Recipe Review: Ottolenghi Hummus Kawarma (Lamb) with Lemon Sauce


Ottolenghi Hummus kawarma (lamb) with lemon sauce

Ottolenghi Hummus kawarma (lamb) with lemon sauce

In Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem: A Cookbook, there is an illuminating short essay on the importance of hummus among Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem, the debate about its origins, and the arguments about which hummusia makes the best hummus.

Ottolenghi’s basic hummus recipe starts from dried chickpeas that are soaked overnight.  I tried to use a blender to make the hummus, but it was difficult to process unless in small batches.  A food processor as recommended would work better.  The hummus is great, smooth and fluffy, with the right amount of garlic, lemon juice, and tahini.  There are additional recipes in the chapter for lamb kawarma, a spiced, fried chopped lamb served over hummus, and musabaha (warm chickpeas with hummus).

Cost: about $20

Time: about 2 hours

Level of Difficulty: easy-moderate

Taste: excellent (3.5 of five stars)

Healthy: fairly healthy

Make again: yes

Link to Jerusalem: A Cookbook here.

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Recipe Review: Ottolenghi Stuffed Eggplant with Lamb and Pine Nuts


Ottolenghi Stuffed eggplant with lamb and pine nuts

Ottolenghi Stuffed eggplant with lamb and pine nuts

Eggplants are a staple vegetable (well technically, a fruit) in the Middle East, and feature prominently in Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem: A Cookbook.  In this recipe, the eggplant is roasted first, then stuffed with a ground lamb and pine nut filling, then braised in a spice liquid.  The filling is made with ground lamb, onions, pine nuts, and parsley, fragrant with cumin, cinnamon, and paprika.  Think the world’s best sloppy joe filling.  After roasting, stuffing, and braising, the eggplant is transformed from its raw firm and dry texture to a luscious creaminess that almost acts like a sauce for the aromatic lamb and pine nut stuffing.  I finished  with a little bit of Greek yogurt for an added dimension (there is always some around since I started cooking from this cookbook).

By the way, I like the British word for eggplant, aubergine.  Aubergine sounds so much more sophisticated, borrowed from the French and Arabic.  Eggplant, however, is actually not a misnomer as I first thought.  When the word eggplant was first coined, it referred to a variety that had pale white skin and was indeed the size and shape of an egg.  But still, aubergine seems more fitting for the beautiful purple varieties that are more commonly available today.

Cost: about $15

Time: about 2.5 hours (1-1.5 hour active time)

Level of difficulty: moderate

Taste: delicious (4 of 5 stars)

Healthy: fairly healthy

Make again: yes

Link to recipe here.  Link to Jerusalem: A Cookbook here.

Recipe Review: Turkey and Zucchini Burgers with Green Onions and Cumin


Ottolenghi Turkey and zucchini burgers with green onion and cumin

Ottolenghi Turkey and zucchini burgers with green onion and cumin

These turkey meatballs are from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem: A Cookbook.  They are easy to make and delicious.  I add the salt to the shredded zucchini for about 15 minutes to draw out the water, prior to mixing with the turkey, egg, herbs, and spices.  The meatballs come out juicy and fluffy and are aromatic with cilantro and mint.  The sour cream-yogurt sauce with sumac adds cool creaminess.

Cost: about $10

Time: about 30 minutes

Level of Difficulty: easy

Taste: excellent (four of five stars)

Healthy: fairly healthy

Make again: yes

Link to recipe here.

Link to Jerusalem: A Cookbook here.

Recipe Review: Ottolenghi Roasted Butternut Squash, Red Onion, Tahini, Za’atar


Ottolenghi Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Onion with Tahini and Za'atar

Ottolenghi Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Onion with Tahini and Za’atar

This is a beautiful, delicious, easy recipe from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem: A Cookbook.  Butternut squash and red onions are roasted at 475 for about 30-40 until there is some caramelization.  The vegetables are then paired with a tahini sauce.  Tahini is crushed sesame seed paste and a common ingredient in Jerusalem.  The dish is finished with pine nuts for crunch, za’atar spice blend, and parsley for color.  The nutty tahini really complements the caramelized squash and red onions.  This would be a great vegetarian main course or side.

Time: about one hour

Level of difficulty: easy

Cost: about $8

Taste: 4 of 5 stars (delicious)

Healthy: yes

Make again: yes

Link to recipe here.  Link to Jerusalem: A Cookbook here.

Recipe Review: Chocolate Krantz Cake


There is an interesting section of sweets in Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem: A Cookbook.  Chocolate krantz cake is like a chocolate babka, with a sweet leavened dough layered with chocolate and nuts.  The dough must rise overnight, then is rolled out and layered with chocolate and pecans, rolled up, split, and twisted back together to create all the layers.  It then proofs for 90 minutes before baking.  The recipe recommends baking for 30 minutes at 375.  At that point, the crust is browned and a toothpick inserted into the center came out dry, but the bottom layers were a little underdone.  It might take 10-20 minutes longer than suggested to bake through, depending on your oven.  After baking, a simple syrup is brushed onto the cake.  The cake was rich, sweet, and chocolately, and got good reviews, but is a little bit involved to make.

Cost: about $10

Time: about 16 hours (2 hours active)

Level of Difficulty: moderate

Taste: excellent (four of five stars)

Healthy: no

Make again: yes

Link to recipe here.  Link to Jerusalem: A Cookbook here.

Recipe Review: Chicken, Caramelized Onions, Cardamom Rice


Chicken with caramelized onion and cardamom rice

Chicken with caramelized onion and cardamom rice

This is a fantastic dish from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem: A Cookbook.  Chicken is cooked together with caramelized onions, basmati rice, and spices including cardamom and cloves.  The chicken becomes fragrant from the spices, the rice soaks up flavor from the chicken and spices, and the caramelized onions lend sweetness and depth.  The dish is finished with fresh herbs and a dollop of Greek yogurt.  It’s great one-pot cooking.  I made it with four chicken thighs, but I think there is enough rice for six servings.  Beware of biting into some of the whole cloves and cardamom pods.

Cost: about $15

Time: about 1.5-2 hours

Level of Difficulty: easy-moderate

Taste: excellent (four of five stars)

Healthy: fairly healthy

Make again: yes

Link to recipe here.

Link to Jerusalem: A Cookbook here.

Cookbook Review: Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi


Jerusalem: A Cookbook is the third cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, following Ottolenghi and Plenty.  Ottolenghi is a UK-based chef who has several restaurants and take-out delis in London.  There was an amazing write-up in the New York Times in July 2013 about how Jerusalem was the cookbook of the moment.  I recently got a copy and can now understand why the book has been so popular.

In Jerusalem there is a convergence of Jewish traditions from Israel and Europe and Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influences.  One of the authors is Israeli, and the other is Palestinian, and the dishes in the book reflect those influences, highlighting unique flavors from the region.

The book is divided into sections based on ingredient or type of dish, such as meat, fish, stuffed, and meatballs.  Like Plenty and Ottololenghi, vegetables often are the star of the dish.  The book has gorgeous photographs of the finished dish for most recipes as well as from the city of Jerusalem.

So far, every dish I have tried has been a winner, with bold but balanced and flavorful cooking, fragrant with exotic spices and herbs.  In terms of difficulty, the recipes are mostly all in the easy to moderately difficult range.  Look for upcoming individual recipe reviews with step-by-step photographs for hummus, kawarma, turkey and zucchini meatballs, chocolate krantz cake, and the fantastic chicken with caramelized onions and cardamom rice.

Some recipes requires certain equipment: food processor to make hummus, a stand mixer to mix dough for the chocolate krantz cake.  More importantly, the Jerusalem cookbook also requires many specialty ingredients that cannot be easily substituted: spices such as sumac and whole cardamom pods, pomegranate molasses, date syrup.  Most ingredients can be found at Middle Eastern grocery stores.  I found many of these ingredients, including thick labneh yogurt at Crossroads Market in Palo Alto.  They also sell spices in bulk, which is a bargain.  Penzey’s Spices also carries cardamom pods, sumac, and za’atar.   Many recipes feature lamb, which can be somewhat hard to find.  Most supermarkets have lamb chops but not other cuts or ground lamb.  In the Bay Area, several farmer’s market sellers carry cuts of lamb.

Highly recommended.  Link to Jerusalem: A Cookbook here.

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