Kickstart your morning with an amazing kibbutz-inspired meal

Can you imagine sitting down to a breakfast buffet of fresh fruit, yogurt, cheeses, smoked fish and eggs, and an amazing selection of salads, breads and pastries?

For tourists, this is a typical breakfast feast in Israel. This hearty meal most likely originated on the kibbutz or communal farm, where residents woke up at 4 a.m. to work in the fields, then came in at 8 a.m. after half a day’s hard work and sat down for a nourishing meal together.

This dairy breakfast has become a tradition all over Israel, and most of the hotels there serve this gourmet delight. One of our most memorable buffets was at the Dan Carmel Hotel, overlooking the port of Haifa, at the top of Mount Carmel. 

Whatever the season, this meal usually includes home-grown products such as fresh local fruit and vegetables, Jaffa orange and grapefruit juice, various types of hard cheeses, yogurt, leben, cottage cheese, cream cheese, salty goat cheeses, garlic-cheese spreads and bowls of olives. It also features several kinds of smoked fish, sardines, salted cod, fillet of herring rolled around olives and Israeli-style lox — not salmon, but sliced white fish from the Mediterranean dyed red to look like the real thing. And, don’t forget to try the chopped herring!

The spread also includes every kind of salad imaginable: eggplant salad with homemade mayonnaise, tahini salad, cucumber with dill, avocado with egg salad, avocado diced in a vinaigrette sauce, red cabbage salad, carrot salad and chopped Israeli Oriental salad, a special treat. It is all delicious, and it’s arranged buffet-style on platters and bowls on long tables.

Soft- or hard-cooked eggs and scrambled eggs also are available, along with several types of dry or hot cereals. Expect an assortment of pastries and bread served with butter, honey and preserves, and, of course, milk, coffee or tea.

To make your next breakfast an Israeli “breakfeast,” try these special salad recipes

ISRAELI ORIENTAL SALAD

  • 4 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled and diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 6 radishes, sliced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1/2 head iceberg lettuce, chopped
  • 6 white mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and grated
  • 10 green or black olives, pitted and chopped
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, place tomatoes, cucumbers, green and red bell peppers, radishes, red onion, lettuce, mushrooms, carrots and olives; toss gently, using a large wooden spoon. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss and serve immediately.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

CUCUMBER SALAD

  • 2 cucumbers, peeled and sliced thin
  • 2 green onions, trimmed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried dill, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Place cucumbers in a colander, sprinkle with salt; set aside for 30 minutes to drain.

In a large bowl, toss drained cucumbers with green onions and dill. In a small bowl, blend together sour cream, vinegar and sugar; pour over cucumber mixture. Toss lightly, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill and toss lightly again before serving. 

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

EGGPLANT AND TAHINI SALAD 

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 cup peeled and chopped cucumber (approximately 1 cucumber)
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cut eggplant in half lengthwise and place it cut side down on a baking sheet lined with foil. Bake in preheated oven until skin is charred and inside is tender, about 20 minutes. Allow eggplant to cool enough to handle, then peel and discard skin. 

Place eggplant pulp in a large mixing bowl and mash with a fork. Add cucumber, onion, garlic, 1/4 cup minced parsley, tahini, olive oil and lemon juice; stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Before serving, stir thoroughly, then transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with remaining 1/4 cup minced parsley.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

CHOPPED HERRING SALAD

  • 1 (12-ounce) jar pickled herring
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 2 hard-cooked eggs
  • 1 green apple, peeled, cored and quartered
  • 2 slices bread, crust removed
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Lettuce leaves

Place herring, onion, eggs and apple in a food processor; blend until coarse. Soak bread in water for a few minutes, then squeeze dry. Spoon herring mixture into a bowl; blend in the bread. Serve on a bed of lettuce leaves.

Makes 6 servings.

HERRING AND ORANGE SALAD

do-orange-salad
  • 1 (12-ounce) jar herring in wine sauce, drained
  • 1 red delicious apple, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 orange, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Sliced oranges for garnish

Cut herring, apple, onion and orange in 1/2-inch slices; toss in a large bowl. Combine sour cream and sugar; pour over herring mixture. Blend thoroughly with a wooden spoon.

Cover and refrigerate overnight. Before serving, toss gently. Garnish with orange slices. 

Makes 6 servings.

CARROT AND RAISIN SALAD

  • 10 carrots, peeled and shredded (3 to 4 cups)
  • 4 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, toss carrots with raisins. In a small bowl, blend mayonnaise, orange juice, lemon juice and sugar. Pour over carrot mixture; toss. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 6 servings.

Judy Zeidler is a food consultant, cooking teacher and author of “Italy Cooks” (Mostarda Press, 2011). Her Web site is JudyZeidler.com.

Main photo: Carrot and Raisin Salad. Photos by Dan Kacvinski / Food preparation and styling by Judy Zeidler