Chickpea, Plum, and Fennel Salad

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I am asleep but my heart is awake.

Two years ago, I packed up my clothes, emptied my cabinets, and crossed the long, marbled hallway into Ben Gurion airport. I sat alone at my gate, eyes welling with tears, and I wrote a post about leaving Israel. When the plane took off, I said a private goodbye to the silence of my backyard on a Friday night, the soft Tel Aviv sand, and the aggressively loud banter in the markets. In that sweet moment, I completely lost my shit, frantically asked the man next to me if I could borrow his cell phone, and I cried hysterically into the stranger’s mouthpiece saying a final goodbye to Adam who was taking a later flight.

It was definitely dramatic. But the end of my 2008 Birthright trip was completely ridiculous. With snot and tears on my face, loose Israeli clothing on my body, sunburnt, exhausted, and filthy, I demanded that the agent remove my bags from the plane immediately because “I wasn’t ready to leave!” She was unmoved and, frankly, suspicious.¬†

Every time I leave Israel, I’m “not ready to leave.” But I didn’t think I’d go back by leading a Birthright trip. Nevertheless, the trip was a perfect return. It was hilarious, heartwarming, and sometimes gut-wrenching to see the places I love through the eyes of people seeing them for the first time — listening to everyone scream from pain in the Dead Sea, watching them cry at Yad Vashem, and their shock and exhaustion after getting around the shuk. And it was comforting to run into old friends in unexpected places.

Coming home is always hard, and it won’t be long till routine sets in again and the memories start to fade. But in the time being, I don’t know where to put the nostalgia.¬†Those 47 people gave me something special I will never forget. A sense of wonder. I’m exhausted from the trip, but I also haven’t felt so awake in years.

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What You Need

2 tblsp olive oil

2 lemons; skin peeled and piths removed (add more juice to taste)

2 plums

1 tsp sherry

1 tsp agave nectar (or honey)

salt & pepper

1 can of chickpeas (approx. 15 oz); coarsely chopped

1 fennel (plus fronds and leaves)

2 tblsp fresh mint; finely chopped

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How To Do It

Pour yourself some coffee.

Remove the lemon peels and the fruit of the lemons from the pith. Smell your fingers. Squeeze the fruit into a bowl along with the pieces. Mix in the oil, salt, pepper, sherry, and agave. Add the plums and chickpeas and mix well. Add the fennel, garnish with the fennel leaves and mint. Enjoy!

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