|This food will make you swoon.|
Why is it a must have? Because I've made three things from it and they've all been insanely good. And healthy (like, chock full of veggies). And not expensive. Really, I could go on and on. As it turns out, Israeli and Palestinian cuisine is heavy on vegetables and wonderful piles of herbs and spices; there's way, way more to it than falafel and hummus (although I'm sure the hummus recipe is excellent). Mejudra, for example, a homespun, highly spiced rice pilaf laced through with crispy fried onions, was a sensational surprise (my 12 year old gobbled it up).
Do you need some special ingredients? Yes, mostly in the form of spices like sumac and za'atar, which you're not going to find at most neighborhood markets. I hit the Spice Station in Silverlake for these essentials, but you can order them online as well. I highly recommend cooking your own garbanzo beans, as they are far superior to the canned variety. And maybe buying a bunch of Beano while you're at it (I'm just trying to cover all the bases here).
Jerusalem is a beautiful cookbook as well, full of color pictures of glorious food. You can find it for around $20 on Amazon. Order it and amaze at your next dinner party.