It starts with a flurry of text.
Not even couscous is safe from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israeli-born couple Ron and Leetal Arazi, owners of NYShuk, are putting personal spins on Sephardic foods of their childhoods and serving it up to hungry New Yorkers.
Israeli couscous has been called many things. Among them, ‘ptitim’ and ‘David Ben-Gurion rice.’ What you shouldn’t call it is couscous.
Sukkot is one of the rare Jewish holidays that lacks traditional dishes, which is ironic since as a harvest holiday, it’s really all about the food. There’s plenty of instruction as to what belongs on the sukkah — figs, grapes, dates, and pomegranates are often sited. But when it comes to the meals that fill this week long celebration, each family is left to their own devices.
In Israel by late January, about halfway through the rainy season, the majority of the year’s precipitation has fallen. The sap in the trees begins to flow and the branches show the initial signs of budding. It’s at this time that Jews celebrate Tu B’Shvat (this Thursday and Friday) — known as the New Year for the tree. Since Tu B’Shvat is a minor holiday, few specific dishes were created for its celebration, but rather the practice emerged of serving dishes that highlight the flavors of local fresh fruit and nuts, which each Jewish community adapted to what was available to them.
That first Friday after the clocks fall back can be a serious shock to the system. An entire hour of daylight: gone. It’s a bold move. What happens next is more insidious. Over the next month or so, the light will continue to slip away, but quietly, dwindling by mere seconds each day. Those seconds add up; each Friday, we’ll be out a handful of minutes that, just the week before, we didn’t think we could do without. In other words, squeezing in all of our cooking before Shabbat is only going to get harder. Cooking most of the meal beforehand will take us only so far. To get us the rest of the way there, we’ll need a second strategy, one that can be summed up in three little words: mise en place.
Israeli couscous, the pearl-shaped wheat balls that are often mistaken for a grain, may have the distinction of being the first truly Israeli food product. Cooked up in 1950s Israel, the product was just one answer to the food shortages and rations that characterized the era. Whether called Israeli couscous, pearl couscous, ptitim, or “Ben-Gurion Rice,” the popularity of this unassuming staple has since spread across continents.
Haaretz reports that Israeli supermarket chain Super-Sol will open a natural food store featuring “health foods, organic products, wine and cheeses and special gluten-free products.”
Like many other people, this summer has been full of summer squash! It almost seems to be falling from the sky.