It finally rained and it was such a rare climatic event that we all stood outside getting completely soaked, marveling at the wonders of nature.
The very next day, the soil still damp, we went on a cave-hike with friends from Sweden. From above, Hirbit Midras doesn’t look very interesting, just patches of scrub brush covering rocky terrain, but underneath is a labyrinth of secret passages. During the Bar Kokhba revolt of 132 AD–136 AD, these manmade caves were used by Jewish rebels to escape Roman troops. For a short time, the rebellion was successful in re-establishing an independent state of Israel in parts of Judea but eventually the Jews were crushed, beginning two millennia in the Diaspora.
These caves were not only temporary hideouts but were an amazing self contained ecosystem. Food was supplied by the underground columbaria, where it is thought pigeons or doves were raised for food and rain water was collected in large cisterns to use during the summer months. Carob, olive and pomegranates trees still grow wild in the surrounding hills and probably supplemented their diet. In the spring time, edible wild greens and herbs such as za’atar, sage and chicory could also be gathered.
Today it is a great place to explore, and thanks to our friends, we have a new game called “let’s see who can keep their shirts clean after crawling in the tunnels” needless to say it wasn’t me (in fact it wasn’t anyone from my family). I was more than happy to get out of that claustrophobic place but the boys went back in determined to do it without flashlights. Eek!
Here is a quick colorful soup for a cool autumn day, great after a day of caving (although in truth, we had kebabs)
Autumn Soup with Butternut Squash
I thought about roasting the butternut squash and sweet potatoes and caramelizing the onions for a richer, fuller flavor but at the end, because of lack of time and energy, I did it the simple way. I wasn’t disappointed with the results. It was still hearty enough that I would make it again.
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chunks
3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped into large chunks
1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped into large chunks
2-3 stalks of celery, chopped into large chunks
1 onion, cut in half
yogurt for serving
In a large pot add all the chopped vegetables and cover with water. Boil until the vegetables are soft. Drain the vegetables, reserving the broth. Put all the vegetables, except the onions in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add a bit of the broth to dilute the puree. Transfer back to pot and add more broth if necessary. Serve with a dollop of goat yogurt and a sprinkling of herbs
Roast the vegetables first and caramelize the onions before softening by boiling or steaming. Fry a bit of freshly ground coriander and garlic in olive oil and drizzle on top.