Let me tell you something, it is HOT in Tel Aviv right now. Not that I ever had any doubts that summers in Israel were anything less than scorching, but after a year in the climate-controlled comfort of suburban New Jersey, weeks of 90+ degree weather (Fahrenheit, or about 32C for the rest of the world) with more than 70% humidity can shock the system. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still love the summer – days spent on the beach, cool drinks, warm nights, and everything that comes along with it –but it also means trying to find ways to beat the heat without 24/7 air conditioning. This mostly involves well-placed fans, icy cold drinks, and meals that taste good cold. Enter vichyssoise.Continue Reading…
My arrival in the heart of Provence was accompanied by ravenous hunger. Though the memory of my earlier socca lingered, vegan goodies proved to be scarce during the long journey to the farm. As luck would have it, there was a railroad strike in progress – of which I was thankfully informed by the front desk staff at the hostel in Nice – and with each leg of my journey, I found myself scrambling to find the information assistants, show them my tickets while explaining (tout en français, I might add), where I was going.
After two trains and a bus, I arrived in the small Provençal town of Tarascon, where the farmer waited for me with his truck. We drove through a picturesque countryside that was straight out of a Disney movie, before turning off of the fast-moving main road directly into the driveway of the farm. The house was a stone cottage, renovated on the inside, with an exceptionally large garage.
“Rhymes with bacon, which we don’t eat. Because we’re vegan…” sang Rose, as we stood on the train platform, eager to begin our evening. We bristled with anticipation, and the warmth of a shared bottle of Prosecco–a welcome sensation in the brisk Berlin air that was chilling the train platform. Tonight was to be my formal introduction into the world of the famed Berlin nightclubs that Rose adores. Though it’s still not really my scene (despite my love of dancing), I was eager to traverse the dark corners of the nightclubs, as well as participate ever so slightly in the local drinking culture.
As my penultimate day in Israel transitioned into my ultimate Israeli night, I realized that despite wanting to enjoy the many delicious vegan meals on offer in Tel Aviv (before setting off on my European adventure), I had a lot of food left in my kitchen that needed to be used up. I also had the good fortune to already be spending my time with friends who needed feeding. After a quick stop at the corner store for some supplemental fruits and veggies, I devised a plan to use up the abundance of herbed polenta chilling in my fridge, as well as the garlic and lentils that had been generously given to me by a friend several months ago (I preferred to save personal food items such as these for when I had guests, so that I didn’t incur the wrath of my ever temperamental roommates should I share anything hailing from the communal pantry). Earlier that morning, I had begun my polenta experiments, attempting to both pan-fry and bake the starchy squares. Baking was the clear winner, from the ease of execution , to the crispy exterior. The pan-fry used too much oil, inducing a veritable volcano of grease, while failing to achieve a crisp and golden outer crust. That morning, I served the polenta with a sauce of succulent caramelized onions and creamy techina (because I didn’t have quite enough onions to serve them alone). This style of polenta preparation had the potential to be not just an upscale snack or brunch, but also a deceptively fancy dinner.