Two Radically Simple Recipes from JERUSALEM: A Cookbook

There isn't a recipe in Jerusalem, the new cookbook from London (by way of Jerusalem) writers Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi that doesn't intrigue me. Each speaks volumes about the flavors, tastes and foodways of this ancient city.  Some recipes are demanding and worthy of an afternoon of cooking, others are radically simple in the parlance I speak:  boasting an ineffable balance of ease, number of ingredients and time required.  Here are two of my favorites:

Swiss chard fritters with feta According to Yotam and Sami, "The intense green color of these fritters, originally Turkish, is paralleled by a wonderfully concentrated "green flavor" of chard and herbs.  They are a truly marvelous way to start a meal.  Spinach makes a good substitute for the chard; increase the quantity by 50% and just wilt it in a pan instead of boiling it.

14 ounces Swiss chard leaves, white stalks removed 1 ounce flat-leaf parsley 2/3 ounce cilantro 2/3 ounce dill 1-1/2 teaspoons grated nutmeg 1/2 teaspoon sugar 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 2 cloves garlic, crushed 2 large free-range eggs 3 ounces feta cheese, in small pieces 4 tablespoons olive oil 1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil, add the chard and simmer for 5 minutes.  Drain the leaves and squeeze until completely dry.  Place in a food processor with the herbs, nutmeg, sugar, flour, garlic, eggs, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and black pepper.  Blitz until smooth and then fold in the feta by hand.  Pour 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium frying pan. Place over medium-high heat and spoon in a heaping tablespoon of the mixture. Press down to get make each fritter about 2-3/4 inches in diameter and 3/8 inch thick.  You should be able to fit about 3 fritters at a time.  Cook for 3 to 4 minutes in total, turning once, until they have taken on some color.  Transfer to paper towels, then keep each batch warm while you cook the remaining mixture, adding oil as needed.  Serve at once with the lemon wedges.  Serves 4 as a starter

Butternut squash & tahini spread According to Yotam and Sami, "This dip seems to be fantastically popular with anyone who tries it. There is something about the magical combination of tahini and pumpkin or squash that we always tend to come back to.  Serve as a starter with bread or as part of a meze selection.  Date syrup can be found in health food stores and Middle Eastern markets.

1 very large butternut squash (almost 2-1/2 pounds) and cut into large chunks (7 cups) 3 tablespoons olive oil 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 5 tablespoons light tahini paste 2 small cloves garlic, crushed 1/2 cup Greek yogurt 1 teaspoon mixed black and white sesame seeds 1-1/2 teaspoons date syrup 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Spread the squash out in a medium roasting pan.  Pour over the olive oil and sprinkle on the cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Mix together well and cover pan tightly with foil.  Roast for 70 minutes, stirring once during cooking.  Remove from the oven and let cool.  Transfer the squash to a food processor, along with the tahini, yogurt and garlic.  Roughly pulse until combined into a rough paste, without the spread becoming smooth.  This can be done by hand using a fork or potato masher.  Spread the paste in a wavy pattern on a large flat plate.  Sprinkle with the sesame seeds, drizzle over the syrup and sprinkle with cilantro.  Serves 6 to 8

Come meet Yotam and Sami at Congregation Beth Elohim on Wednesday, October 24th.  I will be the host for the evening -- the interview begins at 7:30 p.m.  You can register here. Autographed books will be for sale.

What My Readers are Cooking!

During the last few weeks, random readers of my cookbooks have been sharing what they've been cooking. That's always fun to hear about. Sometimes my recipes are being followed exactly as they are; other times there are embellishments or substitutions being made. And just last night one fan remembered something about a dish made with frozen peas and then asked me to email her the recipe while she was on vacation. I did.

The selections, offered below, come from a variety of sources,  Little MealsRadically Simple, Eat Fresh Food, and my new eBook: the 1-2-3 Collection.

Mod Cod:  Crumbed Cod with Frozen Peas (from Radically Simple) Yep, you can use frozen peas straight from the freezer; just slam the package on the counter a few times to break them up. They provide moisture as the thick pieces of cod, topped with garlicky breadcrumbs, are roasted at a high temperature. The peas also get roasted and take on a comforting starchy texture.

10-package frozen peas 4 scallions 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves 4 tablespoons olive oil 1 cup panko 1 large garlic clove 4 thick cod fillets, about 7 ounces each

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Put the frozen peas in a large bowl. Slice the scallions thinly on the bias and add to peas along with the thyme, 2 tablespoons of the oil, and salt and pepper. Spread on a small rimmed baking sheet.  Mix the panko with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, the garlic, pushed through a press, and salt. Season the fish with salt and pepper. To each piece add a thick cover of panko and press down firmly. Place the fish atop the peas.  Roast for 12 minutes until the crumbs are golden and the fish is just firm. Serve the fish on the peas. Drizzle with additional oil and scatter thyme leaves on top, if desired. Serves 4

Pearl Barley & Tuna Nicoise (from Little Meals) Salad Nicoise is famous from Antwerp to Argentina, but no one serves it my way, tossed with barley and a Caesar-like dressing. Barley absorbs the dressing and helps to marry all the flavors. I like it with a basket of warm soft dinner rolls and a bottle of chilled Bandol rose wine from Provence.

1 cup pearl barley 13-oz. can white tuna in water 8 ounces green beans, blanched and cut into 1-inch pieces 1/2 small red onion, sliced thin 1 large tomato, cut into thin wedges 1/3 cup black nicoise olives 2 hard-cooked eggs, quartered 1/3 cup olive oil 2 heaping tablespoons freshly-grated Parmigiano Reggiano 4 anchovies, finely minced 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, plus thyme sprigs 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 1 cloves garlic, pushed through a press 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard wedges of lemon

Rinse barley then cook in 4 cups salted boiling water for 45 minutes. Drain well and transfer to large bowl. Drain tuna and mix with barley. Add green beans, red onion, tomato, olives, and eggs. Toss gently. In a medium bowl, whisk together olive oil, parmesan cheese, anchovies, thyme leaves, lemon juice, garlic, pushed through a press, and mustard. Whisk until emulsified and pour over barley mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill and serve with lemon wedges and sprigs of thyme. Serves 4

Swiss Chard with Lemony Tahina & Cashews (from Radically Simple) This is great way to serve chard (in rainbow colors), collards or kale. It contains a wealth of antioxidants, too.   Note:  A reader made this with kale and loved it.

1/2 cup tahina grated zest and juice of 2 large lemons 1 large garlic cloves, smashed and peeled 2 pounds Swiss chard or kale 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 2 cups finely chopped onions 1/2 cup roasted cashews, broken in pieces

Put the tahina in a food processor. Add the lemon zest and 1/4 cup juice along with the garlic. Process, adding 1/3 to 1/2 cup cold water, until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Wash the greens and cut into 1/2 inch pieces.  Heat the oil in a very large nonstick skillet. Add the onions and cook over high heat, stirring constantly, 3 minutes.  Add the greens with some water clinging to them), cook over high heat 5 minutes. Add salt, cover, and cook the greens until tender but still bright green, 5 minutes longer. Transfer to a platter and drizzle with the tahina sauce and sprinkle with the cashews. Serves 4

 Chicken Thighs with Smoked Paprika & Rosemary (From the 1-2-3 Collection)

This is among my family’s favorite emergency meals. It was inspired by my best friend, cooking maestro, Arthur Schwartz. Great on a bed of garlicky mashed potatoes and a tangle of broccoli rabe.

8 large gone-in chicken thighs, with skin 5 teaspoons smoked paprika 16 large sprigs fresh rosemary

Preheat the oven the 450 degrees. Make 2 deep slits across the width of each thigh. Season chicken lightly with salt and pepper. Mix paprika with ½ teaspoon salt.  Sprinkle the paprika salt into the slits and then lay a long rosemary sprig in each slit. Arrange the chicken on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast on the top oven rack (important step!) for 40 to 45 minutes, until firm and cooked through but still juicy. Serves 4

Maple Vinaigrette (from Eat Fresh Food) This is one great dressing that everyone loves. Real maple syrup is a must. We love it with an endive salad, tossed with mesclun, walnuts and dried cranberries. To turn it into a main course, we add strips of thinly sliced turkey.

2 tablespoons real maple syrup 5 tablespoons olive oil 3 tablespoons rice vinegar 2 teaspoons strong Dijon mustard 1 small garlic clove

Put all ingredients in a small jar and put the lid on tightly. Shake vigorously until emulsified. Or whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Makes about 1/2 cup

Why not try them all this week!   Enjoy!