Yom HaAliyah, or Aliyah Day, became an official holiday in Israel in 2016, celebrating immigration as a fundamental core value and acknowledging contributions made by immigrants. The holiday falls on Nisan 10, following the biblical date on which Joshua led the Jewish people across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land. But since that’s right before Passover, and schools are closed, most Israelis observe the holiday on Cheshvan 7, or Oct. 26 this year.
One impact of those who made aliyah dates back to the 1930s, when the Levinsky Shuk opened in Tel Aviv offering spices and ingredients used by Jews from Greece, Turkey and the Balkans. Later shops began selling Persian, Iraqi, Georgian and even Asian foods as new immigrants arrived.
Here are two recipes that rely on spices you might find in an Israeli shuk that are also available in Bay Area spice markets, speciality stores and online. To buy small quantities, look for a dealer who sells in bulk (not packaged spices).
Vegetable Stew with Walnut Sauce
Walnut sauce (see below)
2 Tbs. oil
2 cups chopped onions
1 Tbs. minced garlic
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground red pepper
¼ tsp. ground coriander
¼ cup thinly sliced carrots
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
3 cups cauliflower florets (each about 1 inch)
2 cups chopped mushrooms (½-inch pieces)
1 cup water
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
½ cup chopped fresh mint
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
¾ cup pomegranate seeds, divided (optional)
Make walnut sauce (below). Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté onions until softened. Add garlic. Sauté until golden. Stir in salt, black pepper, cinnamon, red pepper and coriander. Add carrots, red bell pepper and cauliflower. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften. Add mushrooms. Sauté for 2 minutes. Add water, cover and steam until vegetables are almost cooked, stirring occasionally. Add more water if needed.
Stir in cilantro, mint and parsley. Cook uncovered until vegetables are tender. Mix in ½ cup pomegranate seeds. Serve immediately (over rice or pasta if desired), topped with room temperature walnut sauce and garnished with remaining seeds.
Walnut sauce: Using food processor, process 1 cup walnut pieces, ½ cup chopped green onions, 1 Tbs. garlic and ½ tsp. salt into a slightly chunky paste. Stir in 2 Tbs. pomegranate molasses and ¼ tsp. each of ground coriander, ground fenugreek, ground turmeric and ground red pepper. Add ¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro and ¼ cup water. Stir. Mixture should be pourable but thick. Add water if needed. (Mixture will continue to thicken.)
Mushroom Paprika Soup
2 Tbs. oil
3 cups chopped onion
1 Tbs. finely chopped garlic
1 tsp. paprika
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
¼ tsp. ground cumin
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
½ cup chopped celery
1½ cups chopped red bell pepper
4 cups chopped cauliflower florets (½-inch pieces)
14 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
4 cups vegetable stock
4 cups water
4 cups chopped mushrooms (½-inch pieces)
1 Tbs. tomato paste
Heat oil in soup pot. Sauté onions until softened. Add garlic. Sauté until golden. Stir in paprika, salt, black pepper and cumin. Add carrots, celery, red bell pepper and cauliflower. Sauté, stirring, until coated in spice mix and starting to brown. Add tomatoes with juice, stock and water. Cover and simmer until vegetables begin to soften. Add mushrooms. Cook until vegetables are about 75 percent done. Stir in tomato paste. Simmer uncovered, stirring often, until vegetables are tender. Taste. Serve hot topped with sour cream and chopped dill or parsley, if desired.