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 1/2 cups white wine or plain white vinegar
3 Tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 a small yellow onion, halved then sliced into half-rings
1 large carrot, sliced into thick chunks
1 head cauliflower, washed and separated into florets
3 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds (optional)
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon white mustard seeds
3 Tablespoons coriander seed
1 teaspoon turmeric
A pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
Bring a 2-quart saucepan of salted water to a boil. Boil the cauliflower and carrots for 3 minutes; drain and transfer to a large bowl. Add the onion and stir to combine.
Mix spices, not including sugar and salt, together in a medium bowl. In a large sealable container (canning jars will work, but are not required if you plan to eat the salad soon and store in the fridge), add half the spice mixture. If dividing the salad among several jars, divide half the spice mixture among the jars, saving the other half to top the vegetables.
Add the vegetables into the container(s), leaving about 3/4 of an inch of space at the top of each container.
In a 4-quart saucepan, bring 2 cups water and all the sugar and salt to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally until fully dissolved. Add vinegar and stir to combine.
Pour the vinegar solution into the container(s), leaving 1/2 an inch of space below each rim. Divide remaining spice mixture evenly between the jars.
Close or seal container(s) and transfer to the refrigerator. Allow to marinate at least 24 hours before serving; the longer you wait, the better.