Depending upon our national, regional or ethnic backgrounds, most of us grow up with very definite ideas about what is or isn’t a proper breakfast food. Well, get ready to move out of your morning comfort zone. Breakfast is following lunch and dinner into the Great Cultural Exchange of Cuisines, as our taste buds are being seduced by exotic concoctions.
In fact, these days it would be foolish to assume that the couple digging their chopsticks into a traditional Japanese breakfasts of rice, pickled vegetables, seafood and tea in a hotel dining room are actually from The Land of the Rising Sun. Neither should we be sure that the man assembling a curry platter is a native of India; or that the woman sampling tahini, humus and grape leaves has even a drop of Greek blood in her veins. I’ve learned this lesson in a posh Swedish hotel, while watching a group of Somali travelers share a smorgasbords of herring, smoked salmon, sardines and cheeses fit for a royal Scandinavian feast.
Actually, it’s a good thing that we are falling in love with — and are shamelessly poaching on — each other’s cuisine. Teaching our taste buds to be adventurous has certainly made our meals — and especially our breakfasts — a lot more fun. Who knows… This cross-cultural culinary cooperation might even lead to better international relations.
Speaking of which… The versatile Israeli Breakfast is a culinary United Nations which blend and complement in perfect harmony the flavors of European and Middle Eastern foods.
Fair disclosure: The Israeli smorgasbord—with all organic ingredients—has long been included in our breakfast rotation and is a favorite of family and friends who have sampled it at our table. Its most exciting feature is adaptability to various tastes and preferences, from the easily bored gourmet who likes to improvise by combining unusual foods and flavors but has no use for measuring cups or spoons, to ‘locavores’ enamored of fresh, seasonal and locally grown foods.
The main component of an Israeli Breakfast—you may call it ‘the anchor’—is a fresh (raw) vegetable SALAD which should have at least four ingredients but ideally more—tossed together in a bowl with or without dressing; or each item served separately in its own bowl, au nature, for individual assembling.
Essential Salad Veggies include carrots and radishes (sliced or shredded); bite-size-cut bell peppers (green, red, yellow, etc.) and tomatoes (heirloom, cherry, Roma, etc.); sliced mushrooms; chopped or ring-sliced onion (red is best); sliced cucumber (the long, curved and striped Armenian is delicious; other types should be young and slender); zucchinis (slender, firm, sliced or cubed) are good replacements to cucumbers; bite-size broccoli and/or cauliflower florets; celery (sliced or chopped); a leafy vegetable (bib, Romaine or crinkle lettuce, Belgian endive, spinach, Arugula, etc.) and various sprouts.
Protein items include hard-boiled eggs (plain, deviled or as egg salad with mayo, onion, herbs and spices); humus (Middle Eastern chickpea dish comes with various ingredients and flavors, is often served with a sesame sauce called tahini and garnished with olives or tomatoes); olives (black, Kalamata, green, stuffed, etc.); herring (with onions, in wine, cream or other sauce); sardines (best is wild caught, with skin and bones, in olive oil); lox, Nova or other smoked fish.
Breads and Pastry include bagels, English muffins, sliced fresh or toasted breads, pita, crackers, muffins, cakes or cookies.
Anything else your taste buds crave.