Happy Independence Day!


Today is Israel’s Independence Day. Like all Jewish holidays, it starts in the evening, which means it makes an excellent opportunity for fireworks. We celebrated with a picnic on our roof. For whatever reason, every municipality has its own display or two, and since Gush Dan is so crowded with cities, and we’re so centrally located, we saw no fewer than a dozen different firework displays over the course of the evening. Givatayim started things off, followed by Ramat Gan, possibly Bnei Brak and a few other municipalities off in the distance that we couldn’t identify. Tel Aviv, of course, took the cake — possibly because we were on a roof a block away from city hall. If we’d been any closer, we’d have been singed.

In any case, parties must have food. Independence Day is traditionally a barbecue/meat holiday, but since I was in charge of things, I pulled together a few simple salads to keep us going between firework displays. The following provided steady supply of light food for 10-12 people. Total preparation time: No more than an hour.

PASTA SALAD: A bag of cooked spiral pasta, chopped Kalamata olives, grated Bulgarian (or feta) cheese, chopped fresh basil leaves, olive oil and salt.

VEGAN PASTA SALAD: A bag of cooked spiral pasta, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, chopped fresh basil leaves, olive oil and salt.

TABOULEH: I accidentally bought two massive parsley bunches two days in a row, so this was a good excuse to use up the excess. I “cheated” and made quick tabouleh, not chopping things as finely as usual and leaving out some of the usual ingredients, but it tasted fine. My tabouleh contained: 1 bunch of parsley, 3 cucumbers, 2 tomatoes, a handful of chives, a sprinkle of cumin, juice of one lemon, olive oil, salt, and pinches of black pepper, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg.

VEGGIE STICKS: Chopped peppers, celery and carrots.

DIP #1: Buttermilk mixed with dried onions, paprika, salt, pepper and a spoonful of mayonnaise to make it a bit creamier.

DIP #2: Buttermilk mixed with fresh grated onion, salt and a spoonful of mayonnaise.

DIP #3: Nigella tahini, for the vegans. I found the raw tahini at Tiv Taam and was intrigued that it was black. It’s made entirely from ground sesame seeds and nigella (black cumin or ketzah). I mixed it with water, salt, lemon juice, olive oil and a bit of parsley salvaged from the tabouleh.

PITA AND HUMMUS: Store-bought.

POPCORN: From a microwave bag, but only because I couldn’t find loose kernels at any of the stores open yesterday. I usually like to pop my popcorn in a pot on the stovetop, and season it with cumin, hot paprika and salt. It makes your fingers nice and yellow.

STORE-BOUGHT COOKIES: Just to make sure no one went hungry.

ICED TEAS: I made a few pitchers of iced teas. For each 2-liter pitcher, I brewed about 3 tablespoons of loose tea in no more than a liter of water, added a pinch of baking soda to prevent bitterness, added 3 tablespoons sugar, strained out the tea leaves and filled the pitcher with the tea concentrate and cold water. This takes almost no work, but needs to be chilled in advance.

WINE: We had a few bottles, including one of my favorite wines, the Carmel Winery’s Selected Young Riesling. It isn’t exactly a wine-lovers’ wine, since it would be best described as sweetened white grape juice with bubbles, but that may be why I like it.

LOTS OF CANDLES: Votives in reused glass jars make an evening picnic.

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