Jerusalem

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We want to start this blog on a high note.  And we have another quiz: what does “Jerusalem” have to do with the 1936 film San Francisco? If you give up, listen to this clip from the film.  Actually, we’re urging you to listen even if you got the answer.  It’s that great.  Then contrast that with the song (song?) that Andy shares with you on Andy’s Corner.

And, you politely inquire, what’s the possible connection between the film, the song about Jerusalem, and this food blog???  Well, sometimes things just gel when you’re a blogger (and have nothing else going on in your life to dwell on), so read on.

Because I do lots of internet reading about food and cooking, I see the name Yotam Ottolenghi popping up everywhere.  He’s the Jerusalem-born London chef and food and cookbook writer, famous not only for his unusual recipes but for his view that food can bring differing folks together.  With a sense of adventure, I first tried his “Cauliflower Cake” recipe after seeing rave reviews from several of my favorite bloggers.  It was indeed beautiful.  It’s questionable whether I’ll ever make it again.  Even my Bestie, Deb, who loves almost all things vegetable-y, didn’t seem enthused, nor did our cat.

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Choco Latte, the Cat Who Doesn’t Like Cauliflower Cake

I decided I needed to move beyond the vegetable recipes in Ottolenghi’s cookbook Plenty.  I ordered Jerusalem: a Cookbook, written by Ottolenghi and his cohort Sami Tamimi in 2012.  

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Immediately,  the song “The Holy City,” with its powerful refrain of “Jerusalem, Jerusalem” started going through my head (apparently Ronald Reagan wanted “The Holy City” sung at his funeral but called it “Jerusalem” and he got the wrong song sung).  A quick YouTube search turned up the version linked above.  It’s Jeanette MacDonald, a favorite of my dad’s, with her gorgeous soprano voice singing the refrain “Jerusalem, Jerusalem” in the 1936 film San Francisco which starred Clark Gable and was set just after the 1906 SF earthquake.

Now back to Jerusalem, the cookbook, and Ottolenghi, a most interesting chef/celeb.  I don’t think I’d want to try every recipe in a cookbook as Julie Powell did in Julie & Julia: My Life of Cooking Dangerously, where she cooked 524 recipes from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  But devoting a dinner party to the cookbook Jerusalem was perfect.

Here’s my take – and your opportunity to get some Ottolenghi recipes that are a little more approachable – without buying his beautiful book or searching online.  I’ve slightly adapted all of the recipes.

Dinner plan:

  • Red Pepper Hummus with carrot sticks and lentil chips (I made some changes to an Ottolenghi recipe for this)
  • Baby Spinach Salad with Dates & Almonds – from Jerusalem
  • Basmati Rice & Orzo (I finished this just prior to our guests, Maxine and Leigh, arriving and it was still warm and delicious when we sat down to dinner an hour later) – from Jerusalem
  • Marinated Sweet & Sour Fish (make it one day before serving) – from Jerusalem
  • Lemon Semolina Cakes  from Ottolenghi, published on the Epicurious web site but not in Jerusalem

Dinner Assessment:  It was with a little fear and trepidation that I decided to serve this Jerusalem menu for my dinner party with our Glen Ellen neighbors without ever having tasted any of it.  That, plus the fact that my foodie daughter wondered why anyone would want to eat a room temperature fish stew!  All the nay-sayers and thinkers were proven wrong.  Sweet & Sour Fish was a huge hit with all of us.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

  • Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients

  • 1 7 oz jar of chickpeas – aka garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 c tahini paste
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2-4 T of water (add gradually until you get the desired consistency)
  • 1 large roasted red pepper – about 4″ long (use two if they’re a lot smaller)
  • olive oil to drizzle on the top
  • sumac to sprinkle on the top – or paprika

Place all of the ingredients except the olive oil and sumac in a blender and process until smooth.  Place in a bowl to serve with carrots and pita bread or lentil chips; drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sumac.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals and Andy and Ann

I had more fun putting together this salad than I’ve had in a long time.  The reason?  the crazy combination of almonds, bits of pita bread, SUMAC, and chile, deliciously fried in butter and oil and consumed almost in its entirely before we ever got it to the salad bowl.  I think sumac is my new favorite spice.

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Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds (and Sumac)

  • Servings: 4
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Recipe adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

Ingredients

  • 1 T white wine vinegar (I substituted rice wine vinegar)
  • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 1/2 oz Medjool dates, pitted and quartered lengthwise
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 small pitas (about 3 1/2 oz) roughly torn into 1 1/2″ pieces
  • 1/2 c whole unsalted almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tsp sumac (we found it in our regular grocery store – in the spice section; it’s worth it….a whole new flavor experience)
  • 1/2 tsp chile flakes
  • 5 oz baby spinach leaves
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • salt

Heat the butter and half the olive oil in a medium fry pan over medium heat.  Add the pita and almonds and cook for 4-6 minutes, stirring all the time, until the pita is crunchy and golden brown.  Remove from the heat and mix in the sumac, chile flakes and 1/4 tsp salt.  Set aside to cool…..and try not to eat it all before you serve it with the salad!   Delish.  And note that the pita crisps up as it cools.Put the vinegar, onion, and dates in a small bowl.  Add a pinch of salt and mix well.  Leave to marinade for a few minutes (don’t leave longer than that).

When you are ready to serve, toss the spinach leaves with the pita mix in a large mixing bowl.  Add the dates and red onion, the remaining olive oil, the lemon juice, and another pinch of salt.  Serve immediately.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy & Ann.

The Basmati Rice & Orzo is a great accompaniment to the fish stew.  We served it in the same bowl – but it could be served separately.  This morning we took our leftover Basmati Rice & Orzo and made our Breakfast Lunch & Dinner Fried Rice.  It was perfect and a fabulous change of breakfast pace.  I think Ottolenghi’s comment about the recipe may be right-on:  I may never cook plain rice again.

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Basmati Rice & Orzo

  • Servings: 6
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Recipe adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 c basmati rice
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 T vegetable oil (sunflower oil is suggested by Ottolenghi)
  • 1 c (scant) of orzo
  • 2 1/2 c chicken stock
  • 1 tsp salt

Wash the basmati rice well, then place in a bowl and cover with water.  Allow it to soak for 30 minutes, then drain (note: I was in a hurry and only soaked the rice for 10 minutes and it seemed to cook fine).

Heat the butter and oil over medium high heat in a medium sauce-pan which has a lid.  Add the orzo and saute, stirring regularly, for 3-4 minutes or until the grain are dark golden (note: I think I almost burned them, so be cautious here).  Add the stock, bring to a boil, and cook for 3 minutes.  Add the drained rice and salt, bring to a gentle boil, stir once or twice, cover the pan and simmer over very low heat for 15 minutes.  Don’t be tempted to uncover the pan.

Turn off the heat, remove the lid, and quickly cover the pan with a clean tea towel.  Place the lid back on top of the towel and leave for 10 minutes.  Fluff with a fork before serving (another note here: I had never tried this before, and the result was perfect.  I highly recommend the towel-covering/steaming).

Brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy & Ann

Who would think that fish could be fried, then baked in a marinade filled with lots of vinegar, then chilled in that marinade, then brought back to barely lukewarm to serve – and turn out to be magnificent?!  We should have pictured the crusty bread which was perfect dipped into the tomato-y, spicy broth.

 

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Marinated Sweet & Sour Fish

  • Servings: 4
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This is the perfect company meal, since it can be fixed one or two days ahead of time and doesn’t need to be reheated before serving. The instructions are a little more complicated than we normally want, but it all actually comes together rather easily.  One suggestion:  we like the stew best at a lukewarm temperature – certainly not cold.  Even though I’d had the stew out of the refrigerator over an hour before serving, I still put it on the stove on low and heated it just for a few minutes to knock off any remaining chill.  Recipe adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

Ingredients

  • 3 T olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 1 T coriander seeds (we prefer not having the whole seeds in the stew so opted for 3 rounded teaspoons of ground coriander)
  • 2 medium peppers (1 red and 1 yellow), halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into 1/4″ wide strips)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 T curry powder
  • 3-4 tomatoes, chopped – you want a generous 2 cups
  • 2 1/2 T sugar
  • 5 T cider vinegar (I’d start with 3 T and go up to 5 T after tasting – though we liked it with 5 T)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt – or to taste
  • 1 lb fish filets divided into 4 pieces.  Sustainable seafood suggestions: halibut, sea bass, catfish, tilapia, some cod (depends on how they’re caught), haddock
  • flour for dusting the fish
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • chopped cilantro to garnish

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Heat 2 T of the olive oil in a large ovenproof frying pan or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onions and coriander and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.  Add the peppers and cook for another 10 minutes.  Add the garlic, bay leaves, curry powder, and tomatoes, and cook for another 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the sugar, vinegar, 1 1/2 tsp salt, and some black pepper and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.

Heat the remaining 1 T oil in a separate frying pan over medium high heat.  Sprinkle the fish with some salt, dip in the flour, then in the eggs, and fry for about 3 minutes, turning once.  Transfer the fish to paper towels to absorb the excess oil, then add to the pan with the peppers and onions, pushing the vegetables aside so the fish sits on the bottom of the pan.  Add enough water just to immerse the fish (a generous cup may be about right).

Place the pan in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until the fish is cooked – no need to cover. Remove from the oven and leave to cool to room temperature.  You can serve the fish immediately, but letting it sit for a day or two in the fridge will actually improve the flavor.  Before serving, taste and add salt and pepper if needed and garnish with the cilantro.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy & Ann

 

 

 

 

 

 

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