Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cooking Jerusalem #1; the condiments

I've never been big on resolutions. That said though, the new year is as good a time as any to try something new. And what better to start the new year than with a new(ish) cookbook. 

Jerusalem is the 3rd cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi, the much lauded Israel-by-way-of-London chef and Sami Tamimi. 'Jerusalem: The Cookbook' reads more like a cultural history book and is a beautiful marriage of the Eastern Palestine influences of Tamimi youth with Western Jewish traditions of Ottolenghi's upbringing.

Every photo is more enticing than the next, it is hard to know where to begin. I opted to start at the end...with the condiments.

With any cookbook that aims to tackle a whole cuisine, particularly one I'm not so familiar with, it seems best to fill the pantry and/or refrigerator with the spices, sauces and condiments that will be used throughout the book.
This recipe is described as the Middle Eastern gremolata. Since gremolata is God's nectar IMHO, there was no question I would make this first. A combination of cilantro, parsley & hot green chiles (jalapenos or an equally hot pepper) with cumin, cardamom, & cloves; the depth of flavor in Zhoug is incredible and goes great on labne, folded into eggs or simply on a spoon!  
Granted, I haven't tackled every recipe, but this has to be the easiest one in the book. Labneh is strained yogurt, essentially. Simply select the yogurt you wish to use (they recommend equal parts goat milk & cow milk yogurt), line a bowl with cheesecloth, pour yogurt onto the cloth and tie it off to strain out the excess liquid. Within 24 hours you'll have delicious labneh, a wonderful addition to meat & rice dishes or great on its own with harrisa and zhoug.
Harissa can be transcendent. The harissa recipe is not. It is fine and works quite well as a marinade for fish but I prefer a more liquid consistency when it comes to harissa.  
There is a recipe for preserved lemons, which take a month or so set and then there is a recipe for quick pickled lemons, which take a day to set. I opted for the latter recipe and while I've yet to make the former, the quick pickled lemons are quite nice. Pickled or preserved lemons are a great addition to just about every dish, particularly meats, fishes and grains.
...can't wait to cook up more recipes from this beautiful book!