Menu of the Week: A Taste of Jerusalem On Our Plate


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Jerusalem: if there is a city with a a more dense and layered history, and a more contested and drama-filled present, it is hard to imagine what city that would be. Symbolic center of Judaism, third holist city of Sunni Islam, and according to Christian belief, the place where Christ died and ascended, it would seem to be almost more than one city can bare. And yet today Jerusalem is a vibrant city with a diverse population of nearly 900,000. And according to Jerusalem A Cookbook, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, it’s a city with a rich and diverse food culture as well. The two authors, business partners in a handful of well-regarded London restaurants, both grew up in Jerusalem. Tamimi is a Palestinian from East Jerusalem, Ottolenghi, an Italian Jew from the western part of the city, but it wasn’t until they were both living in London that they met. And a creative collaboration it has turned out to be. I don’t get excited by many cookbooks, but this one has really captured my imagination. And so, inspired by Jerusalem, the city and the cookbook, I wanted to create a menu for our Monday night dinners which would capture a bit of the flavor of that ancient city. On the plate above, you can see what we came up with. I didn’t get pictures, but there was also a chickpea soup flavored with the spice mixture ras  el hanout, and an almond cake over which I poured a syrup made with orange juice concentrate, brown rice syrup and maple syrup.  More pictures and a recipe for baba ghanoush after the jump.

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Photos: Top–This is the plate we created to celebrate Jerusalem. Clockwise from center top: Whole wheat pita bread, baba ghanoush, chopped salad of cucumber, tomato, green beans and green onion, mixed baby greens and arugula salad with a citrus dressing created by Susanne, roasted sweet potato and red onions, rice with lentils and caramelized onions.  Photo above: Susanne prepares the rice and lentil dish for take out volunteers Kate and Judy. In the foreground, other components of the meal in various stages of preparation.

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Summer Preview: Baba Ghanoush, A Classic Dip Updated With Cumin And Smoked Paprika

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I’m of the opinion that a well-flavored dip along with crudité, crackers, cheese, olives and other nibbles constitute an easy-to-do, but elegant appetizer. And baba ghanoush, a combination of smoky eggplant purée and tahini, is one of my favorites. Some form of seasoned eggplant purée is made throughout the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East regions, and a variant can be found as far east as India. Eggplant, inedibly bitter when raw, is transformed by deep roasting or grilling into something mild and almost sweet. Because people seem to make it at home only rarely, it feels a bit special and is nearly always warmly received. Usually I wait until eggplants are in season in mid summer to make baba ghanoush, but I was asked to make it for a wedding reception I catered this week, so I thought  I’d share this recipe while it’s fresh in my mind. File it away until the day when eggplants appear at your farmer’s market… Continue reading