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Book Review: Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

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Posted by : Jennifer Myers, Tue, Nov 20 2012

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jerusalem 

The Stats 

Title: Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
Price: $35.00
Availability: Major book retailers


The Book 

Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi grew up on two different sides of one city.  Sami was a child in Muslim east-Jerusalem, with Yotam in the Jewish west. Although being born in the same city and in the same year, the two didn’t meet until nearly three decades later - world’s away in London UK.  Becoming close friends and business partners (Tamimi is part owner of Ottolenghi’s eponymous chain of restaurants and the co-author of Ottolenghi: The Cookbook (Ebury Press, 2008).) the two began to explore their parallel childhoods, and the city so rich in culture that is their common bond.

Ottolenghi’s latest follows the New York Times bestseller Plenty (Chronicle Books, 2011) which was an ode to vegetables with a collection of fresh and original plant-based fare. Jerusalem’s focus is on the traditional, with 120 age-old recipes based on the rich cultural traditions of the Mediterranean, and the flavours that are embedded in both Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s DNA. Some recipes are classics, some have benefitted from creative updates and lastly others are inspired by the flavours of the city itself.

The spirit of Jerusalem is wound through the book, with a brief introduction outlining the history of the city and its complicated past. Photographer Jonathan Lovekin showcases gorgeous food images alongside more candid snaps of everyday life. While the book’s recipes focus on its namesake city, There are dishes with Palestinian and Georgian influence as well. Jerusalem is a cultural melting pot and home to Jews originating from Russia, Poland, Tunisia, Libya, France, Britain, Iraq, Ethiopia, Argentina as well as Christians and Muslims.  The result is a complex and cosmopolitan book full of the unpredictable, family recipes, heart-warming nods to childhood, and a wonderful homage to the city from which the book takes its name.

Overall:  As with Plenty, a number of dishes require ingredients that are not pantry staples, so the dishes take some pre-planning. This book assumes basic culinary knowledge. With exciting flavors, and both inventive and traditional combinations, Jerusalem is the most enticing cookbook I have seen in a while. Jerusalem has me excited about Middle Eastern basics like Hummus. I don’t think I have ever been this excited about hummus.
Selected Recipes
● Na’ama’s fattoush (Worth getting the book for this recipe alone)
● Burnt eggplant & mograbieh soup (Palestinian equivalent to cous cous) soup
● Pistachio soup
● Ruth’s stuffed Romano peppers
● Roasted chicken with clementines & arak


Food Porn Rating: 5 out of 5 on the food porn scale. Part cookbook, part travelogue, Jerusalem features gorgeous photos of Israeli marketplaces and mouthwateringly beautiful dishes.

 

Final Analysis 

You may like it if…
● You have a love of history, culture, trying new things.
● You are unapologetically into farmers markets, organics, the fresh & the best
● You love preparing food, are awed by unique flavours, love wandering through spice markets.


You may not like it if…
● If you are looking for quick, no-nonsense easy weeknight meals
● You do not have easy access Mediterranean ingredients
● Are not into trying new or unfamiliar flavors (although, I would still give it a try)

jerusalem_recipe1 

Recipe 

Ingredients

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Fresh Figs

4 small sweet potatoes (2 lb / 1 kg in total)
5 tbsp olive oil
scant 3 tbsp / 40 ml balsamic vinegar (you can use a commercial rather than a premium aged grade)
1 tbsp / 20 g superfine sugar
12 green onions, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-in / 4cm segments
1 red chile, thinly sliced
6 ripe figs (8 oz / 240 g in total), quartered
5 oz / 150 g soft goat’s milk cheese (optional)
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 475°F / 240°C.
Wash the sweet potatoes, halve them lengthwise, and then cut each half again similarly into 3 long wedges.
Mix with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt, and some black pepper.
Spread the wedges out, skin side down, on a baking sheet and cook for about 25 minutes, until soft but not mushy.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool down.
To make the balsamic reduction, place the balsamic vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan.
Bring to a boil, then decrease the heat and simmer for 2 to 4 minutes, until it thickens.
Be sure to remove the pan from the heat when the vinegar is still runnier than honey; it will continue to thicken as it cools.
Stir in a drop of water before serving if it does become too thick to drizzle.
Arrange the sweet potatoes on a serving platter.
Heat the remaining oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the green onions and chile.
Fry for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring often to make sure not to burn the chile.
Spoon the oil, onions, and chile over the sweet potatoes.
Dot the figs among the wedges and then drizzle over the balsamic reduction.
Serve at room temperature. Crumble the cheese over the top, if using.

 

Excerpted from Jerusalem.  Copyright © 2012 Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.  Published by Appetite by Random House Canada, which is a division of Random House of Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

 

jennmyers 

Jennifer Myers is lead web designer on Foodnetwork.ca & HGTV.ca. She loves deconstructing recipes in her mostly all-white loft with her mostly all-white French Bulldog.

 

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Posted: by Jennifer Myers
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