Israeli cuisine is very traditional and innovative. Let’s start with the most popular ingredients:
Hummus is a common part of everyday meals in Israel. It is made from ingredients that, following Kashrut (Jewish dietary laws), can be combined with both meat and dairy meals. Jewish immigrants arriving from Europe in the late 19th and early 20th century adopted much of the local Palestinian cuisine, including hummus, though it traditionally has been part of the cuisine of the Mizrahi Jews who lived in Arabic-speaking lands. The many Mizrahi Jewish immigrants from these countries brought their own unique variations, such as hummus with fried eggplant and boiled eggs prepared by Iraqi Jews, and Hasa Al Hummus, a chickpea soup preferred by Moroccans. The Yemenite quarter of Tel Aviv is known for its hummus with traditional skhug hot sauce. More recently, African immigrants have brought specialties such as Sudanese Hummus Darfur, with eggs, tomatoes, and grated cheese. Arab Israelis and Jews alike seek out authentic hummus in Arab hummusia, restaurants specializing in hummus dishes, making famous such Arab villages as Abu Gosh and Kafr Yasif. Enthusiasts travel to the more remote Arab and Druze villages in the northern Galilee region in search of the perfect hummus experience.
Although sometimes criticized as Jewish appropriation of Palestinian and Arab culture, hummus has been adopted as an unofficial “national dish” of Israel, reflecting its huge popularity and significance among the entire Israeli population. Many restaurants run by Mizrahi Jews and Arab citizens of Israel are dedicated to warm hummus, which may be served as chick peas softened with baking soda along with garlic, olive oil, cumin and tahini. One of the hummus versions available is msabbaha, made with
lemon-spiked tahini garnished with whole chick peas, a sprinkling of paprika and a drizzle of olive oil.
Chickpeas, the main ingredient of conventional hummus, have appreciable amounts of dietary fiber, protein, vitamin B6, manganese and other nutrients.
As hummus recipes vary, so does nutritional content, depending primarily on the relative proportions of chickpeas, tahini, and water. Hummus provides roughly 170 calories for 100 grams, and is a good to excellent (more than 10% of the Daily Value) source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, and several dietary minerals.
Fat content, mostly from tahini and olive oil, is about 14% of the total; other major components are 65% water, 17% total carbohydrates, including a small amount of sugar, and about 10% protein
In Israel, tahini (Hebrew: טחינה t’hina) is a staple foodstuff. It is served as a dip with flat bread or pita, a topping for many foods such as falafel, sabich, Jerusalem mixed grill and shawarma, and as an ingredient in various spreads. It is also used as a sauce for meat and fish, and in sweet desserts like halva halva ice cream and tahini cookies. It is also served baked in the oven with kufta made of lamb or beef with spices and herbs, or with a whole fish in the coastal areas and the Sea of Galilee.
n a 100-gram reference amount, tahini provides 592 calories from its composition as 53% fat, 22% carbohydrates, 17% protein, and 3% water (table). It is a rich source of thiamine (138% of the Daily Value, DV), phosphorus (113% DV), zinc (49% DV), niacin (38% DV), iron (34% DV), magnesium (27% DV), and folate (25% DV) (table). Tahini is a moderate source of calcium, other B vitamins, and potassium (table).
n Jewish observance, olive oil was the only fuel allowed to be used in the seven-branched menorah in the Mishkan service during the Exodus of the tribes of Israel from Egypt, and later in the permanent Temple in Jerusalem. It was obtained by using only the first drop from a squeezed olive and was consecrated for use only in the Temple by the priests and stored in special containers. In modern times, although candles can be used to light the menorah at Hanukkah, oil containers are preferred, to imitate the original menorah.
Olive oil was also used to prepare the holy anointing oil used for priests, kings, prophets, and others.[
Potential health effects
In the United States, the FDA allows producers of olive oil to place the following qualified health claim on product labels:
Limited and not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about 2 tbsp. (23 g) of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the monounsaturated fat in olive oil. To achieve this possible benefit, olive oil is to replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the overall number of calories consumed in a day.
In a review by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in 2011, health claims on olive oil were approved for protection by its polyphenols against oxidation of blood lipids, and for maintenance of normal blood LDL-cholesterol levels by replacing saturated fats in the diet with oleic acid. (See also: Commission Regulation (EU) 432/2012 of 16 May 2012). Despite its approval, the EFSA has noted that a definitive cause-and-effect relationship has not been adequately established for consumption of olive oil and maintaining normal (fasting) blood concentrations of triglycerides, normal blood HDL-cholesterol concentrations, and normal blood glucose concentrations.
A 2014 meta-analysis concluded that increased consumption of olive oil was associated with reduced risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular events and stroke, while monounsaturated fatty acids of mixed animal and plant origin showed no significant effects. Another meta-analysis in 2018 found high-polyphenol olive oil intake was associated with improved measures of total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, malondialdehyde, and oxidized LDL when compared to low-polyphenol olive oils, although it recommended longer studies, and more investigation of non Mediterranean populations.
Olive oil is an important cooking oil in countries surrounding the Mediterranean, and it forms one of the three staple food plants of Mediterranean cuisine, the other two being wheat (as in pasta, bread, and couscous) and the grape, used as a dessert fruit and for wine.
Extra virgin olive oil is mostly used as a salad dressing and as an ingredient in salad dressings. It is also used with foods to be eaten cold. If uncompromised by heat, the flavor is stronger. It also can be used for sautéing.
When extra virgin olive oil is heated above 210–216 °C (410–421 °F), depending on its free fatty acid content, the unrefined particles within the oil are burned. This leads to deteriorated taste. Refined olive oils are suited for deep frying because of the higher smoke point and milder flavour. Extra virgin oils have a smoke point around 180–215 °C (356–419 °F), with higher-quality oils having a higher smoke point, whereas refined light olive oil has a smoke point up to 230 °C (446 °F). It is a “popular myth” that high-quality extra virgin olive oil is a poor choice for cooking, as its smoke point is above the temperatures required for cooking, and has greater resistance to oxidation than most other cooking oils, as a result of its antioxidant and mono-unsaturated fat content.
Fresh oil, as available in an oil-producing region, tastes noticeably different from the older oils available elsewhere. In time, oils deteriorate and become stale. One-year-old oil may be still pleasant to the taste, but it is less fragrant than fresh oil. After the first year, olive oil is more suitable for cooking than serving raw.Choosing a cold-pressed olive oil can be similar to selecting a wine. The flavor of these oils varies considerably and a particular oil may be more suited for a particular dish.
The taste of the olive oil is influenced by the varietals used to produce the oil and by the moment when the olives are harvested and ground (less ripe olives give more bitter and spicy flavors – riper olives give a sweeter sensation in the oil).