Saturday, September 28, 2013

Double whammy! Cook the Books meets Tasting Jerusalem

I love serendipity, and this month it struck with the convergence of two communal cooking groups. Cook the Books 2013 with Meg of Grow & Resist and Briggs of Ohbriggsy! focuses on a different cookbook each month, and Tasting Jerusalem with Beth (@omgyummy) and Serene (@fringefood) selects a different ingredient each month from a single book. So September brings Jerusalem and pomegranate molasses to the spotlight.

Plenty is a favorite cookbook (though I'm nowhere near vegetarian), so I bought Jerusalem when it came out. While I admit I don't turn to it as often, I have been inspired by the flavors and recipes over the past few months. Choice dishes I've made have included Roasted Cauliflower Salad (p 62), Baharat spiced grilled eggplant over Mejadra (p 120), Baharat eggs over Mejadra, preserved lemons (p 203), and Lamb Meatballs with Currants, Yogurt & Herbs (p 199).

On the menu this month:

Cardamom rice pudding with pistachios & rose water (p 270) - As previously confessed in my Cook the Books Gran Cocina Latina post, I adore rice pudding. And rose flavored things. Especially the combination of cardamom and rose (see my french toast and meringue posts). As usual I made some of my recipe reading mistakes (long grain rice instead of short grain) and some substitutions (half & half instead of heavy cream, and a little extra milk with some sugar instead of condensed milk), so my version was no doubt a little less rich than Ottolenghi and Tamimi's...but it still looked and tasted gorgeous! The overnight liquid soaking part felt a little fussy to me; I wonder if there might be a way to impart the flavor of the spices without that step. Also, my sister gave me one of her rugosa rose bushes, which produces amazing blooms and rose petal jelly! The petals went into this dish too.

Shakshuka (p 66) - Me and Tunisian cuisine both have a passionate love affair with eggs. The recipe states it's a seasonal summer variation, and using all fresh farmers market produce and eggs really emphasized this point. The fresh flavors of the peppers and tomatoes shone through, and the harissa brings some spicy depth without overwhelming. Over the moon with this satisfying dish despite my less than perfect presentation. I halved the recipe and used only whole eggs (not whole eggs + yolks), so found it was a little tight in my pan and swirling the whites was just a bad idea for me. There will be a next time, so I'm sure this is a practice makes perfect kind of thing.

Wheat berries & Swiss chard with pomegranate molasses (p 100) - This dish was a strange one for me. First of all, though I should have had a sense of it from the cooking time (all together over 80 minutes), but I wasn't expecting it to be so stew-like. Served up with poached salmon on the first night, it was really tasty. Though the BF liked it less than me. True, I may have been a little heavy-handed with the pomegranate molasses, so it was pretty tangy, but to my palate a nice combination of textures and flavors. A couple days later we had some leftovers, and it had become much less pleasant tasting; bitter and strong. I did skip serving it with the suggested greek yogurt both times, so maybe that would have helped mellow out the strong flavors. I would maybe make this again, and fiddle with the ingredients and proportions in order to make it more savory, with just a hint of sweet, and less dominant sharpness.

One of the really fun things about immersing yourself in a single cookbook each monthor for longer!is to investigate and savor different ingredients. I love going out to the various ethnic grocers in our neighborhood (rarely do I need to go further) and buying things I usually only look at or wonder about. And I frequently discover new ways to use a familiar ingredient too. At home in my own kitchen, I feel like I journey the world through food. And the exploration is made that much more interesting with good company. I can't wait to see what everyone else, from both cooking communities, cooked up this month!

And for the record (the second time), I WILL make the Chocolate Krantz Cake one of these days...

Note: My trusty old Canon PowerShot SD650 is on its last legs, and I recently crossed over to the dark side and now have an iPhone. I'm trying out all iPhone photos for the blog. and though I haven't spent any time exploring more than basic functionality, so far...I'm not convinced. Tips, thoughts and camera recommendations are all welcome.


  1. Aimee - great post - these detailed summaries take a lot of effort but are so helpful for the reader to learn about the experience you had with the various dishes. Thanks for sharing with us. We're thrilled to be converging with Cook the Books this month!

    Sarene and I just got copies of Ottolenghi: The cookbook so it will be interesting to see his earlier work and how the ingredients are used in a non-Jerusalem focussed book.

    Re the camera - I like using my iPhone but personally, I feel like a good small camera or SLR is also necessary. I just got the Canon S110 - about as close to SLR as you can get without getting one. But I know @brhau is a wiz with his iPhone - you should chat with him. I know people can really make those puppies do magic!

  2. JK downloaded an App that let's you shoot "raw" using your iphone. I'm not sure of the name tho. We like it for our blog photos.