I don’t really remember when I first heard of the book Jerusalem, or the book Plenty, or the author, or even the restaurant Ottolenghi. All I knew is that I wanted those books. I added them to my wish list on Amazon and then soon forgot about them. It was not until I was on instagram and looking up my favorite chefs, food personalities, and restaurants that I stumbled upon Ottolenghi. The pictures, absolutely breathtaking. The colors. The contrasts. The cuisine ignites a culinary spark in me that I haven’t felt in years. Hmmm. There’s that passion again.
So recently, I found myself (as usual) perusing the shelves ( mean web pages of Amazon) and I again stumbled upon the book Jerusalem. Long story short. It’s sitting next to me right now on my bed. The first night I cracked open this stunning book I was transported to another place, another time. The introduction was a history lesson in itself and introduced me to the backbone of what Middle Eastern cuisine was and is. The land, the religions, the different backgrounds. What a fascinating story of food and how cuisine is just a mesh of different cultures. There are so many recipes I cannot wait to try; either for the spices that I’ve never had touch my tongue, or the mixing of ingredients that I never would have put together on my own, much less made a dish from. Two out of the three dishes I’m making for this post are his exact recipes because when you’re trying a new recipe (or new cuisine for that matter) that’s how it should be. You have to know how the original is supposed to taste before you can branch out on your own culinary take. The third dish is an Arab salad, which even as the author says, is up to your own making. I’ve also made similar salads on my own countless times. I did use the dressing from ” Na’ama’s fattoush” to dress my salad and oh geeez it was amazing.
The first dish is a simple basmati (rice) and orzo (pasta) side. Who’d of thunk to combine pasta and rice? The author says it is quite common to find this interesting mix in the Middle East and provides an interesting texture and look to this hearty side or main. The second recipe I used was the “Turkey and zucchini burgers with green onion and cumin.” One word to describe this dish. “Divine.” I had leftover patties that I’ve been eating solo (and even cold) for my midday lunch. Superb (ok, so maybe two words to describe these tasty guys). And lastly, this dish is just a simple salad of fresh vegetables dressed with the awesome buttermilk dressing I spoke of earlier. Sumac is a spice I’d never had and am so glad I picked up to add to my spice rack. It adds an acidic sourness (likened to fresh lemon peel and salt) to any dish to dress it up in. I combined the three recipes to make my own sammich using naan as my chosen vessel. Please do yourself a favor and get the book Jerusalem! You’ll be thrilled with the culinary tour the book takes you on!
Basmati Rice and Orzo/p. 103
1 1/3 cups Basmati Rice
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter (or ghee)
1 Tablespoon Sunflower Oil ( I used olive oil)
1/2 cup Orzo
2 1/2 cups Chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
Wash the rice well and let soak in cold water for 30 minutes. Drain.
Heat butter and oil in a medium sauce pan (with lid) over medium high heat. Add orzo and saute 3 to 4 minutes until pasta turns dark golden. Add stock and bring to a boil, cooking for 3 minutes. Add the drained rice to the pot, bringing to a gentle boil and stir once or twice. Cover the pan and let simmer over very low heat for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the lid and place a clean kitchen towel over the rice and place the lid back on the pan. Let sit at least 10 minutes to finish cooking (I left mine for 20 minutes). Fluff with a fork before serving.
Turkey and Zucchini Burgers with Green Onion and Cumin/ p. 200
1 lb. Ground Turkey
1 large Zucchini, grated (about 2 cups)
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 large egg
2 tbsp chopped mint
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
about 6 1/2 Tbsp sunflower oil, for searing ( I again used Olive Oil)
Preheat oven to 425°. In a large bowl combine all ingredients except oil. Using hands mix ingredients well and shape into small oblong patties (makes about 20).
Pour oil in pan forming a thin layer and sear meatballs on each side until brown. This takes about 4 minutes. Transfer the patties to a lined baking pan and cook in oven for 5 to 7 minutes until just cooked through.
2 Baby cukes, cut in 1/8″ dice
2 Roma tomatoes, 1/8″ dice
1 tbsp Mint leaves, chopped
1 tbsp Italian Parsley, chopped
2 tbsp Diced red onion
3/4 Cup Buttermilk
2 cloves Garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp Vinegar
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Lemon, juiced
1/2 tbsp Sumac
Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper to taste
Combine veggies and herbs in small bowl. Mix wet ingredients separately and pour over veggies, reserving about 1/2 cup. Spoon remaining dressing over finished turkey patties.