As promised, let the torrent of Jerusalem-inspired recipes begin. Let me state for the record that I’ve been making these dishes out of love. Love for my husband and love for all of you. Once home, I was totally okay with bacon and Tex-Mex, but I don’t want to deny others the joy and wonder of this region’s cuisine, so buckle up.
Let me also state for the record that, by and large and excepting the labneh, (which is so strained it probably is safe for us like Greek yogurt) Israeli and Palestinian food is friendly to our restrictions. Dairy and gluten don’t seem to be that common and eggs aren’t used much unless it’s actually an egg dish, like Shakshuka.
The night I got home, the Jerusalem cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi was in my mailbox – a gift from the woman I traveled with. It was like Christmas. It is a beautiful book and based on my brief encounter with the region and its food, seems to capture Jerusalem perfectly.
My first full day home, the culinary wheels of my brain were certainly turning, but slowly and with frequent stops. Thus, I relied on Yotam and Sami to inspire me for the night’s Middle Eastern meal. I selected Stuffed Eggplants with Lamb & Pine Nuts (pp. 166-167), which lucky for you can be found here. I cut the recipe in half and substituted for the tamarind paste with a mixture of lime juice, sugar and water (1 tsp each).
These eggplants were really delicious, very hearty and quite easy to make. They aren’t so much stuffed as they are topped with the lamb and pine nut mixture. In the future, I might hollow out a little divot in each eggplant to hold the mixture a little better.
To accompany the eggplant dish, I did rely fully on my own brain. With almost every meal, I was served a salad of tomatoes and cucumbers mixed with various herbs, usually mint or parsley, and sometimes onion. I whipped up my own concoction.
Here’s what you’ll need:
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 medium cucumber, diced
½ small red onion, finely chopped
1 TBSP fresh mint, minced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Juice of half a lemon
¼ cup olive oil
Dash of white wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
Place all ingredients in a bowl and gently stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate up to one day before serving. Serve chilled.
Again, I had something like this dish with nearly every meal I was served. I don’t think the ingredients matter much, it’s probably whatever is leftover and hanging around. I like to think of this as Jerusalem salsa.