Breakfast in Nazareth
This post is part of my Palestinian cooking series (which includes regional cuisines) following my trip to Nazareth.
Breakfast in Nazareth
We visited family in Nazareth this summer and were fortunate to have breakfast at home each morning of our visit. The breakfasts were fresh, simple, and included some foods that I wasn’t typically accustomed to eating at breakfast. North American breakfasts tend to include toast, cereal, fruit, oatmeal, bacon and eggs, etc. However, we experienced fresh, savory ingredients that were notable- small Lebanese cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, olives, labneh, jibneh (Arabic cheese), and za’atar with olive oil. This style of breakfast is common across Palestine and the broader region. The fresh vegetables bring vibrant colours and a certain ‘lightness’ to the breakfast table, while small serving dishes (mezze-style) are an invitation for sharing and connection throughout the meal. I really appreciated the variety of foods in this breakfast and have since incorporated some of these ideas into my morning meals.
Broadening the idea of ‘breakfast’
I’ve had a longtime interest in broadening my definition of ‘breakfast foods’ and still remember being fascinated by a 2014 New York Times article profiling what children ate for breakfast in Tokyo (rice, miso soup, kabocha squash, pickles, rolled egg omelette, grilled salmon), Istanbul (honey, clotted cream, green and black olives, grape syrup with tahini, tomatoes, cucumbers, white radishes), Paris (kiwi, tartine- open faced baguette with butter and blackberry jam, hot chocolate) and a number of other cities. This one article broadened my horizon and understanding of various cuisines and has been inspiring me to travel and experience them first-hand.
Savory foods make especially interesting breakfasts. While I was trekking in Nepal years ago, I had dinner one night with an older Korean man. We were both traveling solo and that night we were the only two visitors at the guesthouse along the route. It was customary to order your breakfast the night before. I ordered porridge, the most widely available and reliable breakfast option. The older man, however, went ‘off-menu’ and asked our hosts if they would prepare for breakfast the same meal he was eating for dinner– a huge plate full of rice, dal (lentils), chicken and lightly cooked vegetables! As a breakfast, I certainly found this meal interesting–it was probably delicious. I have since discovered that Korean breakfast often includes savory foods, soups, rice and meats. Aside from leaving me feeling slightly uninspired by my plain oatmeal, I suspect his 7am feast prepared him well for the trail ahead. Next time, I’ll definitely be ordering the same!
Many cuisines blur the line between breakfast, lunch and dinner and readily swap, borrow and interchange foods between meals. In Japanese cuisine, this could mean eating rice, miso soup and fish anytime of the day; in Indian cuisine, this could mean eating leftover curry for breakfast. In Palestinian cuisine and throughout the region, staples like Arabic bread, olives, pickles, tomatoes and cucumbers can be served as accompaniments with any meal of the day.
Breakfast in Nazareth, recreated
I recreated many of the dishes we ate for breakfast in Nazareth. Most of the foods were widely available while others could be found in Middle Eastern grocery stores.
Labneh, similar to Greek yogurt, this thick strained yogurt is lightly salted and served with olive oil (see full post and recipe).
Omelette, with mint and parsley has a unique fresh taste.
Arabic bread (khubz in Arabic), a popular type of pita bread used to scoop up dips and spreads and accompany eggs and omelettes.
Arabic cheese (jibneh in Arabic), a semi-hard white cheese found throughout the Middle East. This cheese should be served warm by gently simmering in water for several minutes.
Lebanese cucumbers, a common cucumber in the region and similar to baby English cucumbers.
Grape or cherry tomatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
Jams and spreads, to be eaten with khubz and jibneh.
Za’atar, a dry herb and spice mixture (thyme, oregano, sesame seeds, etc.) that differs by region and can be found in Middle Eastern grocery stores. Khubz can be dipped in olive oil then za’atar. Or, za’atar and olive oil can be mixed directly. Za’atar pairs well with jibneh and this combination is a common topping on manakeesh flat-bread.
Black and green olives
Fresh fruit like grapes, cherries, melon.