Almost two years ago I reviewed the book Plenty by chef and author Yotam Ottolenghi, and it’s still one of my favorite “go to” books for creative and interesting vegetarian recipes. At the time he’d just released two other cookbooks but neither was yet available in ebook form. The most interesting of the two that struck me was Jerusalem: A Coobook, and I put in a pre-order for it for when the e-version became available. At some point it did, auto-downloaded itself onto my tablet, and there it sat, forgotten in the electronic reading “pile” that tends to back up on my disk. I finally got around to it a few weeks ago and wended my way through it.
It’s as well written as the previous book, the subject material is far different. He and his co-author/chef Sami Tamimi explore the classic dishes of the interwoven cultures of the city of Jerusalem, be they Jewish, Muslim or Christian, Israeli or Arab, of Middle Eastern or Eastern European origin. There’s a particular focus on the dishes that the two of them, one Israeli, one Palestinian, have from their formative years. And, it’s a great read. In many ways it’s more of a storybook than it is a cookbook, despite an ample number of recipes. It would be an interesting one to cook one’s way through, but personally I’d be more likely to cook my way through Plenty. Still, it’s one to add to my small collection of Middle Eastern cookbooks, and that adds some depth to a particular subset of those cuisines.
I gave a shot at two of the recipes, modified slightly for the ingredients that we have available to us – for the most part I was able to find everything, and we had a delightful dinner of roasted squash and onions with a tahini dressing, and a lovely salad of chickpeas, tomatoes, and cucumbers in a garlickly yogurt. I’d happily eat either again, Henry wasn’t overly thrilled with the squash dish, finding the tahini dressing a bit on the bitter side for his tastes, which is more a matter of adjusting the amount of tahini in the dish, something that the authors bring up a couple of times in the book.
Do I recommend the book? Absolutely, if you have an interest in exploring a facet of Middle Eastern cuisine. And, if not, but you’re a fan of great vegetable dishes, head back to that previous review and pick up a copy of the other book.