Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Israel Cont’d

A perfect example in the New York Times today of my previous post: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/08/opinion/08kristof.html?src=me&ref=general

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I have trekked, I have eaten, I have conquered.  I managed to not only survive but overwhelmingly enjoy my two week hiking trip through Israel.  The land was beautiful: endless landscapes of limestone and water-sanded crevices in the south all the way to the northern vineyards and mossy hills.  The heat was abounding, peaking around 115 degrees as we descended Masada one afternoon, but the sweat and burn were well worth the journey.

Israel remains for me, one of the most fascinating places on earth.  The unending conundrums of space, relationships, politics, everything, all placed within a country filled with zealots and hippies.  In Israel you can find yourself in the barren desert, completely alone, or in Jerusalem  observing 10,000 Ashkenazi Orthodox protest Sephardic Orthodox children attending their schools, or in the green hills of Tzfat where the tie-dye clothing and bright blue railings perfectly oppose the sandy outskirts.  You can go to Israel to smoke a joint and surf or enthrall yourself in exclusive, devotional religious practices, be it Muslim or Jewish.  You can attend a dinner hosted by a Druze household, welcoming any outsiders to learn about their traditions, and observe the Arab-Israeli conflict where the Western Wall and Dome of the Rock collide.  For me, there is no place like it.

I must admit, I did not do a ton of exciting eating on the trip.  My days were filled with treks and pit stops at malls, gas stations or kibbutz buffet lines to refuel.  Yet, I did eat some excellent grub.  What sticks out most to me about Israeli food are their salads.  Salad for breakfast, salad for lunch, and salad for dinner.  Sometimes the salads changed, sometimes they didn’t.  One day I found myself eating a cabbage salad with carrots and bean sprouts along side quinoa with carrots, dried cranberries and raisins for breakfast.  Lunch was the same cabbage salad with hummus and a pita.  Dinner, sub the pita and hummus with meat.  Needless to say, the first thing I wanted when arriving home was, of course, a cabbage salad.  And that’s what I’ve eaten for lunch every afternoon since I got back.

The use of lemon, vinegar, dill and mint, I have found, can create an endless amount of yummy combinations.  My basic salad suggestions:

1.) cucumber, tomato, chickpeas, mint, basil, lemon juice, salt

2.) roasted beets, dill, lemon juice, splash of vinegar, salt

3.) cabbage, carrots, vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, salt

This is not to say that Israelis only eat vegetables.  Every morning there was a massive array of cheeses, yogurt, cured fish, pastries and dried fruits.  The dates were spectacular and I have never tasted a feta cheese like the several I tasted there.  Chocolate babka added to my waistline along with the freshly baked challahs and awesome halvah.

But beyond the food, which to be honest was rather secondary, or even tertiary on this adventure, the land and people of Israel are worth taking the time to see, to explore.  The cities offer so much history along with the current political and religious battles while the hills and forests remain in large portions untouched and reminiscent of Biblical times.  Whatever your religion, whether or not it is represented within the communities of Israel, the country is an unending canvas of intrigues and beauty.

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Things to do in BA:

Bicicleta Naranja Bike Tours: http://www.labicicletanaranja.com.ar/english/index_english.html

Free walking tour: http://www.buenosairesfreetour.com/en/index.html

Recoleta Cemetary— a must see. This is where Evita is buried along with anyone who is anyone in Buenos Aires.

El Caminito— Small area in La Boca.  It’s very touristy and you’ll only need an hour to see it, but it’s worth checking out.

MALBA— The Museum of Modern Art is a great thing to do with a rainy day.  It’s not very big.  You probably need 2 hours.

Museo de Bellas Artes— Has works by Picasso, Degas, lots and lots of famous people along with old Argentine artists.  Not well organized, but lots of interesting work.

Palermo Soho— GREAT shopping.  Lots of handmade clothing with up-and-coming fashion designers.  And most of it is super cheap.  Great way to spend a morning/afternoon.  And right by La Cabrera, so maybe shopping then refill with steak?

San Telmo fair— Every Sunday there’s the San Telmo Antiques fair.  It’s a MUST.  Go down to Plaza Dorrego and just wander.  You’ll find some amazing things.

Food Suggestions:

La Cabrera— Awesome awesome parrilla (steaks!)

Osaka (Peruvian Asian fusion): http://www.osaka.com.pe/osaka_in.htm.  Had one of the best meals of my life here!

Rosmarino— great, fresh Italian inspired food.  http://www.rosmarinoresto.com.ar

DesNivel— Parrilla in San Telmo.  Super cheap and super yummy.  Just don’t expect any frills.

Itamae— If you’re in the mood for sushi.  One of the only places to go where you can get fresh tuna (all other sushi places serve cooked tuna!)

Felix— One of the most unique dining experiences in the city.

Cumaná— My personal fave.  Can’t find a better deal in town.  Try the batata con choclo, miel y nuezes (sweet potato with corn, honey and nuts) for a mere $14 pesos ($4), or the cazuelas.  I recommend the lentil cazuala or the one with pumpkin, cheese and corn.  Mmmm.

Really, you can find good food anywhere.  Lots of handmade pasta, empanadas, pizza, tons of salad and tartas (veggie pies).

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After returning from a lengthy stay in Argentina, I am faced with the challenge of making healthful and wallet friendly meals for myself in an effort to shed the extra pounds as well as stay on budget.  One of the greatest things I’ve discovered while attempting to cook healthy foods is that salad is not the only, or best, option for a nutritious meal.  Sure greens and veggies are good for you, but once you add the dried fruit, nuts, croutons, and dressing, you may as well have had a roast turkey sandwich or gourmet veggie burger.

Last night was my catch-up night- the night where I plan to do all the lingering tasks I’ve pushed aside the other 6 days of the week.  On my agenda: laundry, hang a mirror and go grocery shopping.  I must admit, I love grocery shopping.  I love the process of picking out my favorite things and concocting recipes in my head as I wander.  I am that person who lingers in front of the sauces section wondering which mustard would be best for my mustard and shallot vinaigrette.  Some, I’m sure, would find this insane.  Who would spend an hour in a grocery store shopping for only $50 worth of products?  Well….me.

On this night in particular I decided to go slightly gourmet.  On the menu: roasted acorn squash, asparagus with caramelized shallots, and shrimp with garlic and lemon. This menu would also work with roasted pumpkin or butternut squash as well or you could substitute brocollini, sugar snap peas, or green beans, or as Ina calls for, combine them all!

I went home and whipped it all up, poured myself a glass of water and added a few slices of fresh lime to snaz it up and hunkered down to watch Project Runway.  A lovely way to end my day.

Roasted acorn squash

Serves 2
1 lb. acorn squash
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450. Slice up your squash into 8 piece segments. Spray a cooking sheet with pam and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place squash on top of sheet and repeat with pam, salt, and pepper. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
Asparagus with Caramelized Shallots (interpreted from Ina Garten)

Serves 4
1 bunch asparagus
2 small shallots, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil or Pam

Boil a pot of water and blanch asparagus for two minutes. Then place in a bowl of ice water. Add 2 tablespoons of oil or spray stove top pan with pam and quickly caramelize shallots. When the shallots are translucent, add blanched asparagus until thoroughly cooked through.
Lemon Garlic Shrimp

Serves 2-3
1 lb shrimp
1/2 tsp minced garlic
half lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Top shrimp with lemon, garlic, salt and pepper. Let sit for 5 minutes. Heat pan with olive oil or Pam. When sufficiently heated, add shrimp and turn when downward side is no longer translucent. Cooking time should be 2-5 minutes total, depending on the heat of the pan and size of shrimp.

And as for what I HAD been eating in Argentina, here’s a picture of an outdoor parrilla, barbeque, at the San Telmo fair in Buenos Aires.  Ah Argentine beef!


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