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.

Israeli Salad

This is one of my many, many favorite salads. It is, of course, better in the summer with ripe, homegrown (or farmer’s market) produce. However, even in the winter it is still delicious and balances out the abundance of comfort food at this time of year. I like to serve it for Hanukkah to counter the fried latkes and heavy brisket. It’s also welcome at other Jewish holidays such as Yom Kippur Break the Fast. Whenever you serve it, it will be gobbled up.

Israeli SaladIsraeli Salad

  • 4 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 English cucumber, diced
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced (red, orange or green)
  • 1 large handful Italian parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste

Combine tomatoes, cucumber, scallions, peppers and parsley in a bowl. Add lemon juice and olive oil and mix gently. Season generously to taste. Serve at room temperature.