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.
Zaatar
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Polenta with Italian Sausage and Peppers ‘n Onions

If you’ve never had polenta, think of it as Italian grits. This is comfort food; and, after dropping my iPad and cracking the screen yesterday, it was just what I needed. While polenta is good with all kinds of food, we especially like it with Italian sausage and peppers & onions. This is fabulous fare for your Labor Day cookout or fall tailgating.

Polenta
Serves 4-6
  • 3 cups water, to boil
  • 1⅓ c. plain cornmeal
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 c. (16 oz) grated sharp cheddar
Bring the 3 cups of water to boil. Add dried herbs. Combine 2 c. cold water and cornmeal in a bowl. Immediately pour the cornmeal mixture into the boiling water. Stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium and cook until polenta thickens, stirring constantly.
When the polenta is thick but still pour-able, remove from the heat. Add cheese and stir until combined. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
You can also pour it into a baking dish (spritz with spray oil first) and then broil it. Or, after pouring into the baking dish, chill it and lift slices out (like brownies) to be grilled.
Italian Sausage and Peppers & Onions
I buy the sweet Italian chicken sausage at my grocery and then either Eric grills it or if the weather isn’t cooperating it gets sautéed as below.
Same for the peppers & onions.
Sometimes I serve marinara sauce on the side for dipping (delicious with the polenta, too).
Last night I also sautéed some mushrooms for an additional side.
And, in case you were curious, my iPad is not doomed. I was able to drop it off at an Apple reseller store last night to get the glass replaced and should have it back this weekend.

Garlic Chicken Saute with Olives and Israeli Couscous with Vegetables

We’ve been having so many late afternoon thunderstorms that I’ve been doing a lot less grilling than usual in the summer. Today, I have another great chicken recipe for you which gets cooked on the stove. It’s great for either a quick weeknight dinner or special enough for company. I served it with an Israeli couscous and vegetable dish that I made up as I went along. It was even better than I expected!

Garlic Chicken Sauté with Olives

Originally, the recipe was called Chicken Sauté with Broccoli, but this time I served the broccoli separately & liked it even more.

  • 1 head of garlic, separated into cloves
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine – i.e. Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Blanc
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp cold water
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, halved

Don’t bother peeling the garlic cloves but do slice off the very end where it attached to the rest of the head. Place garlic cloves in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Drain & set aside. When cool enough to handle, rub the skins off.

Meanwhile, cut each chicken piece in two. (You could do strips or bite-sized pieces too, but I like them this way). In a shallow dish, combine flour, salt & pepper.  Dredge chicken in the flour mixture, shaking off the excess.

In a large non-stick skillet heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, turning as needed, until browned on all sides, about 7 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a plate & reserve.

Pour wine into the skillet and bring to a boil, stirring to scrape up any browned bits (this is called deglazing). Boil for several minutes until reduced in half. Add chicken broth, thyme and the reserved garlic cloves; bring to a boil. Add the reserved chicken and reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until cooked through, about 10-15 minutes. Transfer the chicken & garlic to a serving dish and cover with foil.

In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch & water. Stir the cornstarch slurry & olives into the liquid in the skillet and simmer, stirring, for 30 seconds to 1 minutes, until slightly thickened. Taste and adjust seasonings. Spoon sauce over chicken & serve with steamed broccoli (or your favorite green vegetable) on the side. The garlic is excellent mashed with your fork and eaten with the chicken or spread on toasted bread.

Israeli Couscous with Summer Vegetables

Couscous is a type of pasta, and Israeli couscous (sometimes called pearl couscous) is larger than regular couscous, about the side of a pin head.

  • 2 cups toasted Israeli couscous (I used a whole wheat version)
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper, cut into medium dice
  • 1/4 large red onion, cut into medium dice
  • 4 small carrots, cut into medium dice
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/3 cup packed basil leaves

Cook couscous according to directions on the package. After it’s finished cooking, rinse under running water to remove the extra starch on the surface. You’ll warm it back up later so don’t worry about the temperature of the water. Set aside.

Cut the zucchini in half crosswise then into quarters lengthwise.  Stand each piece on end and slice off the seeds at the tip of the triangle (you’ll get a trapezoid shape – can you tell I used to teach math?).

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large sauté pan. Add carrots & cook for about 5 minutes, stirring infrequently (you want them to blister a little but not fall apart). Add onion, zucchini & bell pepper.

Cook for 5-10 minutes more, depending on how you like your vegetables (we like them more on the crunchy, al dente side). Meanwhile, cut your basil into a chiffonade (long thin strips).

Add the couscous to the vegetables & stir until thoroughly heated. If it looks dry add up to 2 more tablespoons of olive oil. Turn off heat, add basil & serve. You can turn this into a salad by adding 1-2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar.

What are you cooking differently due to all the thunder & lightening storms we’ve been having? Let me know if you cook my recipes and what you think.

Summery Risotto

This is my very first blog post about the food & recipes that I enjoy and want to share with you.

Last night hubby and I had one of our “at home date nights”. Since we both enjoy cooking, we’ll feed the boys early and send them down to the basement and then spend a relaxing evening cooking, drinking wine and then eating. That was our plan for last night but hubby got back late from mountain biking so I did the prep work and some of the cooking before he got home. I’ve been saying for some time that the “next” time we do a cooking date night I want to cook risotto. However, when I think risotto, I think cold-weather comfort food. So, I went looking for a summery risotto and found one at Fine Cooking. It’s Risotto with Corn, Tomatoes & Basil and the recipe can be found here. Of course I modified it.

Summery Risotto Dinner

Summery Risotto Dinner

You’d pay a pretty penny for that dish anywhere. And, it really wasn’t that hard.

Cut the kernels off two small ears of corn. Place in a glass bowl & microwave about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until just barely warm. (note: this where I deviated from the recipe) Mince one shallot and saute in oil over medium heat until translucent. Warm broth in a separate pan.

Add Arborio rice to shallots and sauté until most of the grains have turned an opaque, milky white.

Add white wine and barely simmer until the wine is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Check the time when you add the wine.

Add one ladleful of broth and cook until absorbed, stirring occasionally. Continue adding single ladlefuls of broth and simmering until absorbed until about 15 minutes have passed since you added the white wine.

Add the corn and continue adding broth as before.

Meanwhile, dice up a large tomato and combine with a little extra virgin olive oil and salt & pepper. Tear up a handful of basil leaves and add to the tomatoes.

Continue adding broth until it’s all been added to the rice. Turn off the heat and mix in tomato mixture and a bunch of grated Parmesan (freshly grated is way better).

We served it with some shrimp that hubby cooked on the grill. The meal was amazing and now I have the perfect summery risotto.