By Melony Carey
Food by the Book
The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has been the story of struggle for primacy in an ancient homeland.
Now comes “Jerusalem: A Cookbook,” a tribute to the city’s diverse food heritage by restaurateur Yotam Ottolenghi and his junior partner and co-chef, Sami Tamimi.
Both men were born in Jerusalem in 1968, one Israeli and the other Palestinian.
Although they did not know each other in childhood, these two became fast friends in London, bound by a love for the flavors of their native city and the commonality of their experiences growing up there.
Many have quipped that their business partnership could be a model for amity among Israelis and Palestinians, united by the pair’s signature hummus recipe.
Ottolenghi, senior partner in an eponymous line of delis and food shops, mixes elements from his European heritage (his father is Italian and his mother German) with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean ingredients.
Their shops in Soho, Islington, Notting Hill and Belgravia are veritable feasts for the eyes.
Ottolenghi, who writes a food column for the Guardian, has also penned two other cookbooks, “Ottolenghi, The Cookbook,” which came out in 2008, and “Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi” (2010), a compilation of vegetarian recipes from his newspaper column.
While Ottolenghi’s and Tamimi’s recipes are sometimes difficult to follow, their creativity and philosophy are easy to digest and well worth investigating.
Cookbooks have much to teach us. Why not read “Jerusalem: A Cookbook” with your book club? You can try a little of Ottolenghi’s culinary creativity in your own kitchen and share with friends. You might pair it with the 1880 classic “Ben Hur” by New Mexico governor Lew Wallace.
Barbecue Beef Short Ribs with Urfa Chili
4 large beef short ribs
1 onion, quartered
1 can beef broth or consommé
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons harissa paste (see instructions below)
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses or pomegranate balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Urfa chili flakes, or another mild dried chili flake
1/2 can diced tomatoes
1/3 cup whisky
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 small onion, chopped
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Place the beef ribs in a lidded casserole pan, add the onion, 3/4 teaspoon of salt and pour over the stock; ribs need to be immersed in liquid, so add more stock or some water if you need to. Place on a medium-high heat, bring to a light simmer and then cover the pan and transfer to the oven. Cook for 4 to 41/2 hours, depending on size, until the meat is completely tender. Once done remove the ribs from the stock (you can use the stock for soups or sauces — it has a delicious aroma). Remove and discard the bones and excess fat leaving the meat in large chunks.
While the beef is cooking make the marinade. Place all of the ingredients in the small bowl of a food processor. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and blitz to form a very smooth paste. I could not find a few of the ingredients here, so I made adjustments. I did have pomegranate balsamic vinegar, so I used it combined with regular molasses. Also, I could not find harissa here, so I added cumin, coriander, cayenne and olive oil to the marinade, I teaspoon each or more to taste.
Transfer to a large non-reactive bowl, add the beef meat and mix well so that the meat is well coated. Cover and leave in the fridge overnight to marinate.
The next day, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place a ridged griddle pan on high heat on stovetop and, when it is starting to smoke, add the beef pieces (you can obviously also do this on a barbecue outdoors for additional flavor). Grill for 2 minutes, turning so that all sides get some color and smoke. Transfer to a baking tray and place in the oven for about 12 minutes, until the meat is warmed through. Leave to rest for a few minutes before serving. Adapted from www.ottolenghi.com.
3 hardboiled eggs
1 3/4 pounds small yellow new potatoes, scrubbed
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, plus chopped parsley for garnish
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup frozen peas, blanched
1/3 cup mint leaves, thinly sliced (optional)
1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and cook the potatoes until they are soft but not falling apart, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a blender or food processor, combine the basil with the parsley, Parmesan, pine nuts and garlic and blend until combined. Add the olive oil and pulse until a runny pesto forms. Transfer the pesto to a large bowl. Drain the potatoes and cut them in half as soon as they’re cool enough to touch. (They will absorb more flavor when they’re hot.) Toss the potatoes with the pesto, peas, and vinegar until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add mint, if desired.
Cut the eggs in half and gently fold them into the salad. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve immediately or at room temperature.
Adapted from “Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi” at www.tastingtable.com.
Ottolenghi’s Sticky Chocolate Loaf
1 1/4 cups pitted prunes
1/3 cup Armagnac or cognac
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt
1/4 cup sunflower oil
1 large egg
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
1 cup dark chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoon Armagnac or cognac
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter or oil an 8 ◊ 8-in. baking dish.
Line bottom and sides of dish with overhanging parchment. Heat 1/2 cup prunes with 1/3 cup Armagnac in a small saucepan over medium until warm, 2 to 3 minutes; remove from heat.
Sift flour with cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
Whirl remaining 3/4 cup prunes with buttermilk and oil in a food processor until it turns into a light and shiny paste.
Scrape into a large bowl. Whisk in egg, sugars and molasses. Fold in flour mixture until no streaks remain.
Fold in chopped chocolate. Scrape mixture into prepared dish.
Smooth top. Cut each soaked prune in half and use fingers to press pieces below the surface of the batter.
Reserve remaining liquid.
Bake in center of oven until a skewer inserted into the center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 min.
Combine water with 1/3 cup sugar in a small saucepan over medium. Stir until sugar has dissolved, 2 to 3 min.
Cool for 10 min, then stir in 2 tablespoons Armagnac and remaining liquid from prunes.
Remove cake from oven. Poke several holes in cake with a skewer. Pour syrup evenly over cake. Let cool completely on a rack, 1 hour.
This comes out more like a dense bread than a cake.
The cognac glaze helps sweeten the loaf.
Source: “Ottolenghi: The Cookbook,” American edition.