A Galilean feast

by Sarah on March 21, 2014

organic vegetables

There’s an exuberant potager’s garden surrounding Erez’s Komarovsky’s Galilean cooking school, the lush vegetation tumbling over the rocky borders. As I make my way down the stone path I recognize za’atar, rosemary, white savory, thyme, lavender….herbs used in folk medicine and to flavor regional cuisine. These are the same plants Erez uses in the food he prepares- food that harbors the essence of the land.

herb garden

I have been invited to a culinary workshop and wine tasting courtesy of Kinetis, an organization hosting four leading wine connoisseurs. We meet on the balcony overlooking the Mediterranean scrub brush, oak, olive and terebinth trees dotting the horizon. There is wine, a pleasant breeze and trays of food harvested from the garden that day.

Yarden wine at erez Komarovsky

{Above: Yarden Wine on the balcony}

wood burn stove at Erez Komarovsky 's

{Above: Left: view from the garden, right: wood stone oven}

Erez Komarovsky 's garden

This is just an aperitif. The real eating hasn’t even started. First, Erez leads the group to the yard where the core of his cooking begins. He breaks off leaves and stems from aromatics and passes them around “This is white savory”, he explains “it doesn’t lose its taste when heated”. Many of the herbs are indigenous and have been foraged for centuries as part of the local food culture. Others such as rosemary and lavender have been introduced and adopted well to Israel’s semi-arid climate.
The fig tree is still bare, but green leafy vegetables are at their peak. Celery, kohlrabi, sweet peas, Turkish spinach and broad beans threaten to take over the garden. Erez tears off a dark green leaf of the “wasabi” plant, with its jolting taste of horseradish. I notice a cabbage as big as those grown in Alaska, where daylight hours of up to 24 hours cause them to swell to enormous proportions.

tomato and fish stew

bread and cheese

{above: Right:  Bread baked around a grape vine branch}

When we reach the dining room, we are greeted by Michael Every, a winemaker at the Golan Height Winery. He introduces us to the Yarden wine series, discussing the varieties grown and the terroir associated with them- the climate, topography, altitude and other characteristics affecting the growth of the vines and the flavor of the final product. At the head of the table, Erez combines several ingredients on a platter to create a beautiful palette, the equivalent of a Japanese garden in its sophisticated simplicity. Between sips of wine, the feast begins.

erez komarovsky cooking

Michael Every of Golan Height's winery

{Above: Michael Every of Golan Height’s Winery, behind Erica Duecy and David Honig capture the splash}

And as we dine, our cups are frequently replenished. I am out of my league. Miquel Hudin, Erica Duecy, Richard Jennings and David Honig lace their conversation with wine jargon which I am not familiar with. They have the ability to differentiate between single polyphenol molecules, teasing out aromas and flavors normal man cannot not perceive. At least that is what I tell myself, because honestly, I can’t taste the molasses or brown sugar even when I close my eyes tightly. I was told Robert Parker zapped his tasting abilities with an over indulgence of expensive cigars, perhaps I did the same thing with my love of spicy food.organic food

kibbeh nayyeh

{Above: raw ground meat being pounded in a mortar and pestle to make kibbeh nayyeh}

Erez meanwhile continues to surprise us with compelling variations of traditional dishes. Tabouleh made with crunchy lentils and broad beans, kibbeh nayyeh (raw meat kibbeh) made with lamb and roasted almonds, grandma’s chicken soup elevated with freshly picked spinach and sweet peas, spicy chicken shashlik on oak tree branch skewers….
Dessert is served outside- a homey apple roll doused generously with orgeat syrup, heady with the scent of almonds. Hot drinks are sipped and soon it is time to depart.

We drive back through the painted landscape of Israel, the bright pink and purple stone fruit trees in full bloom and yellow mustard growing luxuriously along the highway. Spring has arrived.

landscape through window

cat on blue couch

Websites and twitter of the wine writers:

Erica Duecy: Erica Duecy , Twitter
Richard Jennings: RJonWINE.come  , Twitter
David Honig:  Palate Press , Twitter
Miquel Hudin:  Vinologue , Twitter

Kinetis is a nonprofit organization promoting Israel’s creative energy. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter

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