Beyond Gefilte Fish

When Americans talk about “Jewish” food, people think about Eastern European (Ashkenazi) classics like gefilte fish, matzo ball soup and even NYC-style deli sandwiches.  But the truth is there is a much larger, more diverse world of “Jewish food” out there, which is exactly what Natasha Cooper-Benisty discovered when she married a Moroccan-Israeli man.

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Instead of cholent or cucumber salad, her family enjoys Moroccan dishes like carrot salad and chickpea pumpkin soup. You can read more here about Natasha’s Jewish culinary journey. including recipes for her family’s favorites.

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And if you are looking to expand your Jewish food repertoire check out a few non-Ashkenazi recipes:

Plov (Uzbeki rice pilaf)

Dafina (Moroccan cholent)

Masgouf (Iraqi fish)

Malabi (Middle Eastern pudding)

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Posted on July 23, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Tri-Color Melon Salad with Mint Syrup

Yield:
8-10 servings

Summer is the time for lightening up and taking advantage of all the fresh fruits and vegetables…but that doesn’t mean giving up on delicious treats.

This tri-color melon salad with mint simple syrup is possibly one of the healthiest “desserts” I have ever come up with, but on a hot summer evening nothing could be more refreshing or perfect.

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Like so many of my recipes, you can definitely improvise based on your own tastes. You don’t have to use honeydew, cantaloupe and watermelon – you can use whatever fruits suit your own palette. And what if you don’t like mint?

Instead of mint you can make a basil lemon simple syrup, a hibiscus simple syrup or just serve plain. Serve it in individual cups, a large bowl or use the leftover melon shells as a festive bowl. I definitely recommend using a handy melon baller to make this salad extra pretty – for less than $10 it’s a little tool that makes a big difference. People will think your dessert is super fancy, but in truth, it’s super simple.

Not only is it sweet and fresh, but it’s nondairy too – perfect after an afternoon barbecue.

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Tri-Color Melon Salad with Mint Syrup

Ingredients

1 ripe canteloupe

1 ripe honeydew

1/2 watermelon

1/4 cup mint simple syrup (optional)

mint for garnish (optional)

special equipment: melon baller

Directions

If desired, prepare one batch of minted simple syrup. You will only need 1/4 cup, so place the remaining syrup in an air-tight container and refrigerate.

Cut the melons in half and remove seeds. Using a melon baller, twist and scoop out balls of each kind of melon.

Arrange balls in a large bowl, individual glasses or right in the scooped out melons. Drizzle simple syrup if desired and garnish with fresh mint.

Posted on July 21, 2014

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Fun, Fabulous Eats in Tel Aviv

I am back from Israel after three wonderful, sometimes challenging weeks. And while I am not missing the sirens the country is currently experiencing daily, I am missing my friends and, of course, the food.

Each time I visit Israel I am more inspired by the Israeli way of daily eating as well as the culinary innovation I see happening all over: Swedish-Israeli fusion food; the most beautiful and delicious nondairy pastries I have ever experienced; and even some type of “exotic” Jewish food I have never before heard of or tasted.

My most recent trip was no different, and despite daily sirens in Tel Aviv, life continued and so did fabulous food consumption. I ate a Yemenite bread called “lachoch” for the first time, which I would describe as a cross between a fluffy pita and the spongy Ethiopian injira bread.

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I ate halva ice cream and frozen yogurt topped with chunks of halva; we definitely need to add that as a topping at American fro-yo joints.

But there were three stand-out eats that I just couldn’t stop thinking about.

Stuffed croissants at La Gaterie, 97 King George Street, Tel Aviv

Have you ever had a mascarpone and chocolate stuffed croissant at 2 am after a night of drinking? Well I hadn’t either until I stopped by La Gaterie in Tel Aviv. La Gaterie doesn’t just crank out authentic, buttery, French croissants round the clock. Oh, no no my friend. They are also stuffing these flaky croissants with a variety of sweet and savory fillings to satisfying any craving. There are two locations, and while it wasn’t cheap, it was one of the most outrageous things I have ever eaten.

Malabi and pomegranate lemonade at Malabiya, right next to Carmel Shuk, off of Allenby Street, Tel Aviv

Have you ever had Malabi, a Middle Eastern pudding made with rosewater? You can find this sweet treat everywhere in Israel, including often on the street. And just recently two friends who met in the IDF decided to open a Malabiya “bar” together, offering several flavored syrups and crunchy toppings for the customer’s choosing. Almost like a Middle Eastern version of a fro-yo bar. They are also offering a pomegranate lemonade. And hey, who doesn’t want to be served up a sweet treat by some authentic Israeli eye-candy like this? Enjoy some pudding and a lemonade outside at their small stand, or get it to-go.

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Kubbeh soup dumplings at Kubbeh Bar, 10 Malkhei Yisrael Street, Tel Aviv

Many people have heard of kubbeh, the Iraqi dumpling-esque treat filled with beef, lamb and other deliciousness. But never before had I heard of, never mind tasted, such a unique hybrid: the kubbeh soup dumplings at Kubueh Bar. You get your choice of around 6 different broths as well as several different kinds of kubbeh. You can also choose the number of kubbeh you want in your soup, and we immediately regretted only getting 2. But the meal didn’t end there: we were also treated to a heaping plate of rice, beans, Israeli chopped salad and tahini. It was unlike anything I had tasted before and absolutely delicious. Ha’aretz has a full write-up of all the places to enjoy kubbeh in Tel Aviv if you find yourself on a kubbeh-tasting adventure.

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Posted on July 16, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Bloody Mary Gazpacho

Yield:
8 servings

Gazpacho is a perfect summer appetizer: it uses up some of those super fresh summer vegetables and won’t keep you indoors slaving away at a hot stove. But I know that cold soups are a bit of an acquired taste for some people. Even my husband, who likes almost everything, is not such a fan of gazpacho.

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But this gazpacho is for even those people that swear they don’t like it. And yes, since it is called “bloody mary gazpacho” it really does have vodka. It is a perfect starter for any summer meal, served in martini glasses and garnished just like the beloved brunch cocktail.

Don’t want to include vodka? Just leave it out. Like yours super spicy? Add some more hot sauce and horseradish. This recipe can be altered in several ways depending on your taste.

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Bloody Mary Gazpacho

Ingredients

1.5 lbs plum tomatoes, seeded and quartered

1/4 cup red onion, chopped

1/2 seedless cucumber, peeled and chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1.5 Tbsp sherry vinegar

1.5 Tbsp red wine vinegar

2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1.5 cups all-natural tomato juice

1-2 Tbsp horseradish

2-3 tsp hot sauce (or more if you prefer it very spicy)

salt and pepper

1 cup vodka (optional)

8 celery stalks, sliced for garnish (optional)

Cornichon or other pickles for garnish (optional)

Directions

Place tomatoes, cucumber, onion and bell pepper in a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. You can add a few Tbsp of tomato juice to aid the processor. Pulse until desired smoothness, but do not overprocess.

Add mixture to a large bowl. Add garlic, sherry vinegar, red wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, tomato juice, horeseradish, hot sauce and salt and pepper.

Add vodka to taste if desired.

Garnish with celery and pickles.

Posted on July 14, 2014

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Summer Pesto and Gruyere Stuffed Challah

Yield:
1 large challah

There are few things better than a freshly baked challah. But sometimes even perfection needs a little shake-up. Or perhaps more accurately, a little stuffing.

I have experimented stuffing challah with sweet combinations like my Balsamic Apple Date Challah and super savory varieties like my Pastrami Sandwich Challah. But I had been hankering to try something with a little summer flare to it.

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This latest stuffed challah is a bit lighter than both my previous stuffed challah experiments, with brightness from fresh herbs and just a touch of richness from the cheese.

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And the truth is you can stuff your challah with any pesto variation you like: kale pesto, fresh herb pesto or a traditional basil-pine nut pesto.

Don’t want to include cheese? Just leave it out. You will still have a deliciously unique stuffed challah experience.

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Pesto and Gruyere Stuffed Challah

Ingredients

For the pesto:

1 bunch fresh garlic scapes, trimmed

1 garlic clove

1/2 cup fresh spinach, steamed

2-3 Tbsp fresh parsley

2-3 Tbsp fresh basil

1/2-3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

For the challah:

1.5 Tbsp yeast

1 tsp sugar

1 1/4 cup lukewarm water

4 1.2-5 cups King Arthur flour

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 Tbsp salt

2 large eggs

3/4 cup shredded gruyere or crumbled goat cheese

1 egg yolk + 1 tsp water for glaze

Thick sea salt, sesame seeds and dried herbs (optional)

Directions

To make the pesto:

Place garlic scapes, garlic clove, spinach, basil and parsley in a food processor fitted with blade attachment. Start pulsing. Drizzle olive oil and continue to pulse. Scrape down sides with rubber spatula, add salt and pepper to taste and pulse until desired smoothness.

Place in an air-tight container until ready to use.

*Note: after steaming spinach, make sure to remove excess water very thoroughly. 

To make the challah:

In a small bowl, place yeast, 1 tsp sugar and lukewarm water. Allow to sit around 10 minutes, until it becomes foamy on top.

In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar. After the water-yeast mixture has become foamy, add to flour mixture along with oil. Mix thoroughly.

Add another cup of flour and eggs until smooth. Switch to the dough hook attachment if you are using a stand mixer.

Add another 1 1/2 cups flour and then remove from bowl and place on a floured surface. Knead remaining flour into dough, continuing to knead for around 10 minutes (or however long your hands will last).

Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with damp towel. Allow to rise 3-4 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

After the challah is done rising, roll out dough into a large rectangle about ½-1 inch thick on a lightly floured surface. The challah dough may need an extra dusting of flour to work with at this point.

Spread a thin, very even layer of pesto all over the dough. You may have extra pesto leftover.  Sprinkle gruyere or goat cheese in an even layer on top of pesto, leaving ½ inch border all around.

Working quickly, start rolling up the dough towards you. Try and keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Pinch the end and tuck under when you finish.

Create a pinwheel shaped-challah by snaking the dough around and around in a circle around itself. When finished, tuck the end under the challah neatly and pinch lightly. This doesn't have to be perfect.

Allow challah to rise another 30-60 minutes, or until you can see the size has grown.

Beat 1 egg yolk with 1 tsp water. Brush liberally over challah. If desired, combine 2 tsp thick sea salt with 1 tsp sesame seeds, 1 tsp dried basil and 1 tsp dried parsley and sprinkle on top of egg wash.

Bake for 26-27 minutes, or until middle looks like it has just set, and the color is golden.

Posted on July 10, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Crockpot Tomato Sauce

Yield:
4-6 servings

After years of friends telling me their crock pot was a life saver i gave in and bought one. With two small children I was looking for an easy way to get dinner going and generally make dinner less painful for the beasts also known as my children.

I took it out of the box and stared at it for a couple days. I finally got up enough courage and washed it. Then came the experimenting, and I will be honest: it took a while. I had gotten some bad advice. I added to much liquid, not enough filler. It took time to figure out the temperature. How long do I really need to cook things, and then by chance I came across a cookbook called Art of the Slow Cooker that saved my life and taught me the ins, the outs and not to be afraid. I let go and cooked the way I cook.

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I have to admit, I don’t use my crock pot as often as I should. I forget how easy it makes things. How 20 minutes in the morning can save my whole evening, forget it, it saves my week.

When I was introduced to Marcella Hazan’s famous sauce recipe I stopped what i was doing…can this work in the crock pot? Can I get it down? Will the onion be to much? Can I stop buying jars of sauce for that easy last minute dinner and have this sitting in my fridge all week?

It worked. I played with the recipe a little, I threw together some ideas, and now, in the words of Emeril, “BAM” I got sauce.

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This recipe is so easy it comes together in less then 5 minutes. Yes, 5 minutes. And the best part is, it can cook all day on a low setting with the top ajar and your house smells amazing. Amazing like you’ve been cooking Sunday gravy on he stove top all day.

Looking for other easy and delicious recipes for your crockpot? Here’s a few of my favorites:

Sweet and Sour Brisket

Curried Coconut Chicken Noodle Soup

Summer Ale Beef Tacos

Sweet, Sour & Spicy Short Ribs

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Crockpot Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes

water

handful of basil

1 onion

3 cloves of garlic

1/2 Tbsp of sugar

¼ cup butter (1/2 stick)

Salt and pepper

Directions

Get your crock pot out and set it to low.

Empty canned tomatoes into pot and then fill 1/4 of the can with water, add to crock pot. Peel onion and garlic, and add to crock pot whole.

Add butter, handful of basil, sugar and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook on low for 5-6 hours with the lid a touch ajar.

When ready to serve, remove onion and garlic. You can also remove basil if desired.

Posted on July 9, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Israeli Salad Ceviche

Yield:
4-6 servings

Summer is here and it’s time for fresh, easy and quick recipes so you can be out at the beach or by the pool instead of working hard in the kitchen. And hey, it never hurts to make dishes that you can eat outside WHILE you’re enjoying the beautiful weather. With only a few simple ingredients and a sharp knife, this light and refreshing ceviche will definitely become a staple in your house.

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Unlike a traditional ceviche, which can include tons of ingredients to chop like jalapenos, avocado, red onion, bell peppers and garlic, I’ve developed a simple recipe inspired by Israeli salad using tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley and fresh lemon juice. Not too much chopping but an incredible amount of flavor.

Since I usually enjoy Israeli salad with fresh pita bread and I love to snack on ceviche with crunchy taco chips, I decided to bake my own healthy and oil free homemade tortilla chips for this combination Israeli Salad Ceviche. I flavored my baked corn tortillas with cumin and salt but you can use whatever spices you want on your own chips, including garlic, chili powder, turmeric or whatever else your heart desires. They’re your chips!

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Israeli Salad Ceviche

Ingredients

Ingredients for Ceviche:

2-3 Persian cucumbers (½ cup chopped)

8 oz. heirloom cherry tomatoes (½ cup chopped)

3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

4 ounces sushi-grade tuna

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients for Tortilla Chips:

5 corn tortillas

1 Tbsp cumin

1 Tbsp salt

Directions

To make the Homemade Tortilla Chips:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and prepare a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Slice the corn tortillas into triangles and place them on the baking sheet in one layer, making sure none of the tortilla pieces are touching. Sprinkle the tortillas with the salt and cumin and bake for 8-12 minutes, until the chips are crunchy. Set them aside to cool and harden even further. Store the chips in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

To make the Israeli Salad Ceviche:

Chop the Persian cucumbers, heirloom cherry tomatoes and sushi-grade tuna into small pieces, making sure that the pieces are all similar in size.

Add the chopped fresh parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Set the ceviche aside for 5 minutes for the tuna to cook slightly in the acidic lemon juice.

Ceviche is better fresh but can be refrigerated for 1-2 days. The fish will cook in the lemon juice so be prepared for cooked fish if you are eating leftovers the next day.

Posted on July 7, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Very Berry Shortcake

Yield:
10-12 servings

Berry season is a very happy time of year for me and my family. Both my daughter and I adore fresh berries and for the second year in a row our family enjoyed picking strawberries from a local New Jersey farm together. Of course my daughter does far more eating than picking, but that’s all part of the fun.

While we mostly enjoy eating the strawberries with breakfast, in smoothies or as a snack, I was hankering for a special berry dessert this year.

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I grew up eating traditional strawberry shortcakes, made often with Bisquick mix and lots of freshly whipped cream.

But my own preference is for moist, spongy CAKE. So my version of berry shortcake includes a triple layer of simple white cake, made from my dear friend Brittany Wayne’s recipe. Layered with macerated strawberries and simple whipped cream and the result is a taste of summer indulgence at its finest. Who cares if it isn’t quite traditional; to me it’s even better.

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Very Berry Shortcake

Ingredients

one batch of white cake, baked into three round pans

one pint heavy cream

2 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

2 cups sliced strawberries

2 Tbsp sugar

mixed berries for topping

fresh mint (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour three 9 inch round pans.

Divide cake batter evenly among the three pans. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Allow cakes to cool completely.

Combine 2 cups sliced strawberries with 2 Tbsp sugar. Allow to sit for 20-30 minutes.

Using a hand mixer, whip heavy cream until frothy. Add powdered sugar and vanilla and continue to whip until stiff peaks form.

Layer whipped cream and strawberries on top of each layer of cake. Finish the final layer with a generous layer of whipped cream and top with mixed berries of your choice. Garnish with fresh mint if desired.

Posted on July 2, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Grilled Korean Ribs

Every Sunday over the summer months was BBQ night for my family and my cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents would all get together for a big, family feast.  One of my favorite dishes at these gatherings was Miami Ribs marinated in my mom’s “secret sauce.” When I moved to the U.S. from Canada, I kept asking the local butcher for Miami Ribs and each time I was met with a look of confusion and told that they did not have them.

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I clearly needed my mom’s touch, because a few weeks ago she walked into the butcher and explained exactly what I was looking for to which the butcher responded “Oh, of course, thinly sliced Korean ribs.” Once I knew I could get the ribs, I needed to know more about the sauce. To my surprise this incredible sauce that I loved all these years comes from a bottle and is only available in Canada where I grew up. Tragedy.

But instead of merely accepting this fate, I began experimenting how to develop the perfect marinade. And this past weekend when I hosted my own Sunday night BBQ, guests raved about the ribs and were dying to know more about “Miami Ribs” and the special sauce I was able to recreate.

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These ribs are easy for a BBQ night and pair well with any grilled side, including grilled pineapple and asparagus.

Grilled Korean Ribs

Ingredients

10 Korean thinly sliced ribs

1 ¾ cup ketchup

5 Tbsp soy sauce

3 Tbsp brown sugar

1 Tbsp Franks Hot Sauce (or hot sauce of your choosing)

1 tsp water

2 Tbsp Garlic Powder

1 tsp Onion Powder

A pinch of ground pepper

Directions

Whisk together ketchup, soy sauce, brown sugar, hot sauce, water, garlic powder, onion powder and pepper.

Pour marinade over ribs and place in fridge for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight.

Preheat outdoor grill on medium heat. Place marinated ribs on medium heat for 3-4 minutes on each side. Serve with grilled vegetables or pineapple.

Posted on June 30, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Delicious Israel

I am headed to Israel today for three glorious weeks of working, traveling and what else: eating.

Last summer I was also fortunate to be in Israel for three weeks during which time I got to spend an afternoon with Inbal Baum of Delicious Israel. Inbal is American, born and raised outside of Washington, DC, who also happened to grow up with several close friends of mine. She moved to Tel Aviv five years ago and though she is a trained lawyer, she started Delicious Israel to satisfy her passion for food and travel.

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Inbal doesn’t run your typical food tours. Of course, you will taste some of the best hummus, baklava and other delicacies while walking and traveling with her. But it is Inbal herself and her approach to storytelling that made our time so unique. During our Levinsky market tour I learned about the history of Tel Aviv, how oranges played an integral role in the economic development of Israel and the different culinary influences of Greek Jews. And let me share: I loathe anything history-related, but I loved this.

Walking around the Florentin neighborhood with Inbal felt like walking around my own neighborhood, where everyone waved as we walked past. We stopped at stalls and stores on every block, tasting this, trying that, with friendly faces that greeted us everywhere.

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At one of our first stops, a small cafe and restaurant, one of the other patrons shared a plate of sausage with us and then insisted on taking shots of Arak together. I mean, who am I to say no to a shot of liquor in the middle of the afternoon with a complete stranger!? I said yes.

We sat on benches outside of Benny’s shop, simply known by its address Levinsky 41,  where he mixed us up a refreshing, artisanal soda concoction. Made with one of his homemade crab apple syrups and several other delicious (though unknown) items thrown in, it was the perfect treat on a humid Tel Aviv afternoon.

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We spent time at Yom Tov Deli where I tasted house-cured meat, homemade marinated olives and brought home feta-stuffed peppers for my husband.

But above all else it is Inbal’s storytelling that makes the deliciousness of her tours come alive. I learned so much about food, Israel and the people who make this neighborhood such a unique culinary destination.

When I knew I was headed back to Israel this summer, Inbal was one of my first phone calls. I will get a chance to spend time once again with her in the next few weeks and I can’t wait to eat and learn with her. So if you are headed to Israel, definitely check them out. Delicious Israel offers culinary walking tours, shuk and cook classes, regional winery tours and tasting and even Shabbat dinners. Not to mention the amazing cast of characters you will get to meet wherever she takes you.

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Inbal Baum can be reached to arrange tours through her website, Delicious Israel

Posted on June 26, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

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