Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Pico de Gallo

Pico de Gallo

I recently got back from a month-long trip to Mexico. Adjusting to the rhythm of ordinary life (versus the rhythm life takes when you’re on vacation, and you have no worries or concerns) was tough.
The way I finally got over this mental jetlag was going into the kitchen and cooking something. *

One of the things we liked about the restaurants in Mexico was that in almost all of them, a complimentary appetizer of tortilla chips (a.k.a nachos) was offered along with some form of salsa. The term “salsa” was confusing for me at first, since I’m used to it being a red sauce with a paste-like consistency, made mostly of tomatoes and chilies. It is, in fact, just the Mexican word for “sauce”.

During our trip we came across several types of salsa. In the Yucatan area, where we spent about two weeks, it always consisted of Pico de Gallo and sometimes also of Salsa Verde.

In the Chiapas and Oaxaca areas we only got a reddish liquid-like sauce in a varying degrees of spiciness, which I liked a lot less.

Taken at La Parrilla, Playa del Carmen
Tortilla chips with pico de gallo (left) and salsa verde (right).

One of the reasons I enjoyed my Pico de Gallo so much was that it reminded me of an Israeli staple – Salat Yerakot Israeli (Israeli vegetable salad). Borrowed from the Arabic cuisine, it is a finely chopped salad of cucumbers and tomatoes, seasoned with salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon. Sure, you could add some onion, parsley, radishes, olives, lettuce, carrots or what have you, but the basic pairing of cucumber and tomato has to be there. It has to be super fresh, cut by hand. You will also find it at any local falafel stand, as a mandatory pita stuffing.
The salad is also part of my daily supper, ever since I was very young. I even remember that when I was old enough, maybe five or six years old, my father handed me a (rather dull) knife, and let me cut parts of it myself.

I used a recipe from Bon Appétit magazine, and it was quite good. Since I only thought of making this salsa around lunch, the best nachos I got my hands on were Toasted Corn Doritos (they sell them here as “Natural Flavored Doritos”), and they were a relatively decent substitute.

We had this as an appetizer for our lunch and I was immediately flooded with memories of white sand beaches and turquoise waters.

* David Lebovitz interviewed baker Nick Malgieri and credited him with this inspiring quote:
“"Bake'll feel better," he says. Which somehow always seems to work!”

Pico de Gallo

Bon Appétit, July 2000
Stephan Pyles
1 1/2 pounds plum tomatoes, seeded, chopped
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons minced seeded jalapeño chilies (about 2 medium) - I omitted these, instead using crushed dry chilies
1 garlic clove, minced

Mix all ingredients in medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover; chill.)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

About Holy Cheese

Holy Cheese is a blog written by a 27 year old woman from Tel Aviv, who works as a software developer.

I first discovered food blogs about a year ago, and have been fascinated by many of them ever since. I discovered that so many people from all over the globe were writing (and taking amazing photos) of very interesting food.

After reading for some time, I felt I had something to contribute. I feel that the Israeli cuisine is unique in what can be called a Mediterranean Melting Pot, wait, I’ll explain: On the one hand - local food (lots of grains, a large variety of fresh vegetables, ocean fish, olive oil) that is the essence of Mediterranean and Arabic cuisines.
On the other hand, many heritage foods brought from all the various countries that the Jewish people immigrated here from (mostly Russia, Poland, Morocco and Iraq but also Yemen, India and Argentina and many more).
A typical dinner at a typical local home would mix signature dishes or cooking techniques from several national cuisines without giving it second thought.

A little about me – I have loved reading restaurant reviews since about the age of twelve. I have always tried to experiment in the kitchen as a kid, mostly pushing the limits of our microwave in new directions (I’m not sure the manufacturer ever meant for anyone to cook cucumbers or formage blanc in them, but I tried anyway.)
I really like curling up in bed with a good cookbook.

I grew up in a Kosher keeping household: not strict enough to own two sinks, but we separated meat and dairy products, dishes and silverware. Never ate pork or seafood (fish notwithstanding).
When I moved out of my parents’ house, it took some time for me to find a new balance and to re-examine my boundaries regarding the kosher laws. I kept adhering to most of the ones I grew up with, but becoming lax mostly on the time period between eating meat and dairy.

The cooking – I’m much more of a cook, that a baker. I choose relatively healthy recipes incorporating fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs, grains and chicken.
When I bake, it’s mostly sweet (though, I too have fallen for the No Knead Bread.)