Celebrating Israel Independence Day

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Jamie Geller
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Shawarma Chicken and Chummus Pitas with French Fries

This year Yom HaAtzmaut is on Thursday, April 26, 2012.

So, probably you wanna know what I'm gonna make.  It's not like Shavuos where I wait for an excuse to make cheesecake, I don't really wait for Yom HaAtzmaut to make Israeli food.  Hummus and Tahina are staples in our house - we eat them with everything from chicken nuggets, to pizza and on salads.  Other middle eastern dips like Turkish salad and babaganoush are slathered in between butterflied potato borekas or smothered on spicy beef cigars weekly at our shabbos table and we eat falafel like it's going out of style.

Roasted Garlic Hummus with Oven Baked Pita

In the last few years boneless, skinless dark meat chicken cutlets have hit the scene and I am so thankful we here stateside have caught up with what they call pargiot in Israel.  Pargiot, aka dark meat chicken cutlets are moist, tender, juicy and perfect for an easy homemade shawarma.  My local supermarket offers them as cutlets, nuggets and fingers but you can easily cut strips from the cutlets yourself by using a sharp knife - make 'em about 1-inch wide and the length of the cutlet.  Yes, yes, yes if you are in the know then you know traditional shawarma is shaved lamb, chicken, turkey, beef or a mixture thereof but this quick & kosher version gives you the same taste, in a fast family friendly version that will take you but minutes to make for dinner.  There are a few available shawarma spice blends available on the market -- making my life all that much easier.  But if you can't find it  make you own shawarma spice by combing: 1 tablespoon each coriander, cumin, cardamom, chili powder, steak seasoning plus 1 teaspoon smoked paprika .  Stuff your shawarma in pita pockets with "chips" an absolute must, and of course by "chips" I mean fries when I am talking Israeli food and then add in whatever you like.  We of course go for hummus and  tahina and I like lots of shredded fresh crunchy lettuce.

If you love Israeli food in addition to a ready to go shawarma spice mix you should also have two more spices in your cabinet, always.  Za'atar and Sumac.  Za'atar is roughly a mix of oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, hyssop, sesame seeds, sumac and salt and I love combining it with olive oil plus a touch more kosher or sea salt and dipping my challah into it.  Simply beyond anything else you have ever experienced when it comes to challah condiments.  Sumac a purplish red spice while often interchanged with paprika because of the look actually has an unmistakable and quite remarkable tangy lemony flavor -- great on fish and meat, in salads and on hummus.

We love, love, love! Israel in our house and have a dream to move there G-d Willing sometime soon.  Until then let's dream up our favorite Israeli foods in honor of Yom HaAtzmaut.

What are your favorites?

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For more Israel Independence Day posts see:

Israel Independence Day - Get Your Grills Out

Israeli Recipes from Israelis