Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Homeland

The Mediterranean is a very diverse region. While my entries have mainly targeted the olive-growing areas, the sea itself, and of course Italy, there are so many other facets one could tackle. It is a big sea, after all - from the European north, to the African south, and the Asian east.
This map is sweet! It shows the different land uses in the country. Note the desert.

Tonight we head to a small country over which many battles have raged, to which many groups lay claim, and which has some fantastic food! Israel has a history of biblical proportions. Ancient people led pastoral lives, with herds of hardy sheep and goats, but they also engaged in agriculture appropriate to the climate. As part of the fertile crescent, Israel's traditional staple crops include emmer, rye, lentils, and other hardy grains and legumes. But, we also get figs, dates, and grapes. If I think too much about the country and region in general, I wonder whether I'm imagining this seemingly magical mix of wasteland and breadbasket (and, crazy enough, ever-growing forests!)

In fact, Israel's success in supporting human population has come to attention of other water-scarce nations. Today I was perusing the Worldwatch Institute's newsletter and what should they have but an article on Israeli drip irrigation technology. Seeing as 60% of the country is comprised of the Negev desert (see map above), irrigation is the only way to support agriculture in the region (and, might I add that many ancient civilizations had quite sophisticated irrigation systems). A leader in developing drip irrigation technology that is water and energy efficient, Israel is now under consultation about transferable methods for drought-stressed regions of Africa. This has huge implications for some of the world's most food insecure populations that live on the continent.
So, what did I make for you tonight? Not certain that it is Israeli in origin, necessary, but it was quite tasty!

Fall Colors Israeli Couscous

½ cup cous cous (Israeli are good, Lebanese are even better!)
3/4 cup diluted vegetable stock
1 delicata squash
1 cup purple cauliflower
1 clove garlic
1 tbs orange Muscat vinegar
1 tbs olive oil
salt to taste

1. In a 400F oven, roast cubed and seeded squash (you can eat the skin easily) and cauliflower for about 30 minutes, turning after 15. Roast garlic in some extra olive oil in a foil packet, at that time.
2. In a pot, heat olive oil. Toast couscous for about five minutes over medium heat, until starting to brown. Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat to low and simmer for 12 minutes until all liquid has been absorbed.
3. Toss cooked couscous with veggies, smashed garlic, orange vinegar or juice, and salt. Enjoy!

And, kids in DC, if you are craving some tasty falafels - cheap, convenient, and tasty pita pockets are up 18th street (and close to me, so come visit!)

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