato skins and cinnamon stick. Allow to cool, place in clean jar and refrigerate till ready to use. This is perishable so it will only be good for about a week or so.