New Jersey and Israel: Roads Scholars
The New Jersey-Israel Commission (https://nj.gov/state/njic.shtml) was established to foster a spirit of cooperation between the State of Israel and the State of New Jersey. New Jersey is not the only American state with such an office, but here at Israel Matters we have discovered that New Jersey and Israel do in fact have a lot in common. For starters, Israel and New Jersey take up roughly the same amount of space on a map, that is, they are about the same size! But how do people get around?
New Jersey is famous for its highways – a Saturday Night Live gag went something like You’re from Joisey? Which exit?” — and with ten Interstates and 39,000 highway miles total, that’s not a bad question. But Israelis are also always on the go, and Israel’s 48 designated highways and six freeways get people where they want to be (unless, just like a New Jersey traffic jam on the Pulaski Skyway, you get stuck in a parking lot on the Ayalon Freeway in Tel Aviv). But say you wanted to traverse New Jersey from top to bottom. Take the most famous highway in New Jersey, made popular by Bruce Springsteen’s song Born to Run: “Sprung from cages on Highway 9, chrome wheeled fuel injected and steppin’ out over the line…” The New Jersey portion of US Highway 9 runs from the George Washington Bridge to Cape May and covers about 170 miles.
Not to be outdone, Israel’s longest road is Highway 90! It is not 10 times as long as New Jersey Highway 9, but it is a longer road covering 300 miles from Metula in the north on the border with Lebanon to Eilat on the Red Sea. Highways 9 and 90 run along the eastern edges of New Jersey and Israel respectively, but the things you encounter along the way could not be more different. Highway 9 offers a potpourri of diners, bars, motels, gas stations and tattoo parlors. While the scenery certainly changes driving from Elizabeth through Toms River to Atlantic City, Highway 90 wins. This road runs from mountains in the north through the lowest point on earth at the Dead Sea before reaching Eilat. It passes through Kiryat Shmona, Rosh Pina, Tiberias and the shores of the Kinneret, Jericho, Ein Gedi, Massada, and the Arava.
Now one can’t embark on a road trip without finding a few places to stop for a snack. Israel’s Highway 90 goes right through Tiberias and that means all the falafel and fish you can eat as Tiberias is famous for both. At the other end of the country in the Arava you will find Kibbutz Yotvata with its famous dairy and Mocha Milk (among other flavors). If you want to spoil yourself, spend a night at one of the Ein Bokek resorts on the Dead Sea. Now Jersey Highway 9 has its spots too, like Beachwood’s Der Wunder Wiener and Marge’s Diner in Clermont (with a sign that says “Eat Here and Get Gas” – uh, no thanks…).
What about the western sides of Jersey and Israel? The famous New Jersey Turnpike traverses the state before running down the Pennsylvania border to Delaware. Israel’s Highway 2 runs along the Mediterranean coast from Rosh Hanikra on the Lebanese border through Nahariya, Akko, Haifa, Zikhron Yaakov (home of Carmel Wines), Caesarea, Hadera, Netanya, and Herzliya before ending in Tel Aviv. We could go on and on, but you get the idea. Next time you visit Israel, rent a car and drive baby drive!
Eating Like an Israeli – Memula’im… Stuffed Vegetables
Miriam, who lives on a Kibbutz near the northern border of Israel, is now almost 90 years old. If you visit her, in less than 2 minutes there will be dozens of plates in front of you, filled with delicious Israeli foods she has prepared and quickly snatched from the fridge. (I don’t think I actually ever saw her eat anything – she just cooks and serves and insists you keep eating.)
At least two of Miriam’s plates are always filled with “Memula’im” – assorted vegetables stuffed with some combination of vegetables, meat and/or rice. Memula’im (literally “stuffed things”) are a staple in many Israeli homes, with the recipes varying with family heritage. Miriam’s recipe requires more time and patience than I have in the kitchen, so I use one I’ve adapted from Jamie Geller (jamiegeller.com – a great site for delicious kosher recipes). The scooping is the time-consuming part, but the recipe below makes it a little easier than what Miriam did – so give it a try, and you’ll be eating like an Israeli!
Veggies for Stuffing – Use some combination of these veggies – the amounts of each will vary by size and which you choose to use:
- small (not mini) zucchinis (cut in half)
- medium tomatoes
- bell peppers, any color (it looks great if you use the minis if you can find them)
- baby eggplants
- ½ large onion, chopped
- 1 pound ground beef (You can also use ground turkey, or you can make it vegetarian by substituting plant-based meat substitutes, mixed vegetables, mushrooms, or lentils for the meat.)
- 1 cup uncooked rice (We use basmati brown rise)
- ½ cup parsley
- 2 teaspoons Baharat spice (Baharat is a middle eastern spice combo, and includes Allspice, black pepper, nutmeg, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves. You can just ad-lib with your own spices based on this list or buy on Baharat on Amazon if you can’t find locally)
- 1 chopped tomato
- 1 tablespoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 3 cups water
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Prepare the veggies for stuffing by hollowing them out. We use an apple corer to make it easier especially for the eggplant and zucchini, but you can use a knife and spoon also (Hint: A grapefruit spoon is super useful for this). Hollow them out as much as you can – just enough to maintain their shape.
- Mix the filling ingredients in a bowl. (Yes – the rice is added uncooked.)
- Stuff the veggies with the filling, not packing them too tightly. Leave ¼ inch of space at the top because the rice expands while it cooks.
- Place the veggies into a large pot with the open parts facing upwards. There should be enough veggies so that they are tight enough to allow them to remain upright while they cook.
- In a separate bowl, mix the tomato paste, garlic, water, salt, and pepper. (We sometimes add all the scooped out and veggies (chopped up or food processed) to the sauce – why not?)
- Pour the sauce over the veggies (it doesn’t need to totally cover them). Cover the pot and simmer for 1 hour on medium heat.
Memula’im can be eaten hot or cold – delicious either way!