Recently I went to Or Yehuda with my friends Ran and Ilana to have Burikot (plural for Burik or Burika), a traditional North African dish that is basically a filled triangle of fried dough. Ran had been telling me about this place for sometime, and we finally found the time to go try them.

The thin dough is filled with either a potato filling, that has the consistency of mashed potatoes, or an egg. The dough is then folded over the filling to make a triangle shape and then deep fried. The dough gets a great fried crisp, while the filling is cooked enough to heat it up without overcooking the filling. The potato has a great taste and consistency, while the egg is perfectly poached. My favorite version was the egg, which was cooked really nicely in mine. The Burik can be eaten on its own or made into a sandwich with hot pilpel chuma (or just chuma) sauce spread inside.

The dish is considered North Africa, specifically being attributed to Tunisia and Libya. I'll let the Tunisians and Libyans fight over who is the real originator of the Burik. The use of pilpel chuma would tend to lend credence to the Libyan claim. However, chuma is so similar to Tunisian Harissa, that its really difficult to say.

Or Yehuda has a bad reputation amongst many Israelis. It is a poor town, and it suffers from higher rates of crime and other societal ills than lets say...Northern Tel Aviv. However, Or Yehuda does have a strong representation from a variety of different ethnic groups. Jews from Georgia, North Africa, and Ethiopia, amongst others call Or Yehuda home and Burikot are only one of the culinary reasons worth visiting if you have the time.
On our tour yesterday I learned a new technique for cooking octopus that I want to share. A couple on the tour told me that their landlord in Cyprus, after killing the octopuses/octopi, puts them in a washing machine and turns on the spin cycle (no water) for 15 minutes to tenderize them. So next time you buy a new washing machine, don't throw away the old one, rather keep it as an octopus tenderizer.
I just got back from milium (reserve duty) this past week and I have prepared the following review of the food I ate:

"It's not so good."

Having said that, there was enough food, nothing served was inedible, and I have no complaints. 
I made olive oil for the first time this past weekend, and its been a bittersweet experience. Picking olives all day and seeing the fruits of this labor in the form of truly incredible olive oil is an exceptionally gratifying experience. On the other hand, you can only really do it once every two years. Perhaps that makes it more special, but it really does suck to have to wait too.
My friend/cousin/older brother Yarden lives in a small town called Shaked in northern Shomron/Samaria overlooking the Jezre’el Valley. He has three olive trees in his front yard, and his relatives who live in Shaked have a few more trees as well. Beyond these trees, he has a piece of land just outside Shaked where he has already planted over 130 olive trees and his goal is to have a thousand. These trees are too young to bear fruit, so we only picked olives from his front yard. This was quite enough, because between the six trees from various places in Shaked around 250 kilos of olives were picked. It is awesome, but tiring as one can imagine. You can shake the trees all you want, and a lot of olives fall this way, but you still have to go branch by branch and get what is left. A ton of olives don’t fall on the mats you lay on the ground, so you have to pick those up to. Its a very tiring job.

By Saturday afternoon we had all of our olives and we went down the hill to a nearby Arab town, Kfar Qara, where there is an olive press where you can make olive oil. Making olive oil has gone high tech for some time now. Initially you put the olives in a vat, where they are led up a conveyer belt. The olives go through a deep wash before they are crushed. The oil, juices, and other olive liquids go into a series of machines that use  some kind of centrifugal force process (my physics knowledge is not the best) that separates the oil from the rest of the liquids. The end product is an amazing oil that I’m not going to even try to describe in this post. The 200+ kilos we picked ended up being 27 liters of oil, and this might last Yarden and the Shaked family a year.

Picking olives and making your own oil is something I really recommend to anyone who has the chance. You can only do it every other year, as olives trees only bear fruit every other year, so don’t pass up any opportunity you have.  So this is all I have to say about olive oil until 2012…

Every two years I make olives. Olives only bear fruit, or at least only bear the most fruit, every two years. It seems like all the olive trees in Israel seem to be on the same clock, because people only get excited about the olive harvest on the same second year.

The first time I made olives in Israel was while I was in the army. There were some olive trees on my base and I picked all the olives and made some really good varieties. My army buddies hated the base we were serving at so much they refused to eat the olives, but they missed out on a good batch. The second time I made olives I picked the olives from Ramat HaNadiv, near Zichron Ya'akov. Those also came out very well. This year I picked olives from my friend Yarden's olive trees at his home in Shaked. Yarden actually has an olive orchard just outside of Shaked, but they're young trees and won't bear fruit for a few more years. I have no doubt they'll be excellent olives when they'll be ready, but in the meantime the trees in his front yard are just fine.

Making olives is really, really, really easy. First, just pick them. Then, in order for them to soften and soak up flavors you have to make a slit in each one or crush them. Most people take their olives to a place with a crushing machine. These machines make slits in the olives automatically. I like to punish myself, so I make a slit in each one on my own. It takes a bit of time, but you feel more of a connection to each olive this way;-)

Once you've made a slit, somehow, in all of the olives put them in a bowl and cover them with water. The olives will start turning from the bright green color they are on the trees when ripe to the darker olive green color one is used to seeing when eating olives. This will take about a week to two weeks and you need to replace the water each day during this time.

Once your olives are the right olive green color you get to flavor them. Put them in an airtight jar and cover them only to the top with water. For each cup of water needed add one spoonful of salt. At this point you can add whatever you want to them. Lemon and garlic, hot pepper, red wine, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, and the list can go on forever. This year I'm keeping it simple with just lemon and really hot peppers that I also picked from Yarden's garden. Once you have everything mixed around together cover the jar so its air tight and put it in a cabinet for at least 3 weeks and even up to a year. The longer the better. I usually wait a couple of months at least before opening them up.

The olives with the lemon, hot pepper, salt and olive oil. They're ready to soak up flavors for the next few months. 

Next weekend I'm going back to Shaked to harvest olives for oil. Stay tuned for my post on that. Also....stay stuned for my post in a few months when the olives are ready.