Welcome to Tasting Jerusalem, a virtual cooking community where we’ll hang out, chat about cooking, ingredients, and recipes, and enjoy delicious dishes.
Sarene and I, your fearless group organizers, share a long-time friendship, mutual love for food and cooking, and long careers in the communications profession – all of which lead us to Tasting Jerusalem. After a fortuitous conversation on Twitter about our shared interest in “Jerusalem: A Cookbook”, we decided to combine our interest in the cuisine and cooking and launch a virtual cooking community to explore this book together.
The group will “meet” monthly about the topic and recipes, but feel free to chime in anytime during the month to share photos, stories or ask questions.
Middle Eastern cuisine, informed by the religions, cultures and geography of the region, enjoys complex flavors that are foreign to many of our palates, which is why we have launched #TastingJrslm. The goal of this group is to become familiar with the region’s culinary personality by traveling virtually through its ingredients and flavors using the recipes in “Jerusalem: A Cookbook” by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi (Ten Speed Press).
This Month’s Topic: Sumac
To start off, we’ve picked the spice sumac, an interesting ingredient used in numerous recipes of the region but one that many of us may not have used in our cooking. To understand sumac’s versatility and flavor, we chose several recipes that incorporate sumac and a couple that do not. (If you have trouble sourcing the ingredient, that will give you time to order by mail or discover a local ethnic grocery store that may carry it.)
“It’s very versatile, can be added to so many dishes,” says Sami Tamimi, co-author of Jerusalem: A Cookbook.
Sumac is a dried red berry with a tangy flavor and fruity undertones. Its culinary use is said to date back to ancient Roman times. Today, it’s most often found in Middle Eastern cuisine, where flecks of the ground, red berry appear in savory dishes. Tamimi also uses it in puddings.
Sumac is used on its own to add a bit of zip to dishes or in spice blends like za’atar, which also features thyme, sesame seeds and sometimes oregano.
Monthly Menu #1
A Staple: Hummus, pg. 114, you can head over to NPR to hear the Ottolenghi/Tamimi interview and you’ll find the recipe available there, in case you haven’t ordered the book yet. Hummus is such a staple of the region that we wanted to include it right from the start so you can fine-tune your version. It is lovely with a sprinkling of sumac on top but not necessary.
Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds, pg 30 – this salad uses sumac but the night I experimented, I used a store-bought za’atar spice mix instead. It was still a knock out. And I think you can add a protein to this dish and serve it as a main course.
Na’ama’s Fattoush, pg 29 – this recipe is also something of a staple to the region. The recipe is available on the blog inmediasrecipe.com and also available to be reprinted in your blog post if you’d like. (** See info at the end of the post for how to correctly publish the recipe if you plan to do so.)
Kohlrabi Salad, pg 46 – recently I happened upon kohlrabi in my local grocery store and was stunned by its beautiful color. I had no idea what it was until the produce manager told me. This salad is simple and intriguing as it encourages cooks to try a crunchy winter root vegetable that may have eluded us all these years
Two Main Dishes:
Both of these are approachable for a midweek meal but combine ingredients we might not be accustomed to using in a typical meal.
Braised Eggs with Lamb, Tahini, and Sumac, pg 205 – questions on this one? – @casacks of inmediasrecipe.com cooked this already – I’m sure she would love to share tips and tricks. Contact her on Twitter @casacks or via her blog inmediasrecipe.com
Turkey and Zucchini burgers with Green Onion and Cumin served with a Sour Cream and Sumac Sauce, pg 200 – @yumivore of the blog Yumivore.com is a former resident of Israel and one of our culinary experts in this group. She has already cooked these burgers so can provide feedback and answer questions. She said they are easy to put together and a good choice to get a quick meal on the table any day of the week.
- How often will we cook: We’ll pick a new set of recipes monthly to allow us all to fit in the cooking when we can and to find any ingredients that might not be available at your typical grocery store stop.
- Do I need to cook all the recipes?: We offer up several recipes to fit your taste buds, menus, schedules – cook as many or as few as you desire. But once you start cooking from this book, you probably won’t stop!
- What do I need to participate: The cookbook! Plus an interest in cooking, willingness to try new flavors, and an electronic device that communicates via the Internet. We will always post the month’s information in a blog post via omgyummy.com so you can subscribe to Beth’s blog to be guaranteed to receive it or just check in frequently via the Facebook page or Twitter hashtag #TastingJrslm
- How to share what you cook: Tasting Jerusalem is open to anyone. You do not have to be a blogger or food professional of any sort. But if you have a camera, we encourage you to share photos of your dishes on Twitter or the Facebook page or Instagram, using the hashtag #TastingJrslm – we all love to see the results of your kitchen adventures. New to these types of social media? Just drop me an email beth (at) omgyummy (dot) com – I’ll be glad to help you get started.
- What recipes can be published and how to publish: We expect to cook through most, if not all, of the recipes in the cookbook over time. As such, for those of us blogging or writing about our experiences in any way, it’s important that we don’t include the recipe in our blog posts, unless Ten Speed Press has approved its use. The goal of the group is to learn together and enrich our experience using this cookbook, not create an online version of it. We are in touch with Ten Speed Press to find out which recipes we can post. For an example of another group that writes about their cooking but doesn’t post each recipe, please visit French Fridays with Dorie.
- What if I have questions? Sarene and I will be monitoring the Facebook page and Twitter hashtag #TastingJrslm almost continuously so just leave us a note there. If you see a question and know the answer, jump on in before us. Part of the fun of the group will be each of us sharing our own knowledge, perspectives and ideas.
- What to include if you write a blog post: If you do post about what you cook, please let us know – we will link to it. And feel free to post it on the Facebook page and Twitter with the #TastingJrslm hashtag. We’d also appreciate it if you would include this verbiage in the context of your post:
“Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of “Jerusalem: A Cookbook” by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ten Speed Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to omgyummy.com, following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, and liking our Facebook page.”
Have fun! And give us feedback. Sarene and I decided to do this out of sheer enthusiasm for the cookbook and the potential for expanding our cooking horizons and meeting people from all over who want to do the same. We are completely open to the group morphing and changing as we go along.
** What to include if you plan to publish the Fattoush recipe:
“Reprinted with permission from Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, copyright © 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.”
Food Photography credit: Jonathan Lovekin © 2012
And always include a link to a website where someone can purchase the cookbook, such as Amazon.
If you plan to write about it in your blog, I have a document with the recipe already typed out and a photo, just email me beth (at) omgyummy (dot) com and I’ll send it to you.