Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Cooking Jerusalem #2; The Dinner Party

Whenever friends come to visit, we eat out. There have been a few exceptions to this but it is rare. So in an overall effort to eat in more, I opted to cook a meal for friends in town this time around. And what better menu to feature than one hand plucked from my new favorite cookbook, Jerusalem.
It was a Sunday so we took advantage of the Oakland DMV Farmer's Market and stocked up on produce.
Sunday is a great day to buy produce and the second worst day to buy fish (Mondays being #1). Luckily though, Whole Foods had whole mackerel that had been caught the day before. Not ideal but it would have to suffice. More about that later...
To start, I made the butternut squash & tahini spread and sliced Acme's dark Jewish Rye to go with. Ottolenghi suggests drizzling date syrup & sesame seeds over the spread but I opted for molasses as it's a little deeper in flavor (annnd I didn't have a clue where to procure date syrup in time!).

Next came the Mejadra, the one dish both Ottolenghi & Tamimi agree is the most comforting dish of the entire cookbook. After having eaten Mejadra, I'd have to agree emphatically. Not only is this dish ingeniously simple...'why hadn't I ever thought to combine lentils and rice!?', but it is also healthy and deep in flavorful spices (coriander, cumin & turmeric to name a few). This trifecta of simple, healthy & flavorful is further improved by topping it with crispy fried onions. A scoop of labneh mixed in with the mejadra sends this dish over the top!
Mackerel is a polarizing fish. Because it is a 'fishy' fish and somewhat oily, people either hate it or can't get enough of it. Marinating it in harissa and serving with a Moroccan-inspired orange, olive & golden beet salad luckily left everyone wanting more mackerel! The acid of the salsa cuts the fattiness of the fish perfectly.
While the deserts in Jerusalem are nothing short of persuasive, it being January DH insisted we prepare his favorite dessert, the winter citrus tart from another favorite cookbook, the Big Sur Bakery cookbook.
It would be a tragedy not to take advantage of the citrus bounty this time of year and this winter citrus tart celebrates the season's most plentiful fruit. Paired with almond cream, the  citrus in the crust, the marmalade and the fruit slices sings. One of these days, I will make this tart for brunch as it goes perfectly with coffee the next morning. 
Jerusalem, the dinner party ought to be a regular occurrence!

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