For June at Tasting Jerusalem, we return to focusing on a single ingredient, preserved lemons, and exploring how it is used in various recipes, but May was a broader look at the baking and dessert chapter of Jerusalem: A Cookbook. The choices are so diverse that we will surely return to this chapter again in future months.
Let’s take a quick stroll through the baking exploits of our growing community:
The spice cookies, which actually have roots in a German cookie called Pfeffernusse and also an Italian spice cookie are very popular at Ottolenghi’s shop in London around Christmas and Easter. In fact, Michelle from the Daily Waffle likened the flavors of the Spice Cookies to Hot Cross Buns in this charming post “Hot Cross Buns in Cookie Form”. Interestingly she notes that the chocolate, in her opinion, is superfluous if you love the flavors the blend of spices imparts.
Emily from West of the Loop renamed them to Chocolate Spice Cookies as she found the chocolate to be quite prominent (a good thing always in my book!). Here is her informative and fascinating post on the cookies entitled “Chocolate Spice Cookies for Tasting Jerusalem”.
And then there is Sue from Couscous and Consciousness ‘s take on the cookies which included some adjustments based on ingredients at hand and her personal tastes. Love the orange addition on top, in her post entitled appropriately “Spice Cookies”.
And then there was the attempts at the peanut butter cookie of the Middle East: Tahini Cookies by both Hannah of Blue Kale Road and Sarene, our fearless co-leader. The cookies are a nod to the Middle Eastern treat halva (a sesame based candy) and do a good job of replicating the candy’s unique flavor.
Hannah creatively changed a few ingredients in the cookies, using coconut and almond flour as well as coconut sugar. I adore the lovely brown color she achieved and you can read more about it in her post called “Tahini Cookies”.
And Sarene didn’t like the idea of the cinnamon on the cookies, so she rolled some in sesame seeds and tried a pistachio on top. The sesame makes perfect sense with the tahini and the pistachio seems like it would be a lovely complement to the nutty flavor the tahini imparts.
The baking chapter has so much depth and variety – from some fun phyllo-based “cigars” to a stunning chocolate babka or krantz cake to an interesting “helbeh” cake that uses a slightly bitter seed popular in Indian cuisine called fenugreek, thought to have medicinal properties. We had a very interesting discussion about the spice on the new Google Plus group. Here is a taste of the gorgeous Krantz cake baked and photographed by Carol of the blog InMediasRecipe. I apologize in advance if these photos cause you to drool on your keyboard, tablet, or smartphone.
“Preserved lemons are so versatile and taste so delicious on many things,” says chef and owner of Michelin-starred Aziza restaurant in San Francisco (aziza-sf.com) and author of Mourad: New Moroccan (Artisan Books, 2011). “They taste nothing like regular lemons and can add that element of unknown and exotic to any dish without tremendous effort.”
Preserved lemons are used in Indian and North African cuisines, and central to chefs Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s cooking, they write in Jerusalem: A Cookbook.
The lemons are easy to make; they just take time and patience (recipe on pg. 303 in the book). The process is to drench quartered lemons in lemon juice and salt and let them rest for a month in the refrigerator. The same process can be used for limes Ottolenghi and Tamimi write.
During that time, the lemon’s rind will soften so that the perfumy rind’s flavor comes through. The rind is usually what’s called for in recipes. The flavor is too pungent to use whole, so chop it into dishes for a aromatic intensely lemony (not sour), and salty flavor.
Most of the time, recipes will have you rinse the lemon in water and pat dry so that they’re not overly salty. The preserved lemon liquid can also be used to lend a salty-lemony zing to dishes (try it in Bloody Mary’s one online source suggests).
You can use lemon zest and extra salt as a substitute, but only as a last resort. Preserved lemons have a lot more complex flavor than the zest provides.
We’ve found three recipes so far that use the preserved lemons in the cookbook. If you’ve uncovered anymore, let us know. Also check out Tasting Jerusalem’s Pinterest page for more recipes ideas.
Charred Okra with Tomato, Garlic & Preserved Lemon (page 74)
Fish & Caper Kebabs with Burnt Eggplant & Lemon Pickle – recipe called for quick pickled lemons, but we think you can use preserved lemons (page 221).
If you’re new to the group, welcome! Here are our “rules” (there really aren’t any except to cook and share your experiences.)
- 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. If you legitimately change a recipe, rewrite the headnote and instructions, and choose to share it, please say you’ve adapted it, giving credit to the source including a link to purchase the cookbook.
- 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.”