Believe it or not, I used to not like tehina. I know. My sisters and I now make and import the stuff, but I remember my first rip to Israel with my family in 2000. I specifically got shawarma and falafel without that “white sauce.”

Fast-forward 12 years…I was living in Israel for the year, Jackie was dating Omri (now her husband), Omri was selling tehina and I could not stop eating it. My schwarma and falafel order conversation then went something like this:

Shop owner: “What you want on this?”
Me: “Rak (only) tehina.
Shop owner: “No hummus?”
Me: “No! Only tehina. And charif (spicy)!”
Shop owner, nodding his head appreciatively: “You have good taste.”

See, in Israel, contrary to popular belief, tehina is king, not hummus. The fact of the matter is that you cannot have a good hummus without a good tehina. Period. The other lesser-known fact is: tehina goes with everything.

As we approach DC’s [email protected] celebration on June 9, I’ve been thinking a lot about Israel. More than anything, I miss the people, those crazy sabras—sharp on the outside but sweet in the middle. No one embodies the true Israeli spirit better than Omri’s mom, Rachella.

Rachella is eighth generation Israeli, out of Tiberias. She looks and acts the way I would imagine an Israeli character in a movie—long, flowing white skirts against tanned skin, eyes that show she’s been through too much and the warmest, most sincere smile.

Most of all, like every proper Israeli/Jewish mother, she’s a great cook! The best thing about her cooking: it’s always made with fresh, healthy ingredients. Think almond milk and spelt instead of regular milk and flour. Lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, nothing processed or canned. Of course, Rachella uses lots of tehina instead of butter or margarine.

Rachella was gluten-free and dairy-free before the Paleo diet was even invented. And, thanks to her, my family and I now bake with tehina.

The first thing I baked with tehina came out of her kitchen—tehina carrot cake. To this day it’s my favorite carrot cake in the world, especially considering its nutritional content.

What did she wow me with next? Poppy seed pie with a tehina carob frosting. Nothing’s better than waking up on Shabbat morning and indulging in this! She has been known to go over the top for special events, preparing at least a dozen varieties of tehina cookies. Each one satisfies my taste buds with pure, healthy, Israeli bliss.

Lucky for us, Rachella is sharing her secrets with Soom Foods, and all her sharing will be posted in the recipe section of our website. Lucky also for you readers who don’t have to look any further for that carrot cake recipe than this post.

Come visit Amy at the Soom Foods booth at our community-wide [email protected] celebration on Sunday, June 9, at Union Market.