Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Visit to Jerusalem


 I purchased the book Plenty several years ago when a number of friends had it on their Christmas lists and it was well-reviewed all over the place. I particularly liked the photograph of the eggplant with the pomegranate seeds, even though my husband and son won't eat eggplant. The critical attention paid to Jerusalem: A Cookbook was not to be ignored, so when Laurie Perry suggested it as a pre-Passover/Easter selection for the Cook Book Book Club, a majority of our members agreed. We met on March 26 for a wonderful feast and several of the recipes (and one new one) went on to a Passover seder not long after.

 

Jerusalem was written by chefs Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, who were raised in different parts of Jerusalem but met in London where they are now business partners. Yotam's father was an Italian Jew whose family relocated to Jerusalem, and Sami's family is from the Muslim area of eastern Jerusalem. The book gives a strong sense of the culinary traditions of both cultures, and how Jerusalem has changed over the years. It's a fascinating read, and there are photographs for every recipe given.

Menu

Ka'ach Bilmalch with Parsley-Garlic-Yogurt Sauce
Raw Artichoke and Herb Salad
Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds
Pistachio Soup
Herb Pie 
Lemony Leek Meatballs
Fish and Caper Kebobs with Burnt Eggplant and Lemon Pickle
Chicken with Clementines and Arak
Stuffed Eggplant with Lamb and Pinenuts
Poached Pears in White Wine and Cardamom
Clementine and Almond Syrup Cake

Ka'ach Bilmalch with Parsley-Garlic-Yogurt Sauce
My favorite over-achiever Susan Avallone, who loves to bake and also brought dessert, made Ka'ach Bilmalch (which sounds like a Klingon threat) with a Parsley-Garlic-Yogurt Sauce, on which we nibbled as everyone else arrived and dishes made it to the table. They are almost like teething bagels, or perhaps the savory version of the Italian biscuit tarella, but we did enjoy them, with or without the sauce.
Raw Artichoke and Herb Salad
We began the sit-down lunch with a pair of salads. Crystal Armstrong made the Raw Artichoke and Herb Salad, while my sister T Valada-Viars made the Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds. Following the rule that we should try to follow the recipe and not increase proportions, because we're just looking for a taste, poor Crystal did not get a serving of her own, wonderful, salad. Kudos to Crystal for cleaning those fresh artichokes to shave into the salad.

Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds
T's salad was equally appreciated, and she modified it to take it to a seder on the first night of Passover by substituting matzoh for the pita "croutons."
Pistachio Soup
Michelle Resnick had a go at the Pistachio Soup recipe. By using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock, she was able to make a soup our vegetarian would have eaten (she had to cancel at the last minute) and one she could (and did) serve at her seder to the vegans who attended. 
Herb Pie
The Herb Pie, a variation on the feta pies found all over the middle east, was made by Sharon Baker. When she explained some of the issues she had in putting the pie together because of the fragility of filo, Laurie recommended that next time she take two sheets at a time. Sharon reported back that the trick worked well when she made the pie again.
Quick Pickled Lemon
My contribution to the meal consisted of Fish and Caper Kabobs with Burnt Eggplant and Lemon Pickle. The first step in this entree involved making a batch of the Quick Pickled Lemons because there was not enough time to make Preserved Lemons. The pickled lemons require about two days of advanced planning, but the preserved lemons need at least a month (I now have a jar of them in the cabinet, too.) The lemon is really a garnish for the eggplant.

I took advantage of my kitchen grill and prepared the eggplant that way, charring the skin all over on the flames and then letting the flesh drain and cool well before chopping it up and adding the other ingredients. The book discusses whether this eggplant rises to being called baba ganoush or if it is just an eggplant salad (tahini appears to be the decisive factor, and this recipe doesn't have it.) I personally don't care, because I will eat any eggplant dish that is put before me.
A plate with a bit of everything, with the Burnt Eggplant and Lemon Pickle at the bottom, and the Fish and Caper Kabob above them to the left.
The fish "kabobs" were more like oval-shaped patties, and weren't on any kind of a skewer. They were rather fragile, and I think they needed more oil for frying than I prepared. I was rather disappointed, but everyone else pronounced them good. I would probably try making them again sometime.
Yogurt with Cucumber
Because I will take any excuse to make tatziki, or whatever the equivalent dish is in the many countries surrounding the Mediterranean, I prepared the Yogurt with Cucumber from Jerusalem. The combination of fresh and dried mint may have been what I was missing when I tried to replicate the version from my favorite local Lebanese restaurant. I could eat it for lunch any day. 
 
Lemony Leek Meatballs

The cucumber and yogurt was also a good accompaniment to the fish and the beef Lemony Leek Meatballs which Amie Brockway-Metcalf made. She had arrived home from a family vacation the day before and thought it was a recipe she could pull together with limited time. She was correct (and they looked so much nicer than my fish.)
 
Chicken with Clementines and Arak

Just as I tend to look for fish recipes to prepare, Laurie Perry seems to make a number of the chicken dishes we've eaten. This time, her submission was Chicken with Clementines and Arak. So moist, so delicious, and, apparently, so easy. She planned to make it for Passover. I'm impressed by how good chicken thighs can be when chicken breasts tend to become very, very dry. I can't make this for my family, since my son is allergic to oranges and their variations, but I would consider making this dish if I were making dishes for a large dinner and there would be something else for him to eat.  
Stuffed Eggplant with Lamb and Pinenuts
As I have said repeatedly, I will eat eggplant in pretty much any form it comes in. Kim Gottlieb-Walker made the Stuffed Eggplant with Lamb and Pinenuts. This is another dish which would be ideal for making for a large dinner party, and Kim brought a huge pan of it to the lunch. Each half of the eggplants above could easily serve two people. Add some bread and an salad and it would be a perfect lunch on its own.
Conchiglie with Yogurt, Peas & Chile
Although it was removed from the menu when Liz Mortensen said she couldn't attend the lunch, I decided we needed a starch and Laurie and I made the Conchiglie with Yogurt, Peas, and Chile Liz  was going to do for us. It turned out to be easy, and made a huge amount of pasta, easily a meal on its own on another day. It was also very pretty. I think it would probably be better while still hot, before the yogurt was soaked up by the pasta.
Poached Pears in White Wine and Cardamom
We had two wonderful desserts. Catherine Fleming made Poached Pears in White Wine and Cardamom and Susan made another fabulous cake, this time Clementine and Almond Syrup Cake. 
The pears were served with a spoonful of creme fraiche, and also had some saffron coloring the wine syrup. A dessert like this is perfect note for ending a meal.
Clementine and Almond Syrup Cake
Susan's cake she finely grind almonds, but pre-ground almond flour from someplace like Bob's Red Mill would probably make it easier. The dark chocolate ganache is a perfect finish to the moist cake underneath, which was soaked in the clementine syrup. I saved another piece for a later snack. So did my sister.
A piece of cake for later.
I expect that recipes from this book will have a regular rotation in my kitchen. I look forward to June, when it will be the Food52 Cookbook Club selection and I will have 30 days of excuses to cook from Jerusalem.


Pickled Lemons for next time.



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