PHOTO: Food rainbow.
Photo by Efrat Lichtenstadt http://what-efrat.blogspot.co.il
I see rainbows.
Yes, June was Pride Month around the world. And yes, Tel Aviv Pride was a few weeks ago. And yes, the Supreme Court recently made same-sex marriage legal across the United States.
But I’m not talking about those rainbows (though I’m loving those, too).
I’m talking about the rainbows that greet me every time I go to Shuk HaCarmel (the Carmel market) here in Tel Aviv, where I live. (Maybe you’re seeing these rainbows at your local market, too?)
I can spend hours in the Carmel market or Machane Yehuda, Jerusalem’s market. Where other people see grit, dirty pavement, shabby stalls, and piles of boxes and trash, I see endless possibility, and – especially in summertime – rainbows. Just last week I lugged home cherry tomatoes and watermelon (red), fresh apricots (orange), bell peppers (yellow), avocados and bunches of mint and parsley (green), and eggplants (purple).
My rainbow-colored glasses go far beyond the markets, too. I’m not vegetarian, but lately I find myself, more and more often, bypassing the browns and beiges of meat and chicken for a technicolor quilt on my plate: luscious beet slices resting on a bed of greens, grated carrots that sparkle with dried cranberry jewels, the ubiquitous Israeli salad of strikingly geometric tomato and cucumber cubes.
Luckily, here in Israel, eating the natural rainbow is easy. One my favorite local chefs, Eyal Shani, is known for making the humble cauliflower king – he serves it whole in a paper bag, roasted simply with olive oil and salt – and for waxing poetic about tomatoes (his Instagram handle is even @eyaltomato) and going just a little too far with his description of zucchinis.
Many other local spots are giving produce lots of attention without going overboard as well. At Tel Aviv’s HaAchim (“The Brothers”), my favorite dish is grilled lettuce, which is slightly charred and served warm topped with lemony tahini and chopped pistachios. HaBasta in the Carmel market offers a salad made of pitted cherries garnished with chopped jalapeño, garlic, olive oil and cilantro. And, of course, Israel’s quintessential summer food consists of vibrant watermelon cubes paired with “Bulgarit,” salty, feta-like cheese (add fresh chopped mint leaves if you’re feeling fancy and extra colorful).
But just because you’re not in Israel doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy this edible rainbow at home. Visit your local markets and pick up the brightest produce you can find (think sweet corn, tomatoes, zucchinis, strawberries, fresh greens, and so on). Be creative, and mix colors, textures, and flavors – salty, sweet and crunchy all have a place in your salad. For a truly Israeli-style meal, serve up a spread of different salad combos – and go easy on the lettuce; these are meant to be filling, not to be some dainty side that is forced down for virtue and health’s sake!
Here are some of the colorful combinations that I’ve enjoyed so far this summer: corn cooked and sliced off the cob and tossed with tomato, avocado and cucumber cubes; zucchini sliced into ribbons and served with avocado and sugared pecans; spicy arugula with roasted sweet potatoes, feta cubes and toasted pumpkin seeds then dressed with a squirt of silan (date syrup) and olive oil. And, of course, you can never go wrong with the classic Israeli palette: tomatoes and cucumbers, dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and salt (chopped parsley and red onion optional).
I see rainbows – and I taste them, too.
Merav Levkowitz is a writer, editor, and content strategist (www.meravwrites.com). She speaks six languages and studied international relations at Georgetown University. She lived in Washington, DC, for several years before moving to Tel Aviv in 2014. In addition to managing her content consultancy, she is pursuing an MBA at the Technion – Israel’s Institute of Technology. She blogs about life in Israel on her personal blog, Why Did You Come Here, Motek? (http://whydidyoucomeheremotek.tumblr.com). Merav loves all things food and travel, and at any given moment she is planning her next meal or her next trip – or both.