Sustainable cooking means healthy food from local sources and fair worker’s wages. Sustainable agriculture not only maintains, but also enriches the natural resources that our food supply depends on. Join Green Prophet as we tour the Middle East region offering the quintessential sustainable dishes each country has to offer. Today, visit Israel.
Multicultural Israel’s cuisine changes almost daily. It’s a tasty process of evolution as each of its dozens of ethnic streams contributes to the heady cooking pot. The early French and Italian influence over fine dining slowly gave way to flavors that people know from home, and from North Africa in particular. Today, many chef’s restaurants feature traditional North African dishes like beef head meat with chickpeas or stuffed artichokes in piquant sauces that emigrated straight out of their grandmothers’ kitchens.
But not everything need be meat-based. With the abundance of produce available (and see our February seasonal produce post here), it’s only natural to concoct delicious things out of vegetables in season. Sweet potatoes and carrots are fat and hearty right now. Combined with the mild tartness of prunes, they make an excellent late-winter dish to serve with rice and a leafy salad. You may substitute smen preserved butter for ordinary butter if you wish.
Tajine of Sweet Potatoes and Prunes
Ingredients (try sourcing organic food when you can)
3 tablespoons olive oil plus 1 of butter
1″ slice of fresh ginger root, chopped fine or grated – or 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 small cinnamon stick or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
16 shallots (or 3 small red onions, peeled and quartered)
2-3 medium sweet potatoes, around 700 grams – 1- 1/2 lb. total
2 medium carrots
175 grams – slightly less than 1 cup pitted prunes
1 tablespoon dark honey or silan date syrup
2 cups hot vegetable stock or water
1 small bunch cilantro (coriander leaves), stems removed and leaves chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
Salt and black pepper to taste
Peel the shallots and leave whole. Peel the sweet potatoes and carrots and chop into bite-sized pieces.
Heat the oil and butter, if using, in a tajine or heavy-bottomed pot. When the fat is hot, add the ginger and cinnamon. If using ground spices, stir to prevent burning and lower the heat.
Add the shallots. Allow them to color slightly, then add the sweet potatoes and carrots. Cook for a few minutes, stirring, until the vegetables start to soften.
Add the prunes and honey, stirring them in.
Add 1-1/2 cups of the hot stock, and bring all to a boil. Lower the heat so that the liquid barely simmers. Cover and cook for 1/2 hour, stirring once in a while. Moisten the vegetables from the reserved 1/2 cup of stock if necessary.
When all the vegetables are tender, add half the cilantro and mint. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep the pot uncovered and let the juices reduce to a syrup – another 3-5 minutes’ cooking.
Before serving, scatter the remaining cilantro and mint over the top.
Serve right away, and enjoy!
More delicious and sustainable Middle Eastern foods on Green Prophet:
- Iranian: Wheat Berry Pudding
- Saudi Arabian: Chicken and Rice Kabsa
- Jordanian: Mansaf
- Moroccan: Chickpea and Spinach Soup
Photograph by Miriam Kresh; Miriam also blogs at Israeli Kitchen.