Saturday, January 4, 2014

A Jerusalem Cookbook Kind of New Year's Eve

As has been the tradition for the past several years, we celebrated the New Year at Architect’s house.  Our dinner menu had a theme this year, inspired by Jerusalem, A Cookbook. The table was beautifully set and there were lovely poetry quotes written on the patio doors….one by John Keats and one by T.S. Eliot.  I include the Keats passage below.

If you are not familiar with the collection of Middle-Eastern delights in the Jerusalem cookbook, I highly encourage you to go to a bookstore, pick up the strikingly illustrated book and leaf through the recipes – I guarantee you won’t leave the store without a copy.  I also guarantee you will be salivating.  Some of the ingredients are somewhat unfamiliar but I have found most of them either on or in various organic or natural food stores, such as our local Coop or Whole Foods. 

Wait, are there still brick-and-mortar book stores?

While I morn the loss of many traditional bookstores (I still yearn to sit at the Borders on Baltimore Pike, read a book and sip a latte), I’d like to celebrate three recipes from the cookbook served on New Years Eve helping us to welcome 2014!

Lamb Shawarma (Page 210)
The rub on the lamb roast is an 18-ingredient concoction consisting of spices common in Middle Eastern cooking including paprika, sumac, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and cumin. The magic happens when you allow the spice-slathered lamb to chill, covered, overnight in the refrigerator.  The rub also calls for fenugreek seeds.  What, you ask? I checked the index of the book and there was a Fenugreek Seed cake listed (Page 290) so I meandered over to that recipe to investigate the spice.  Fenugreek is the “ultimate curry ingredient” and has a strong, savory taste that many don’t like, especially in sweets.  I’ll bake that cake and report later.

After the spice-bejeweled meat spent the evening in the fridge, it was roasted to perfection in a 375° oven for 4 ½ hours.  The directions say to add water after 30 minutes of roasting to use to baste the meat every hour or so.  Further, the directions instruct to tent the roast with foil for the last 3 hours of roasting, to prevent the spices from burning.

This roast was superb.  The barky spice rub enhanced the naturally flavorful lamb, yet did not overpower its distinct taste.  Most of us had seconds….it was, afterall, New Year’s Eve, the really crunchy pieces were already devoured.

Roasted Cauliflower and Hazelnut Salad (Page 62)
Occasionally you stumble upon a recipe that invigorates your taste buds, literally makes them stand at attention.   Seemingly unrelated ingredients commingle suspiciously but nicely in this colorful and tasty side dish.    I would have never thought to introduce hazelnuts to cauliflower and then sprinkle the mixture with bright and crunchy pomegranate seeds, celery and parsley but, then again, I have not written a wildly popular cookbook.  Maybe, one day, I will…I need to think of a catchy name though. 

The recipe calls for sherry vinegar, which I could not find, but I did find pomegranate vinegar at Trader Joes.  You simply combine the cauliflower with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and roast it in a 425° oven until it begins to brown, about 40 minutes.  Once the cauliflower cools, combine with hazelnuts that have been roasted and chopped, some pomegranate seeds, parsley, celery, cinnamon, allspice, vinegar and olive oil.  Serve at room temperature.  The New York Times is also smitten with the Jerusalem Cookbook and you can read the entire recipe, and some others, here.
I eventually did fine sherry vinegar….in Whole Foods.

Clementine and Almond Syrup Cake (Page 294)
Foodie contributed the cake because she is the mistress of confections and always chooses just the right sweet something to finish up a fabulous meal.  This cake was no exception. 

This fragrant and airy cake can be served bare (as you see in the photo above) or iced and Foodie chose to ice it with a dark chocolate, honey and Cognac potion because chocolate makes everything better, she also added little silver stars.  The authors suggest you can substitute oranges for the Clemetines.  This is a simple recipe of butter, sugar, ground almonds (that you can grind yourself in a food processor after they are blanched and cooled), flour, eggs,  lemons, and, of course, the juice and zest of four Clementines. 

It was a wonderful evening of friends, food and frolic.
Happy New Year everyone!
Ode to a Nightingale
By John Keats
My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness,—
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.


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