Israeli markets are full of treats, including fresh falafel stuffed with tahini. // © Mindy Poder
Eating and learning are two of my favorite activities. When I can do both simultaneously — well, that’s my happy place. So, whether I am at home or abroad, I love meandering through local food markets to see what the local hands and soil can come up with, and how the local chefs think. Israel’s markets (shuks) are among the world’s best, offering samples of traditional Mediterranean specialties in addition to local novelties inspired by the country’s range of cultures, people and religions.
Among the new tastes I added to my repertoire? Zaatar, a mixture of dried herbs — basil, thyme and oregano — combined with dried sumac, salt and sesame seeds, as well as something I still haven’t been able to find here in the U.S.: tahini-filled falafel. Falafel — fried chickpeas and spices — are among my favorite decadent vegetarian foods, but I’m used to stuffing them into pitas dripping with tahini and brimming with other toppings. In other words, falafel sandwiches are a messy meal and an unsavory accompaniment when nosing around for more food. I never got to meet the genius who tailored the snack for the market shopper, but his bite-sized treasures remain my all-time favorite market find.