Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Israel: More than just falafel

Last year international food and restaurant consultants Baum and Whiteman made some predictions about the rise of Mid Eastern Foods, writing

Forget Spain and Greece ... the south side of the Mediterranean and the Levant are where new tastes and dishes are coming from: Turkey, Israel, Morocco, Iraq, Iran

Israel exports not just high tech but its innovative “New Israeli”cross-cultural cuisine, absorbing ideas and techniques from all over the region.  Families fleeing turmoil in Tunisia, Egypt, Iran and Iraq are bringing their splendid food here. Syria’s displaced people may provide another wave of culinary excitement. Explore Turkish street food for ideas. The cookbook “Jerusalem” is flying out of books stores and you need to read it. 
Zaatar and pomegranate molasses already have made it to kitchens here and shakshuka
will appear on America’s breakfast and brunch menus. Global riffs being added to falafel and hummus.
A few more drone attacks and shug or shuk,  an incendiary Yemenite dip spiked with coriander, cumin and red or green chilies could be the next harissa as people emigrate
Muhammara... a fiery-sweet dip from Aleppo, Syria, with tahina, peppers, walnuts and tomato paste
deserves a look. Freekeh, toasted green wheat, is catching on with trendinistas looking to stay ahead of the quinoa curve. Lior Lev Sercarz, an Israeli spice monger running New York’s La Boîte à Epice sells secret custom spice blends with Middle Eastern flavors to chefs like Eric Ripert, Daniel Boulud, Michael Solomonov , Marc Forgione, who swear by them
This year, the trend towards mid-eastern tastes is picking up speed, with Baum and Whiteman declaring hummus one of the top 2015 trends
You've watched the rise of Greek yogurt, yes?  Now hummus ... once a niche product here eaten
primarily by Arab and Israeli immigrants is following the same trajectory. Google
says that hummus has out- trended salsa, no small thing since salsa dethroned ketchup. The chick pea dip has become so Americanized  which means piled with flavorings that the Subway is
testing it as a no-meat option for its sandwiches. Hummus is high in protein and fiber and low
in fat, so it touches lots of dietary bases.Eight years ago perhaps 12% of US households had it in
the fridge; today 20% and rising largely because the Sabra brand (co-owned by Pepsi)
did enormous missionary work, even running a popup store in Georgetown. 
Hummus sales reached $800 million in 2012, an enormous increase from $16 million in 2006. Sabra hummus, that spreadable object of the BDS'ers  ire remains the best selling hummus in the country.  From high tech to bio-tech to spreadable chickpea paste, Israel continues to innovate, and to create products that people crave. Thats why BDS is and will always be irrelevant.

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