You’re on vacation. It might seem weird to shop for food in the local outdoor market of a foreign country and then go to someone’s house that you don’t know and cook up the produce you just bought, set the table and serve. But it’s a lot of fun for the whole family and you don’t have to do the dishes afterwards. After eating out at restaurants, day after day, it can be a refreshing break and in this case, you’re being invited to a renovated 100 year old house in Abu Tor, a mixed Jewish and Arab neighborhood that was right on the border between Israel and Jordan from 1948 to 1967 with a great view of the Old City. In consultation with Ruti Yudecovitz of Shuk and Cook you choose what you’ll be preparing for dinner then you all head out to Mahane Yehuda market to buy the ingredients and then come back to Ruti’s and prepare the meal. Then when everything is ready, you sit down with a glass of fine Israeli wine and enjoy your meal. A unique Israel experience.
And if you are interested in tasting locally prepared foods and visiting other areas in Israel, Orly Ziv of Cook in Israel offers a number of culinary tours, one day tours in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and a two-day tour of the Galilee, including accommodation at a boutique hotel and traditional hospitality and dinner in an Arab-Israeli home. Each tour includes a cooking lesson or workshop where you will not only learn about cooking in Israel and Israeli cuisine, but prepare a full meal using local and in season ingredients to be enjoyed by all.
These culinary focused tours can be combined with nature tours throughout Israel. In the hills of Jerusalem and in the Galil we can harvest zatar, the green oregano-like herb (hyssop in English) used in Middle Eastern cookery.
Depending on the season we will be able to find the 7 species that grow here: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and oil and dates (honey). Vines are grown throughout Israel – you’ve probably heard of the vineyards growing in the volcanic soil of the Golan but there are also vineyards in the Galil, the hills of Jerusalem, the Shfela and even the plateau of the Negev. There are some 200 wineries throughout Israel and most encourage you to visit and taste their wines. There are also olive presses that go back thousands of years that we can find on our hikes and we can visit places to learn how olives are pressed into oil today.