There are few things as wonderful as Israeli breakfast. Unlike the cheerios-and-milk American routine (or, even worse, the ubiquitous but tasteless nutrition bar), Israeli breakfasts are adventures in flavor, texture, and spice. Like the people themselves, Israelis’ breakfast foods are bold, with assertively tangy flavors, and comprise the freshest ingredients.
Think stacks of fresh pita to be dunked in hummus, labane (a thick yogurt-based cheese), fruity olive oil, and za’atar–the essential Israeli herb. All this accompanies fresh sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, as well as a spread of other cheeses and much more.
Here are recipes for three Israeli breakfast spreads: a nutty hummus, homemade labane, and Muhamarra — a Syrian red pepper and walnut spread with a kiss of pomegranate syrup. Serve these spreads with sliced vegetables, but also try them with my final recipe, pickled cauliflower. Its flavors are strong enough to stand up to the spreads. The cauliflower is great 24 hours after preparation and only improves with age.
1 teaspoon paprika (omit if using Aleppo pepper)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne or 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses, or 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, or to taste
1 cup walnuts (more, if a chunkier texture is desired)
1 12oz jar roasted red bell peppers, drained, or 2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into strips
If using fresh red peppers, spread in a single layer on an oven sheet in a 400-degree oven to roast, about 45 minutes, until skin is blistered and flesh is soft. Allow to cool 15 minutes, then carefully remove skins from pepper strips and discard.
Blend all ingredients except pita chips in food processor until a coarse puree forms. Season with salt to taste. Transfer to bowl; garnish with fresh parsley or mint, and a drizzle of olive oil, if desired. Serve with chips.