When I first got here (has it already been ten months???), I could not find a simple can of tomato sauce. You know, like Hunt's. It turns out you can't find plain ol' tomato sauce in a can here. Sure, they have all kinds of canned tomatos and tomato purees, but I have yet to see a can of sauce. They do sell the stuff that comes in a jar--like marinara sauce. That costs about 15 shekel, and has more calories and fat than the simple stuff. What is also available is tons and tons of tomato paste, which I didn't really know what to do with, aside from putting a tablespoon in a sauce I make. I gave up trying to find traditional tomato sauce--one of the things I've had to make peace with living here.
But maybe I don't have to.
Last Shabbat, I invited Mazi and her nieces to spent Shabbat at our home. Of course, I invited her mother as well. I love her mother, but I have to admit I had an ulterior motive: she is one of the best cooks on the planet. Mazi's mom was born in Iraq and then emigrated to Israel as a young girl. And I knew that if I invited her to my home, she would have none of the old Ashkenazic standards--well maybe my matzoh balls are acceptable, but really she looks upon Ashkenazic cooking with a sort of disdain. I grew up on her food. Yes, I am the granddaughter of Polish and German Jews and as a kid, I knew exactly what Majedera, Lachim Ajin, Yapra (I think that's how you say it), Kube (YUM!!) and a host of other traditional Sefardic foods were. And don't tell my mom (again?) but I used to eat rice and beans on Pesach. They were religious, and if they could eat it, why couldn't I???
Mazi and her mom arrived here in Modiin about 3:00. By 4 PM, the soup for the Kube was up, the fish was being sauteed, and the sauce for the fish was cooking.
And then I learned something: all that tomato paste? Israelis make sauce out of it by adding some water. DUHHHH!!! As I watched this woman cook, I asked lots of questions. Of course, there are no recipes, but just watching her was a huge help. She made "schug"--basically a Sefardic hot sauce hot enough to clean your sinuses out for the rest of your life. This week, I decided to attempt it myself:
Of course, I tasted it! And it came out really good, almost as good as the original.
If you'd like to try it, here's the recipe:
3 heaping TBS of tomato paste
Mix that with enough water to make it more like a "sauce" consistency (I added about 3/4 of a cup)
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
A handful of cilantro, chopped
A pinch of salt
Hot pepper flakes to your liking (I added about 2 teaspoons--we like it HOT!!!!)
Be prepared for some smoke to come out of your ears!
Enjoy and Shabbat Shalom.