No matter how many times I say the word “fattoush” or “baharat”, I envision a wedding DJ calling us up for a new line dance. Fortunately, that is merely my misguided imagination. In reality, fattoush, along with being a phonetically fantastic word, is also a crunchy vibrant salad recipe drawn from Sami Tamimi’s childhood and one of many salads tackled in July by our Tasting Jerusalem group.
Not to interrupt my weird word associations, we picked the spice Baharat for our August topic. Baharat (pronounced ba-har-ot) means “spices” in Arabic –and that’s exactly what it is: a versatile mix of warm spices used commonly in Arabic cuisine. Let’s recap our July full of salads and then dance our way through the details of Baharat.
What’s More Exciting Than Salad? The NY Times!
Even before all the NY Times excitement, salads were springing up all over. The topic, though more open-ended than some months, seemed the perfect pairing for a hot busy summer month and you all seemed to agree, preparing green beans, spinach, cauliflower, herbs, chickpeas, and, yes, fattoush.
I first saw Fattoush on the blog In Medias Recipe (photo L by Carol Sacks) back in December 2012, when Carol did a recap post of several dishes she had cooked from her new favorite cookbook “Jerusalem”. Since then I see her frequently posting on Facebook that she is preparing the salad over and over again for her daughter, who adores it. Intrigued already, I then read Michelle’s post on the Daily Waffle blog and was entirely convinced I had to give this salad a try (photo by Michelle below left). So boldly, when the NY Times came to photograph me cooking from the book, I decided to prepare fattoush. My cousins from Florida gave it a hearty thumbs up, eagerly gulping down a second serving. It’s refreshing, crunchy, bright, and so comforting with the crispy and soft pita folded in throughout. And it’s easily altered for dietary restrictions (welcome to a new vegan member Jacob) or what’s available in your vegetable drawer.
And then came the spiced chickpeas and vegetable salad, a seemingly simple idea elevated to new heights by the flavorful sauteed chickpeas. Michelle of Daily Waffle, Hannah of Blue Kale Road and Sarene tackled this one, Michelle adeptly explaining the simple nuance of this recipe and also teaching us that canned chickpeas can work as a timesaver, Hannah giving us some terrific additions, and Sarene soaking the dried chickpeas successfully without baking soda.
Though cauliflower is often thought of as a winter vegetable (good for our friends Down Under), several people tackled the Roasted Cauliflower and Hazelnut Salad. This was the first recipe I ever cooked from the book last December and I was in love – unexpected flavor combinations, heartiness, and perfect buffet food all wrapped up in one bowl. Aimee of the blog Homemade Trade agrees, as does Sue of Couscous and Consciousness who whipped it out right before leaving on holiday, subbing almonds for hazelnuts, and Jael of the blog appelsiinejahunajaa, a new member from Finland subbed in walnuts and adored them as well. So apparently, versatility is this recipe’s middle name. Some of us even used multi-colored cauliflower to further liven it up.
Anybody’s green bean garden overflowing? Our friend Jaime from the blog Mezze and Dolce says not to worry – just make the Mixed Green Bean Salad. They put their own spin on it, changing up the herbs and also suggested haricots verts for the best flavor absorption. And don’t miss that FoodGawker approved photo!
And how about a year-round favorite, perfect in it’s simplicity and subtle elegance. The spinach salad with dates and almonds, prepared by Emily from West of the Loop, Sarene and I in previous months, and taught by me and Cheryl Sternman Rule (author of Ripe: A Fresh Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables and fabulously funny food writer behind the blog 5 Second Rule) at a cooking class last January with, thank goodness, great success.
And finally, the Saffron Chicken and Herb Salad, which is stunning to look at and just reading the head note enticed me to add it to my menu this week: “boiling a whole orange and blitzing it down to a paste”. I’m in and so were Sarene, our fearless co-leader and Emily of West of the Loop.
Bouncing Into Baharat
There is no one recipe for baharat, as the ingredient list varies by cook and region, though black pepper, coriander, paprika, cardamom, nutmeg, cumin, cloves, paprika and cinnamon make up the core. The Jerusalem cookbook takes the core mixture and adds allspice and cardamom and leaves out the paprika. We also found recipes with dried mint (Turkish influence), oregano, rose petals (Tunisian influence), ginger and red chiles. In the Persian Gulf region, baharat features dried black lime and saffron.
Baharat can be used in stews, soups with vegetables, as a dry rub and in marinades. It can also be used to spruce up starchy side dishes like rice, lentils and pilafs.
August Recipes include:
Tabbouleh: pg 85 – questions on this one – Emily of West of the Loop makes it all the time and Maureen Abood of the blog Rose Water and Orange Blossoms has a great post about how to prepare the parsley.
Beef Meatballs w favas & lemon: pg 196 (see photo) – this dish is a knock-out and will work well with edamame subbed for favas
Stuffed Romano Peppers: pg 165 – I just bought some peppers at the farmer’s market – this could be fun!
Maqluba, a one dish meal: pg 127 – Someone wrote to me on my OMG! Yummy FB page about this dish: “My braised eggs turned out wonderfully, so much so that I made them again. Then I made the Maqluba recipe. Sheer heaven. I’m so in love with that cookbook.”
Be sure to get creative with this spice – it is so versatile. Look through the FB page for some ideas already coming in from some new members and bloggers.
Here are our “rules” for the group (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, liking our Facebook page or joining our Google+ Community and finally checking out all of our groups’ dishes on Pinterest.”