I had started to write this post in the summer, while we where visiting Israel, but never finished it for the same reasons I haven’t been able to start or finish any posts since leaving Los Angeles back in June: lack of time, lack of motivation and lack of concentration. I decided it would be a shame not to post it, because it’s the kind of recipe anyone who is looking to expand their vegetable repertoire should know about.
- 1 medium celeriac (celery root) or parsley root or Jerusalem artichokes
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
- ½ cup blanched almonds or walnuts, roughly crashed, or ¼ cup tahini butter
- 2 - 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Olive oil
- Sweet paprika for garnishing the plate
- 1 red hot chili pepper or jalapeño - thinly sliced - optional
- Peel and roughly dice the celeriac, then put into a large saucepan. Add ½ teaspoon cumin and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil then lower the heat to medium. Cook the celeriac for about 15 minutes or until it's tender. Remove from the heat, drain, and let the celeriac cool completely before the next step.
- Put the celeriac into a food processor with the garlic, almonds, lemon juice, ½ teaspoon cumin, and salt. Process until the texture is smooth and velvety.
- Taste and correct seasoning – add more salt or lemon juice if necessary.
- Spread it on a flat plate, drizzle a little bit olive oil, sprinkle sweet paprika, garnish with chili peppers or parsley leaves, or both, and serve.
The idea for this recipe came from HaBasta. A hole-in-the-wall restaurant next to Shuk HaCarmel in Tel Aviv. Somehow, I hadn’t noticed it on my way to and from the market, until a friend of mine suggested we go there for dinner. To make the HaBasta story short: if the chef were to ask me to assist him, without pay, for a month or two, I would gladly say yes! I thought I knew almost every food/vegetable/plant based combination there is, but apparently I have a lot to learn.
How the hell didn’t I think to make humus with roots and nuts?
Habasta is not the only restaurant in Israel, or the world, that cooks fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients, but it is definitely up there when it comes to unique, quirky, and clever food combinations. Both times I was there I had dishes I’d never had anywhere else, like this masabacha shorashim (“coarse root humus”) and the burekas stuffed with crab meat.
After wolfing down the second order of masabacha, and several attempts to figure out the recipe through taste alone, I asked our friends (who’ve adopted this place as their second home) to ask the Israeli chef/owner (who by now is their best buddy) what exactly he put in there. Honestly, I assumed that he would find a way to avoid exposing his secret, but, miraculously, he shared it with me! Nonchalantly and even mentioned that it can be made with almost any type of root vegetable.