Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Feast from Jerusalem

I am late to the Jerusalem party, I know. Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's latest cookbook was the darling of many a food blogger in 2013, and I eyed it in bookstores even as I went home clutching other ones that indeed, I love too, including Deb's brilliant Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, and an achingly restrained Japanese book called Everyday Harumi, both of which I cook from regularly.

I asked for, and received, Jerusalem for Christmas, and I know this is a book I will also cook from regularly. Frequently, even. Not only is it gorgeous and beautifully bound, with padded covers and pages that flip easily and stay where they're opened to, but it's full of the history of that amazing city, with stunning photos not just of the food, but of the streets and walls and sky. It's a great read even before you take it into the kitchen.

But tonight I did, and the results were as delicious as I'd hoped. Well, technically I started last night, "burning" four luscious eggplants under my broiler, until they went soft and blackened and smoky and sweet, and collapsed under their own weight. I scooped out their flesh and drained it of liquid, then set it aside to rest in the fridge until needed.

Ottolenghi and Tamimi envision baba ghanoush as a sort of rough-chopped salad, not a dip or a spread, but I couldn't resist blitzing it into silky smoothness before topping it with glistening ruby-red pomegranate seeds. The authors also say that tahini is optional, and greatly debated among the people they've spoken to, but to me it is essential. I've been using David Lebovitz's baba ghanoush recipe for years, and it is excellent, but this is something different, lighter somehow with the addition of fresh green herbs and those fruity seeds that pop so pleasantly in the mouth. It's earthy and bright and utterly addictive.

The turkey and zucchini "burgers" rounded out the plate beautifully, with their own herbal and onion undertones, their smoky exterior from the grill tempered by a rich and sharp yogurt-sumac sauce. A meal of complex flavours yet still easy enough for a weeknight meal (not counting the eggplant, which is simple to do while watching TV or reading and keeps well for a day or two in the fridge once cooked). Chris and I both love middle eastern food, and after we finished eating we flipped happily through the book, choosing what delicious things we'll make next. I think you should too. The butternut squash and tahini spread looks irresistible. I always was a sucker for a good dip.

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