The wonderful Simone Cassidy (who writes a very entertaining and very informative blog about volunteering in PNG) recently gave me this book. It took over the kitchen in a matter of minutes.
I’ve been cooking via internet recipes for so long that I’d forgotten what it’s like to own a heavy, beautifully photographed cookbook. The way you flip through it and salivate at the pictures, the way you bookmark certain recipes, the way you pull it off the shelf and look for a new recipe minutes after you’ve eaten the previous one.
Jerusalem seems to be a very popular cookbook, and with good reason. The photos really are like works of art, the two chefs’ stories are really fascinating, there’s a lot of interesting narrative in the book about Jerusalem’s people and food. And the recipes are so varied, probably a lot like the city–traditional Israeli dishes, Yemeni dishes, Iranian dishes, Tunisian dishes. Sure, a few ingredients appear again and again, but the flavors and textures are nicely different from recipe to recipe.
I was initially depressed when looking at the ingredient list, because things like barberries, Greek yogurt, saffron, and bulgur wheat are not readily available in Tokyo, or they’re very expensive. But my boyfriend was not so easily deterred–if anything, he’s taken the Jerusalem obsession to much greater heights than I ever could have (he’s also learning Hebrew, though the two things aren’t necessarily related). For the first recipe we made from the book–chicken with barberries and cardamom rice–he managed to find a tiny Iranian grocery in Nihombashi and came home with bags full of exotic ingredients. When it became clear that Greek yogurt was way to expensive to buy regularly, he discovered that it could be easily made by straining regular yogurt through a coffee filter.
Actually, seeking out strange ingredients has been half the fun. On any given evening one of us will come home and say “Hey, it turns out they have tahini at Kaldi!” or “You’ll never believe this, but I found harissa paste at the corner store!” I also learned a lot about the fascinating history of saffron. Like the fact that there’s a long history of “diluting” it (not surprising given its crazy high cost), and that as early as the Middle Ages people caught diluting saffron for sale were prosecuted under the Safranschou code.
Oh, and that chicken with barberries and cardamom rice? My God.
Mejadra, something I’d had at our favorite Israeli restaurant up the road (yes, I live up the road from an Israeli restaurant and it is a wonderful thing), was also fabulous. Onions cooked in flour & olive oil till they’re crunchy are my new favorite topping.
And then, of course, there’s fattoush, which they call a salad but is way more than a salad.
It’s got radishes, green onions, garlic, tomatoes, cucumbers, toasted naan, and this wonderful homemade buttermilk that you can achieve just by mixing yogurt with a little milk and waiting a few hours. Also pictured: lemon-leek meatballs, yummy and velvety.
I could go on and on–next up I think is zucchini burgers and pistachio-saffron rice–but I’ll just end by saying that if you’ve been on the fence about buying a cookbook, this is one to buy. It’s such a joy to discover a whole new world of flavors and ingredients. And to have an excuse to go to Tsukiji fish market to seek out the little guy with the little cart who might, just *might,* be selling fava beans.