Cooking is all about thinking outside the box. In the case of this month’s Tasting Jerusalem recipes, we’re thinking outside the chocolate box. Instead of interminably long lines at the chocolate shop procuring truffles for your sweetie, head over to your local Middle Eastern grocery and grab some rose water and dried rose petals. Romance your sweetie with a bouquet on their plate using these aromatic ingredients as key flavor enhancers in these luscious sweet and savory dishes.
February Topic: Rose Water and Rose Petals
Rose water tastes like a summertime garden’s alluring aroma. It’s made by distilling strongly scented rose petals, usually pink damask ones, and adding distilled water.
A Persian physician in the first century AD produced the first batch of the clear water, according to The Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their Uses by Deni Brown. Over time, it blossomed into an ingredient used in cookery, religious ceremonies, cold cream and medicine. In his 1597 book “The Herball” John Gerard attributed rose water with being “good for the strengthening (sic) of the heart, and refreshing of the spirits…”
During the Crusades, rose water traveled north to England where it was an “exotic luxury” eaten in sweet dishes by the wealthy, wrote Karen Hess in “Martha Washington’s Book of Cookery.” The flavored water continued its reign until the early nineteenth century when vanilla toppled it.
It’s still used in the Middle East, Asia, Greece, and Morocco as a dessert flavoring, drizzled on baked goods or sliced fruits. In India it’s added to curries.
Gauging how much to pour is the challenge. If there’s too little it’s invisible, too much and it’s soapy. A serving size is one tablespoon, according to one bottle’s label. To achieve mild flowery undertones, taste-test after each small addition. If a more pronounced flavor is desired, add some more. But be careful, a slip of the wrist and it’s all over.
Rose water and dried rose petals are available at specialty, ethnic and liquor stores. I found my supply at my local Middle Eastern grocer, but you can order them online through Sadaf.com, for example. The rose petals and rose water are fairly inexpensive items.
Monthly Menu #2
Pan-fried sea bass with harissa and rose, pg 219
Though it’s more common to use rosewater in dessert dishes, this is a genius application in a savory one. Sarene and I cooked this via skype for the newspaper article and can tell you from personal experience, it’s a knock-out dish – not a bite was left at our house. And it’s not hard to make once you have the ingredients. You can substitute halibut if you can’t find sea bass.
Cardamom rice pudding with pistachios and rose water, pg 270
A comforting dish with an exotic twist that might be just the finish for a romantic meal with your sweetie and or your sweetie and the kids.
Ghraybeh, pg 260
A memory of Yotam Ottolenghi’s from his childhood – it’s a simple ghee-based cookie perfumed with both orange blossom water and rose water. Orange blossom water can be found in the same stores you find the rose water and ghee is readily available in many stores now including Trader Joe’s. You can use clarified butter as a substitute for the ghee, if you like.
And as always – send us a note on Twitter hashtag #TastingJrslm, Facebook, or in the comments of this post with any questions you might have about the recipes. Let’s get cooking!
(FYI – none of these recipes are on Ten Speed Press’ approved list of recipes we can publish so go buy the book! You won’t regret it!)
- 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.”