Dinner from Jerusalem: A Cookbook

Wednesday I cooked several recipes for dinner from the third cookbook that I received for Hanukkah (see here and here for posts about the first two cookbooks). This one was a gift from my in-laws and is titled Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

The recipes that I chose to cook and serve (yes, all in one night) were:

  • Kofta B’siniyah
  • Basmati Rice and Orzo
  • Fresh Vegetable Salad
  • Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Onion with Tahini and Za’atar
Jerusalem A Cookbook DinnerI was able to find all of the ingredients at my local Publix (which admittedly does have an extensive ethnic aisle). Two of the dishes had several sub-recipes included and I tried to get a lot of the prep work done in the morning between carpool runs. It was still an extensive undertaking on a weeknight. On top of that, Wednesday is robotics night for Andy so we had to be done with dinner and out the door by 5:30pm. Dinner turned out delicious in spite of the disaster I created in the kitchen. Mental note – don’t try to cook four brand new recipes for the same meal.
Below are the recipes with my notes in red. Also, steps of the recipe that I skipped are omitted for brevity’s sake.
Kofta B’siniyah
Serves 6
(Middle-eastern torpedo-shaped baked beef and lamb meatballs with tahini sauce)
Meatballs (the kofta)
  • 14 oz. ground lamb (I used 1 lb.)
  • 14 oz. ground veal or beef (I used 1 lb. beef)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • 7 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts, coarsely chopped (next time I will finely chop them)
  • ½ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 large medium-hot red chile, seeded and finely chopped (I omitted)
  • 1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1½ tsp. ground allspice
  • ¾ tsp. grated nutmeg (I just used the bottled pre-grated nutmeg)
  • 1½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½ tsp. salt (I used Kosher salt)
Tahini Sauce
  • ⅔ cup light tahini paste (see here for recipe for hummus using tahini)
  • 3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 medium clove garlic, crushed
To cook and serve meatballs
  • 2 Tbsp. sunflower oil
  • Toasted pine nuts, to garnish
  • Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, to garnish
  • Sweet paprika, to garnish (totally forgot this)
Put all the meatball ingredients in a bowl and use your hands to mix everything together well. Now shape into long, torpedo-shaped fingers, roughly 3¼” long. Press the mix to compress it and ensure each kofta is tight and keeps its shape. Arrange on a plate and chill until you are ready to cook them, for up to 1 day.
Make the tahini sauce: In a medium bow, whisk together the tahini paste, lemon juice, water, garlic and ¼ tsp. salt. The sauce should be a bit runnier than honey; add 1-2 Tbsp. water if needed. (The tahini sauce will thicken as it sits so add more water just before serving if you are making it ahead of time).
Preheat oven to 425º. Heat sunflower oil in a large frying pan over high heat and sear the kofta. Do this in batches so they are not cramped together. Sear them on all sides until golden brown, about 6 minutes per batch. Lift out of the pan and arrange on a baking sheet. Put the baking sheet in the oven for 2-4 minutes.
Spoon the tahini sauce around the kofta so it covers the base of the pan. If you like, also drizzle some over the kofta, but leave some of the meat exposed. Place in the oven for a minute or two, just to warm up the sauce a little. (I skipped this entire step as I was worried about my picky child eating the meatballs if they were touching the tahini sauce. So I just baked the kofta for 6 minutes total and warmed the tahini sauce in the microwave)
Once they come out of the oven, scatter the kofta with the pine nuts and parsley and then sprinkle with the paprika (which I forgot). Serve at once.
Verdict – really really yummy. Andy thought the spice combination was weird. Very good with the tahini sauce. Will definitely make again! This was a close second for my favorite of the four recipes.
Kofta bsiniyahBasmati Rice and Orzo
Serves 6
  • 1⅓ cups basmati rice
  • 1 Tbsp. melted butter
  • 1 Tbsp. sunflower oil
  • scant ½ cup orzo
  • 2½ cups chicken stock
  • 1 tsp. salt
Wash the basmati rice well, then place in a large bowl and cover with plenty of cold water. Allow it to soak for 30 minutes, then drain.
Heat the butter and oil over medium-high heat in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan for which you have a lid. Add the orzo and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, until the grains turn dark golden. Add the stock, bring to a boil, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the drained rice and salt, bring to gentle boil, stir once or twice, cover the pan, and simmer over very low heat for 15 minutes. Don’t be temped to uncover the pan; you’ll need to allow the rice to steam properly.
Turn off the heat, remove the lid, and quickly cover the pan with a clean tea towel. Place the lid back on top of the towel and leave for 10 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork before serving.
Verdict – Yummy. Not worth the effort unless the other dishes are really easy.
Basmati Rice and OrzoFresh Vegetable Salad
Serves 4
In the cookbook, this salad is served with warm spiced chickpeas on the side. According to the authors, “The salad also works on its own without the chickpeas;” which is what I did.
  • 2 small cucumbers
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 8½ oz. radishes
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and ribs removed
  • 1 small red onion, peeled
  • ⅔ oz. cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • ½ oz. flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 5 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Grated zest of one lemon plus 2 Tbsp. juice (from half of the lemon)
  • 1½ Tbsp. sherry vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
Cut the cucumber, tomato, radish, and pepper into ⅔” dice; cut the onion into ¼” dice. Mix everything together in a bowl with the cilantro and parsley.
In a jar or sealable container, mix olive oil, the lemon juice and zest, vinegar, and garlic and mix well to form a dressing, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss lightly.
Verdict – good. I prefer my version of a chopped fresh vegetable salad, which I call an Israeli salad. However, I will plan on making it again in the summer with garden fresh vegetables instead of what you can find in the dead of winter in the grocery. I think the cucumbers and radishes could have been crisper and sweeter.
Fresh Vegetable SaladRoasted Butternut Squash & Red Onion with Tahini and Za’atar
Serves 4
  • 1 large butternut squash (2¼ lb), cut into ¾ by 2½” wedges
  • 2 red onions, cut into 1¼” wedges
  • 3½ Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3½ Tbsp. light tahini sauce
  • 1½ Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed
  • 3½ Tbsp. pine nuts
  • 1 Tbsp. za’atar (see below)
  • 1 Tbsp. coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
I halved this recipe and, served with the other dishes, it was the perfect amount for three people (Andy wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole). Also, I peeled the squash even though it didn’t specify. The squash would probably have held their shape better, and not started to blacken, if I hadn’t but it was easier to eat.
Preheat the oven to 475º. Put the squash and onion in a large mixing bowl, add 3 Tbsp. of the oil, 1 tsp. salt and some black pepper and toss well.
Spread on a baking sheet with the skin facing down and roast in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the vegetables have taken on some color and are cooked through. Keep an eye on the onions as they might cook faster than the squash and need to be removed earlier. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. (I cooked this for exactly 30 minutes and it was too long. Will start checking at 20 minutes next time).
To make the sauce, place the tahini in a small bowl along with the lemon juice, water, garlic and ¼ tsp. salt. Whisk until the sauce is the consistency of honey, adding more water or tahini if necessary. (The tahini sauce will thicken as it sits so add more water just before serving if you are making it ahead of time).

Pour the remaining 1½ tsp. oil into a small frying pan and place over medium-low heat. Add the pine nuts along with ½ tsp. salt and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often, until the nuts are golden brown. Remove from the heat and transfer the nuts and oil to a small bowl to stop the cooking.
To serve, spread the vegetables out on a large serving platter and drizzle over the tahini. Sprinkle the pine nuts and their oil on top, followed by the za’atar and parsley.
Verdict – delicious! Will definitely make this again. I’m generally not fond of winter squashes and sweet potatoes because I find them too sweet for my tastes. However, the savory seasonings on this butternut squash were fabulous. This was probably my favorite of the recipes I cooked.
Butternut Squash Red Onions Tahini ZaatarZa’atar is a middle-eastern spice blend. The version I found at my grocery contains roasted thyme, ground sumac (different from the poisonous American sumac), sesame seeds and salt.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Happy Hanukkah everyone! Here is a fabulous recipe to serve with your latkes as an alternative to brisket. And, if you aren’t making latkes, the meatballs are great with wide egg noodles. The original recipe came from one of my favorite Jewish holiday cookbooks, In the Jewish Tradition

Sweet and Sour MeatballsSweet & Sour Meatballs a la Suzanne

  • 2 15-oz. cans tomato sauce
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 6 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 lg. white onion, minced (4 Tbsp. reserved)
  • 1 small green pepper, diced, optional
  • ½ cup golden raisins, optional
  • 2 lb ground beef
  • ½ cup matzah meal
  • cup water
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 4 Tbsp. minced onion (reserved from above)
  • ¼ tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  • tsp. allspice

Combine all sauce ingredients, from tomato sauce through raisins, in a large, heavy-bottom pot. I use my cast iron Dutch oven. Bring to a boil.

While sauce is cooking, make the meatballs. Thoroughly combine the beef, matzah meal, water, egg, onion, garlic powder, salt, pepper and allspice. Form into small meatballs (about the size of golf balls).

Once the sauce is at a boil add the meatballs. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 45 min to 1 hour depending on the size of your meatballs.

Notes: the matzah meal is very important but if you can’t find it you can substitute dried bread crumbs.

I served the meatballs with latkes (from a mix) and an Israeli salad.

Hanukkah table

Chimichurri Meatballs

Two Friday nights ago, I made Chimichurri meatballs for dinner. OMG was it wonderful!! Now, chimichurri sauce with grilled steak and some roasted potatoes is already really good but with these meatballs it was just that much better. I got the idea from NoblePig when I was searching for a summery meatball recipe. These fit the bill perfectly. We have a favorite recipe for chimichurri sauce that we’ve modified from a Bobby Flay recipe so I used that instead of NoblePig’s chimichurri sauce. And, I used NoblePig’s meatball recipe as a starting point, but of course I changed it some. I also served them separately because Son #2 is piii…cky!

 Doesn’t that look absolutely divine?

Being new to this whole food blog thing I almost forgot to take a photo of the meatball ingredients before I mixed them up. To make the meatballs combine 1 lb ground beef (I use organic ground beef from Costco), 3/4 lb Italian chicken or turkey sausage (take it out of its casing), 1/2 cup panko, 1 egg, 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions (the whole scallion, white & green parts), 3 large cloves crushed garlic and salt & pepper to taste. I went light on the salt & pepper since the chimichurri is very strongly flavored.

Instead of frying the meatballs I baked them in mini muffin tins. I love the idea of not having to cook them in extra oil plus it’s hands off which gives you time to make the chimichurri sauce. I got THIS idea from Alton Brown. Form the meat mixture into 1 1/2″ meatballs and place in a mini muffin tin. I was able to get 43 meatballs out of it.

Don’t they look yummy? As NoblePig mentioned, these would be great served as an appetizer with frilly toothpicks. An additional benefit of cooking them in muffin tins is that they stay nice and round.

While the meatballs are baking, get started on your chimichurri sauce. You’ll need lots of herbs – an entire bunch of both flat leaf parsley & cilantro plus a half bunch of oregano. These must be fresh herbs. Some stems are OK since it’s going in the food processor but you want mostly leaves. By “bunch” I mean the amount that comes bundled at the grocery store. So, if you’re using homegrown herbs just guesstimate; it’ll still be divine! The parsley & cilantro are critical but if you can’t get fresh oregano just leave it out; don’t substitute dried for the fresh. Place the herbs in your food processor and add 6 cloves of garlic (we like garlic so adjust to your tastes), a sprinkle of chipotle powder, salt, white wine vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil. Blend until smooth.

I just love the vibrant green of the sauce.  It’s great in the summer with grilled food but would also be wonderful in the winter to perk up a monochrome meal since the herbs are pretty much available year round at the grocery.  I’m thinking it would do wonders for a rotisserie chicken.

Serve meatballs & sauce separately. I can’t believe we had NO leftovers!  Almost 2 lbs of meat and it’s all gone. THAT is the sign of a good recipe.

Chimichurri Meatballs

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 3/4 lb Italian chicken or turkey sausage, removed from casing
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed in garlic press
  • salt & pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together and form into 1 1/2″ meatballs.  Place into mini muffin tin.  Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes.  You can check with a toothpick; if it comes out dry the meatballs are done.

Chimichurri Sauce

  • 1 bunch cilantro, large stems removed
  • 1 bunch flat parsley, large stems removed
  • 1/2 bunch oregano, large stems removed
  • 6 cloves garlic (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle powder
  • 2 tsp salt (kosher or sea salt)
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. It should be a strongly flavored garlicky sauce.

Do you like chimichurri sauce?  Have you ever made chimichurri?  Let me know if you try my recipe and what you think!