Sunday, October 18, 2015

Jerusalem Hills

We are here in Tel Aviv for my partner's work.  He's in academia, and he's here on a two-year Fulbright post-doctoral grant.  While we are here, the Fulbright program sponsors trips and events around the country.  This past week we were supposed to visit Jerusalem and check out the Old City, but we had to change our plans due to the security risks.  Currently Jerusalem is in turmoil, especially in the Old City area. 

The new itinerary did have us in Jerusalem for one night, including dinner at Eucalyptus restaurant.  I wasn't able to take pics but everything was delicious, based on the seven species that are traditional to Israeli cooking, merged with an Arabic influence.

We scoped out the mazes of rock dwellings at Bet Guvrin-Maresha National Park, including caves used to house and train doves, cistern systems, olive oil processing, and burial caves.

Columbarium Caves for dove training; each dove got a little nook to themselves.
Some caverns had high ceilings...
...while others were small little nooks.
Sidonian Burial Caves
Out of all the interesting art and ye olde graffiti, I decided to take a pic of the elephant, obviously.

The bell caves were much more spacious.  We saw a bride and groom taking pictures!
After the caverns, we passed through the agricultural terraces in Sataf, along with the Scroll of Fire, a Holocaust memorial sculpture by Nathan Rapoport.  The Scroll is located in the Forest of the Martyrs, which will eventually contain six million trees to symbolize the Jewish lives lost in the Holocaust.

View from the terraces.

Scroll of Fire in the Forest of the Martyrs
The right scroll represents oppression, the left represents rebellion and freedom.
Our final stop on the sightseeing tour of the Jerusalem hills was the Sorek Stalactite Cave Nature Reserve, the only stalagmite cave in Israel.  It was discovered fairly recently, 1968, so it is well preserved and has been carefully maintained over the years.

It was cool, but the lighting reminded me of a ride in Disney Land.  I half expected a mine cart filled with singing Pirates of the Caribbean to whip around a corner.
We closed out the trip with lunch at a funky little place called Grandpa's Gallery in Tzafririm that acts as a sculpture gallery, hair salon, Kurdistan cultural center, and restaurant (for larger groups, by appointment only).  Oh. Em. Gee. This. Food. Was. Flawless.  Very vegan friendly!  Everything was so simple, yet perfectly seasoned.  Even for the meat eaters, vegetables are the center of most meals in this area, which I love.
Counter-clockwise from upper left: vegetable and semolina dumplings in a stew; stuffed grape leaves, onions and cabbage; pickled vegetables; halva cookies; mint tea.
I wanted to buy at least four sculptures, or at the very least, just the peacock; AP said no.  Grrr.
I am so grateful that we have this opportunity to explore the beautiful countries of Israel and Palestine; we'd never have thought to explored these parks on our own, and we would certainly have never found the gallery!  It was a lovely way to start our overseas adventure.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Penne Ratatouille Bolognese

There is so much delicious vegan food here in Tel Aviv, my bank account is in serious danger!  Now that the holidays are over and we're getting settled into a regular routine, we've been cooking most of our meals at home.  

Last night I had some whole wheat pasta in the pantry that I wanted to use up.  I messed around and ended up with a delicious sauce, something in between ratatouille and bolognese.  In the US, "bolognese" generally indicates tomato sauce with meat in it, but traditionally bolognese is a sauce comprised mainly of meat with tomato added as flavoring.  So this is a mish-mosh recipe, but it's totally traditional as well. ;)

It's not a fancy recipe but it turned out so well that I had to share it!  

There's no way to make this pretty, but trust me, it was delish.
Penne Ratatouille Bolognese

8 oz penne
extra virgin olive oil, to taste
1 medium eggplant, diced to 1 inch
1 red bell pepper, diced to 1 inch
1 onion, finely chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups vegetarian burger crumbles (I rehydrated plain dry TVP and it worked perfectly)
3 tablespoons dried basil, or 1/2 cup fresh
salt and pepper to taste
6-8 oz tomato paste
1/2 - 1 cup water
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil (optional)
1 tablespoon tamari (optional)

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.  Make sure to use a huge pot of water, salted liberally once the water comes to a rolling boil. 

Meanwhile, heat a thin layer of olive oil on medium-high in a large, deep pan.  Once the oil is very hot, add the eggplant, season liberally with salt and pepper, and cook until soft, about 5-10 minutes. Drain the eggplant on a paper towel and set aside.

In the same pan, add a little more olive oil on medium.  Once the oil is hot, add in the onions and garlic.  Cook for 10 minutes until everything begins caramelizing, then add the red pepper.  Cook for another 5 minutes, then add in the TVP or crumbles and the basil.  Cook for another 5-10 minutes, adding a dash of salt and pepper.

Add in the tomato paste and work it through the crumbles to evenly coat them.  Add in about half a cup of water and see how everything looks- it should be the consistency of a sloppy joe or a chili, not a sauce.  Add more tomato paste if it is too thin, or more water if it's too thick.  Add in the toasted sesame and tamari, if using (not necessary but it gives the dish a little extra depth), and add the cooked eggplant back to the pan.  Turn heat down to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes, then taste and adjust the seasonings to your preference. 

Add the drained pasta and toss to coat.  Serve with bread slathered in (vegan) butter and nutritional yeast on the side for sprinkling.

Dinner on the balcony.  I'm having a nooch bowl at every meal from now on.
Notes and Thoughts:
-Adding some zucchini would be nice for next time.
-I'm still building my spice cabinet little by little (based on what I can translate at the store), I'd pick up some red pepper flakes next time.
-If you don't do pasta this would be delicious served over roasted potatoes, or even on it's own as a stew.
-If you are TVP adverse, you could sub in cooked brown lentils instead.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Husky On Board

As you know, we brought our 80-lb huskamute Pup with us to the holy land.  It was never a question of whether or not to bring him- he is part of our little family, and we stick together like the codependent nuts we are.

Regarding the logistics, the amount of time, money and sanity that I lost during the process is laughable.  Here are some notes so that others may be spared the ulcers and eye twitches that I had to endure.

Husky Pup Travel Checklist (see here)
1. Proof of Rabies Vaccination, Confirmed via Titer Test
Obviously!  What sort of pet owner doesn't vaccinate for rabies?  And surely it won't be hard to get this confirmed.

2. Electronic Microchip
Well of course if you're dragging your pup halfway around the world you'll want to keep tabs on him, so you've already microchipped him and are good to go here!  Right?

3. Certificate of Heath from your USDA Certified Vet (Endorsed by USDA)
No worries, your pup is healthy, and the certificate has to be signed and filed within 2-10 days of travel so there's no real rush.  Did you even need to start all of this paperwork three months in advance?  Probably not, but geez, better early than late!  You are so on the ball it's sickening.

4. Airline-Appropriate Crate
Done and Done.

Luckily he likes small cozy spaces, so he got used to his crate quickly.

Husky Pup Travel Checklist Reality Check
1. Proof of Rabies Vaccination, Confirmed via Titer Test
Oh, there's only one lab in the US that is USDA certified for titer tests?  In Kansas? And it takes up to 6 weeks to get results?  That's ok, we have plenty of time.

2. Electronic Microchip
Oh crap, the Pup's microchip isn't international?  That's ok, you can just get him re-microchipped.  What do you mean, he'll need to get re-vaccinated for rabies if he gets a new microchip?  Do microchips cancel out rabies vaccines?  Does the vet use old needles from the wild raccoon section of animal control for microchipping? Fine, you'll just re-vaccinate him then... WUT, then you have to wait 30 days before doing the titer test?  And then wait 6 more weeks for Kansas to get back with the results? That's cutting it awfully close.  Ugh, fine, you'll just pay $300 for a scanner and bring it along with you.  This doesn't solve the issue of what happens if your Pup makes a break for it in Israel, but whatevs, you can worry about that later.

3. Certificate of Heath from your USDA Certified Vet (Endorsed by USDA)
LOL there are like 4 USDA certified vets in South Jersey and they are all ignoring your calls!  Great, your old vet in California wrote down the wrong microchip number on the Pup's files and now the new USDA vet is like, how do I even know that these files are for this husky, the microchip number is one digit off so I can't do the health certificate and maybe we need to re-do all of his vaccinations.  Meanwhile the CA vet is like, we refuse to fix the mistake on our paperwork for no good reason!  Ha!  You eat three packages of snack cakes and cry on the couch, then call the microchipping service and both vets in infinite loop until somehow it works out at the last possible minute.

4. Airline-Appropriate Crate
Your Pup chews up all the bedding in the crate and then gets an intestinal blockage requiring surgery.  Just to keep things interesting.

Long story short... hire a pet transport service.  It's gonna be expensive no matter which way you do it, and their experience is worth way more than you're paying.  With all of the above drama, we'd have never been able to get Pups onto the plane on our own, but even if things had gone smoothly there are still so many little steps, such as endorsing the paperwork and filing with the USDA and Israel (remember, Israel has a different work week than the U.S.!), that we didn't have to worry about since we had someone who knew exactly how to fill it out, what the possible hurdles would be, and how to deal with the roadblocks as they arose.  We used Premier Pet Relocation and and I cannot recommend them highly enough.

Such a pain in the ass...

But worth it! :)

Saturday, October 3, 2015


Greetings from Tel Aviv!

Beach life!
We finally made it!  AP, Pups and I are all safely in Israel and beginning our two year adventure here.  Or possibly, our two years of doing the same boring shit we'd be doing in the US, just in a different time zone.  

We've been exploring our neighborhood and getting a feel for the area.  It's Sukkot so a lot of people are on vacation.  Still, we've been able to get our ducks in a row with regards to our banking and home life situations.  We're walking everywhere- it's so nice to be mobile again after a month and a half in suburbia, land of minivans and drive-throughs.

Our new spot for bathroom breaks at the park down the street.
There are parks all over the city.

Mall rats are universal.
Veganism is huge in Israel - up to 4% of the population identifies as vegan - so I've been enjoying awesome meals everywhere I go!  I haven't had a dish yet that has not been amazing.  The produce here has so much flavor.  AP is eating veggies at every meal and loving it, I'm shocked.  Here's a sampling but check out my Instagram for more food porn.

Salad is served at almost every meal, including breakfast.

Simple roasted veggies in a pastry.  So fresh and tasty!
The best falafel in the city at Hakosem ("The Magician").
Bowls of salad and curries from Villiage Green all-vegan cafe.
ALERT:  There is vegan ice cream at every single ice cream shop
Stay tuned for more posts from the holy land.  It's been a whirlwind getting here, but we're ready to dive in and have a blast in this beautiful country.