For a stretch of about a year and a half I felt like I had been to Israel a million times. It seemed like every Jewish person I knew was going on Birthright and heading Israel for 10 days with a bunch of strangers.
Like clockwork there would be the obligatory “Going to Israel today!” post on Facebook and then depending on the wi-fi situation, either radio silence for a week or artistic shots of desserts, hummus, and group pictures with their new BEST FRIENDS.
And then once my acquaintances were back home they would flood my Facebook feed with hundreds more photos floating in the Dead Sea, sticking notes and prayers in the Western Wall, eating more hummus, and wandering around Tzfat. It got to the point where after stalking several other people’s trips I felt like I had already met the artist Avraham Loewenthal and tasted these simple wraps that looked like savory crepes.
My friend Cara and I did eventually make it to Israel where we turned strangers into a complex friend group, at least for those 10 days. We floated in the Dead Sea with them, came up with inside joke nicknames for most and spent our days going on surprise hikes that had us asking when were we stopping for food.
Early in the trip we visited Tzfat where I bought prints from Avraham, Cara lusted over an exotic but extremely expensive Menorah and we ate those freakin wraps that I had seen on Facebook a dozen times before.
The bearded men who ran the tiny stand deftly had several pans going filled with different stages of lunch.As the orders rolled in from annoying American 20-somethings they would pour a ladle of a crepe-like batter, which I later learned was Lahoh, into a screaming hot pan. As the bread cooked, the pan was moved to the next burner in the assembly line so a new wrap could be started.
The bottom of the bread got brown and crispy while the top slightly gurgled with little bubbles forming in the batter like when you cook pancakes. (That pic up there, that’s what the bottom of your Lahoh should look like. You really shouldn’t flip it over, and the top looks like a just cooked pancake with barely any color.)
Then the Lahoh is topped with a shower of grated cheeses. I’m not exactly sure what kind of cheese I ate that day but there was something sharp, something soft and melty, and heft came from a cheese that tasted like ricotta salata. To mimic those flavors and texture I use a ton of ricotta salata, a little bit of mozzarella because I don’t want the wrap to get too soggy and some parm for sharpness.
Since it is summer and there are barely any ingredients in this wrap, please use the freshest tomatoes you can get and don’t ever put them in the fridge or else their flavor will die. Every piece of produce in Israel is delicious, do not make this sad wrap using depressing tomatoes. If you don’t have amazing summer tomatoes then try slow-roasting whatever sad tomatoes are sitting in your kitchen. A low oven, a lot of salt and olive oil will make any bleh tomato taste delicious.
Now that you’ve got most of your ingredients going it’s time for condiments and the existential question of, “How spicy are you?”
I’d barely call Zhoug a hot sauce because it has texture more like a rough pesto than hot sauce. But the muddled green mixture is definitely hot. Jalapenos, parsley, and garlic are pulverized under a knife and mixed with olive oil and some spices. It’s easy to want to keep spreading the green sauce on the side of your wrap before folding it shut but beware. The pretty color makes the wrap enticing but also hot. Start small, you can always drizzle in more while you’re eating. Or you can always spice up the second wrap.
The Lahoh bread is so thin and if you can restrain yourself and not add in so much cheese that the wrap is falling apart then you should feel satisfied but not overwhelmed with food. Especially in Israel you’ll need this energy for the next hike that is always right around the corner, whether you know it or not.
- 3 cups flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
- 4 cups water, divided
- 2 large or 3 small jalapenos
- 1 cup parsley
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1/4 tsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
- 1 tsp zatar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 2 tbs water
- 1/2 cup ricotta salata, shredded
- 1/3 cup mozzarella, shredded
- 1/2 cup parmesan, grated
- Fresh tomatoes
- Mix together the flour, salt, yeast and 3 3/4 cups of water until there are no lumps and the mixture is like a very loose pancake batter.
- Cover and let rise in a warm spot in your kitchen for about 2 hours, the batter should double in size.
- After the batter has doubled and starts to form little bubbles in the mixture stir in another 1/4 cup of water.
- Let the batter rest for 10 more minutes.
- Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat
- Pour 1/2 cup of batter into the skillet, you want the lahoh to be crepelike not thicker like a pancake.
- Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes until the bottom of the bread is golden brown in spots and the top of the bread is no longer wet.
- Grate the three cheeses and chop the tomatoes
- To make the zhoug, roughly chop the jalapenos, parsley and garlic. You can also do this in a food processor but don't let the mixture become too smooth.
- Stir in the spices, olive oil and water.
- Season to taste.
- When the bread is almost done cooking, sprinkle a little bit of each cheese down the middle of the wrap.
- Top the cheese with a few slices of tomato.
- Spread some of the Zhoug(be careful, it's spicy) alongside the cheese and cook until the cheese has melted a little bit.
- Fold the wrap in thirds and eat immediately.