I recently acquired two new cookbooks – Jerusalem and A Girl and Her Pig. I was hosting a brunch and thought it was the perfect opportunity to make some Middle-Eastern fare. Making Middle-Eastern food brings me back to Michigan and back to biblical times. Figs, pomegranates, olives, milk & honey, dates, almonds, olive oil, lamb, fattened calves, mint, cumin, and unleavened bread all make their appearances in the Bible. History, faith, and home all rolled up in lamb, hummus, and pita. For starters, some warm black figs topped with honey-balsamic reduction, goat cheese, prosciutto, and cracked black pepper. All the honey balsamic-reduction requires is 1 cup of good balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup of good honey, and about 10 minutes of simmering. As you’ll see below, the reduction can be used in all sorts of contexts, so making a little extra won’t go to waste. Next up: Fattoush – a tangy, tart, lemony, fresh Arab or Israeli salad, depending on whom you talk to. What’s great about Jerusalem is that adaptations and variations are expected and written into the recipes. Here is my version of Jerusalem‘s fattoush recipe:
- 1 cup greek yogurt
- 2/3 cup buttermilk
- 2 large stale turkish flatbread or naan (my bread was fresh, so I toasted for a few minutes before using)
- 2-3 cups mini heirloom tomatoes (halved or quartered depending on size)
- 3-4 Lebanese or Persian cucumbers diced
- 4-6 radishes thinly sliced
- 2 green onions chopped
- 1 oz fresh mint chopped
- 1 oz flat-leaf parsley chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced or crushed
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp (or more) sumac
- Optional: 1 large roasted beet diced. (I had leftover roasted beets on hand and it turned the salad into a beautiful magenta hue)
- In a very large bowl mix buttermilk and yogurt together until smooth.
- In a small bowl whisk together olive oil, white wine vinegar, black pepper, salt, sumac, and garlic.
- Tear the bread in bite-size pieces and place in buttermilk-yogurt mixture.
- Add the rest of the ingredients into the large bowl including the olive oil mixture.
- Mix well and leave for 10 minutes for all the flavors to combine.
- Garnish with additional parsley, sumac, and olive oil.
The main dish: arborio rice and barley risotto with baked eggs, marinated feta, and harissa.
The Jerusalem barley risotto recipe serves four and I was expecting six, so naturally I doubled the portions. Instead of double the barley, I added traditional italian arborio risotto rice. Here is my adapted recipe that should serve at least eight:
- 1 cup pearl barley
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 8 tbsp olive oil
- 8 oz pancetta (The irony of adding pancetta and prosciutto to dishes inspired from a cookbook titled “Jerusalem” isn’t lost on me.)
- 4 celery stalks diced
- 2-3 carrots diced
- 4 shallots, diced
- 8 cloves garlic, chopped
- 8 thyme sprigs
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 strips lemon peel
- 1 tsp chile flakes
- 3-4 cups chopped tomatoes and sauce (I used Cento San Marzano canned tomatoes and chopped the tomatoes in a food processor.)
- 5-6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 tsp salt plus more to taste
- 1tbsp fresh oregano leaves
- six eggs
- 2 tbsp caraway seeds
- 20 oz feta cheese crumbled
- Rinse the pearl barley under cold water and leave to drain
- Melt the butter and 4 tbsp of the olive oil in a large pot
- Cook the pancetta, celery, shallots, carrots, and garlic over gentle heat for 5-10 minutes, until soft
- Add the barley, arborio rice, thyme, paprika, bay leaves, lemon peel, chile flakes, and salt
- Add white wine until reduced
- Add tomatoes 1 cup at a time until absorbed
- Add stock 1 cup at a time until absorbed
- Cook for 45-60 minutes until the rice and barley are about al dente. You may not need all the stock.
- Transfer the cooked risotto to a cast iron pan. Make six wells in the rice and add eggs in each well. Place the pan in a 400 degree oven until the egg whites are cooked and yolks are still runny.
- Meanwhile, toast the caraway seeds in a dry pan for a couple minutes, then lightly crush them. Add them to the feta with the remaining 4 tablespoons oil and gently mix to combine.
- Take the pan out and add the crumbled feta and fresh oregano leaves
- Serve with a side of harissa
- 1 red pepper
- 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small red onion coarsely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 3 hot red chiles (there were no fresh red chiles available so I used 2 serrano chiles and 2 dried thai chiles)
- 2 tsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Place the pepper under a very hot broiler, turning occasionally about 25 minutes, until blackened completely and soft.
- Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to cool.
- Peel the pepper and sicard its skin and seeds.
- Place a dry frying pan over low heat and lightly toast the coriander, cumin, and caraway seeds for 2 minutes. Remove them to a mortar and use a pestle to grind to a powder.
- Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat, and fry the onion, garlic, and chiles for 10-12 minutes, until a dark smoky color and almost caramelized.
- Use a food processor to blitz together all of the ingredients until smooth, adding a little more oil if needed.
I don’t like to bake, but this recipe seemed more like a brunch bread (like banana bread) than a cake (and required no stand mixer). And, served with greek yogurt, honey, and almonds, I couldn’t resist giving it a shot. Using a kitchen scale helped the cake turn out moist and cooked through (which should not be assumed when I bake).
Ingredients for the cake
- 3/4 cup (180 ml) sunflower oil
- 1 cup (240 ml) freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1/2 cup (160g) orange marmalade
- 4 large free range eggs
- grated zest of 1 orange
- 1/3 cup (70 g) superfine sugar
- 3/4 cup (70 g) shredded dried coconut.
- 3/4 cup (90 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup plus 1 1/2 tbsp (180 g) semolina
- 2tbsp ground almonds
- 2 tsp baking powder
- thick greek yogurt
- slivered almonds
Ingredients for soaking syrup
- 1 cup (200 g) superfine sugar
- 1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 tbsp (140 ml) water
- 1tbsp orange blossom water
- Preheat the oven 350 degrees
- Whisk together the oil, orange juice, marmalade, eggs, and orange zest until the marmalade dissolves.
- In a separate bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients and add to the wet ingredients.
- Mix well until well combined. The mixture should be runny.
- Grease and line two 1-lb loaf pans (8 1/2 by 4 1/2 / 21 by 11 cm) with waxed paper.
- Divide the filling evenly between them.
- Bake for 45-60 minutes until a skewer inserted in a cake comes out clean and the tops turn an orangey brown.
- Near the end of the baking time, place the syrup ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, then remove from heat.
- As soon as the cakes come out of the oven, start brushing them with the hot syrup using a pastry brush; you’ll need to do this in a few goes, allowing the syrup to soak in for a minute or two before you carry on brushing with more syrup. Use all the syrup and it is all absorbed into the cakes.
- Once cakes have cooled down a little, remove them from the pan and leave to cool completely.
- Serve with greek yogurt, honey, and slivered almonds.
BONUS: Honey balsamic reduction can be used on any fruit or sweet vegetable to add a savory-sweet-tangy kick.