Many years ago, when I lived in Israel as a student, I had a citrus guy. I regularly shopped in the shuk on Thursday afternoons and frequented this vendor who sold only citrus fruit. Because the weather here is fairly similar to Florida and California, there are many different kinds: clementines, navel oranges, grapefruits, pomelos, mandarins, lemons. What I never found, however, were limes. I never asked; I assumed that for whatever reason they didn’t grow them here. (And I did not have the Hebrew skills to have a heart-to-heart with the citrus guy.) I closely associate limes with Latin American or Southeast Asian cooking, neither of which are terribly popular in Israel.
Skip ahead to, oh, 2001 or so. Taxman and I came to Israel for a wedding and spent some time with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. Nobody had kids then, so we could be all foodie and out past bedtime et cetera and we went a very chic hotel restaurant in Tel Aviv. It was, I believe, my one and only experience with an amuse-bouche; some lovely chicken drumette done up fancy and served with a wedge of green lemon.* But! Not lemon, in fact, but lime. I was totally startled, in a good way, and both Taxman and my brother-in-law were surprised to taste an actual lime in Israel. My sister-in-law, born and raised in Israel, could not understand why I was so ga-ga over a garnish.
This was, however, a very fancy restaurant, so in all my future visits I never anticipated tasting a lime again. I knew I’d have to give them up here; I am a total food snob and bottled citrus juices (a la RealLemon) make me wince. Lemons are readily available, so I’d make do. It wasn’t a dealbreaker, clearly, because I am not a chef, just vaguely pretentious about condiments. And I’m here, aren’t I?
So imagine my surprise when I was browsing the weekend section of the Jerusalem Post at my in-laws a couple of weeks ago and discovered that [the royal] they grow limes here now. But the season is only about six weeks long, they don’t show up everywhere, and ta-da! They are available now. In the shuk.
So today we had to go to Jerusalem to take care of some other things. I lobbied Taxman to go to the shuk to buy a lot of limes, so we could squeeze the juice into our ice cube trays and have fresh lime juice…whenever. He has known me for a long time, so he did not even blink at this completely kooky suggestion. Rather he readily agreed and we found them for 7 shekel a kilo and (because I am crazy) made the guy cut one open to make sure it wasn’t a green lemon.
If only I could find my citrus reamer. (Of course I have one. It’s in a box in my living room.) Ah, well, a grapefruit spoon had to do.
* Lemons and clementines here start out the season green and as the temperature drops you start to see them yellow or orange. I learned about this phenomenon the first time I read the John McPhee essay “Oranges.” In 9th grade. Geek out!