Tasting Jerusalem: Couscous, Creativity, and a Contest!

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The Berries of March

March brought the beginning of sunshine to California, more snow on the East coast, and tangy barberries to Tasting Jersualem. But now Spring has sprung and it seems that couscous is in the air. Creativity and endless possibilities linger all around us like the ethereal smell of the first blooms of spring.

Tasting JerusalemTasting JerusalemSo this month at Tasting Jerusalem we plan to put your creativity to good use. Along with offering recipe suggestions from the cookbook, we want you to share your own dish in our first-ever recipe contest. In fact, take a look at this post from Emily of West of the Loop who did just that with her barberries.

And Hannah from Blue Kale Road who modified the fava bean kuku and created her own version of a spice mix called Advieh.

Before we learn all about couscous, let’s recap March. The recipes included:

  • Chicken with Caramelized Onion and Cardamom Rice, pg 184 – 5 which Sarene cooked at an all-Jerusalem dinner party and Emily cooked successfully on a weeknight

    Tasting Jerusalem

    Photo from Emily of the blog West of the Loop

  • Yogurt and Herbs, with Lamb Meatballs, pg 198-9 heartily devoured by Hannah’s boys

    Tasting Jerusalem

    Photo from Hannah from the blog Blue Kale Road

  • Fava Bean Kuku, pg 38 – 9 also served at Sarene’s dinner party and beautifully modified by Hannah

    Tasting Jerusalem

    Photo from Hannah from the blog Blue Kale Road

  • Pistachio and Mixed Herbs, with Saffron Rice, pg 104 – 5 which I served as part of a vegetarian meal one evening, scraping up every last bit of the tangy, crunchy combination of herbs, nuts, berries, and fluffy rice. The technique of cooking the rice on the stove and then steaming with a towel at the end yields a lovely fluffy bowl of basmati rice.Tasting Jerusalem

If you cooked or wrote about a dish and we missed it in this round-up, please drop us a note on my blog, the Facebook Page, or via email and we’ll add it in!

The Pearls of April

When Sarene and I chose couscous as the ingredient this month, it seemed like an “easy” ingredient both to cook with and to find in stores. After reading both Sarene’s write-ups on the ingredient and the one page overview in “Jerusalem“, pg 139, I realize it may be a simple ingredient to use and buy, but it has a complex history and multiple versions to discover. So get ready to be inspired by the little grain!

Tasting Jerusalem

Mourad Lahlou, chef and owner of the Michelin-starred Aziza restaurant in San Francisco and author of “Mourad: New Moroccan” (Artisan Books, 2011) calls couscous “the food of heaven.”  Ottolenghi and Tamimi, in “Jerusalem“, explain that couscous gained popularity in Jerusalem after the North African Jews, particularly from Morocco, arrived in large numbers in the 1950s and 60s.

Most commonly, the little sphere is made from durum wheat semolina. Many Jerusalem women continue to roll their own couscous but most commonly here in the states, you can find it in dried form in the tiny Moroccan version as well as the larger balls known as Israeli couscous or ptitim, sometimes referred to as pearls of couscous. There are other large varieties – the Palestinian version is called maftoul and the Lebanese version is called mograbieh.

April Recipes

The recipes in Jerusalem use both the tiny traditional Moroccan style couscous and the larger mograbieh or maftoul or Israeli variety.

Couscous with tomato and onion, pg 129, a dish based on one Sami’s mom cooked for him as a child. uses the technique that creates a crispy crust similar to the one you would find in a famous Iranian rice dish called tadik. The recipe looks mouthwatering but also simple to prepare. And it is available for use if you want to share it on your blog or via any social medium. And this is a great chance to encourage your friends who haven’t bought the book yet to join us and cook along, since the recipe is available to share easily! See the end of the post for the recipe and you can grab the photo here or send me an email beth (at) omgyummy (dot) com.

Tasting Jerusalem

Photo credit: Jonathan Lovekin © 2012

Burnt eggplant and mograbieh soup, pg 141, This dish uses the larger couscous pearls as well as incorporating the burnt eggplant technique that you will find called out in several recipes throughout the cookbook.

Couscous Contest

The final recipe is yours! Couscous comes in so many forms and lends itself to savory main course and side dish uses as well as dessert. So we hope you will get creative and invent a recipe of your own – perhaps even exploring the grain for breakfast or dessert. We will choose a winner by May 1. The winner will receive a Middle Eastern spice blend from Williams and Sonoma, valued at 7.95 each, that will come in handy as an ingredient in a future month of Tasting Jerusalem. To enter the contest, share the recipe with us on the Facebook Page, via email, or in a blog post by 11:59PM PST April 30. The winner will be picked by random. If you overwhelm us with entries, we might even choose multiple winners.

If you’re new to the group, welcome! Here are our “rules” (there really aren’t any except to cook and share your experiences.)

Group Guidelines:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. What do I need to participateThe 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
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.”

Couscous with Tomato and Onion

Please include the following credit if you use the recipe and photo:

“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.”

Photo credit: Jonathan Lovekin © 2012

Couscous with Tomato and Onion
Recipe type: side dish
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Serves: 4
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (1 cup / 160 g in total)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste tsp sugar
  • 2 very ripe tomatoes, cut into -inch / 0.5cm dice (1 cups / 320 g in total)
  • scant 1 cup / 150 g couscous
  • scant 1 cup / 220 ml boiling
  • chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp / 40 g unsalted butter
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Pour 2 tablespoons of the olive oil into a nonstick pan about 8½ inches / 22 cm in diameter and place over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until it has softened but not colored. Stir in the tomato paste and sugar and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, ½ teaspoon salt, and some black pepper and cook for 3 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, put the couscous in a shallow bowl, pour over the boiling stock, and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for 10 minutes, then remove the cover and fluff the couscous with a fork. Add the tomato sauce and stir well.
  3. Wipe the pan clean and heat the butter and the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. When the butter has melted, spoon the couscous into the pan and use the back of the spoon to pat it down gently so it is all packed in snugly. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to its lowest setting, and allow the couscous to steam for 10 to 12 minutes, until you can see a light brown color around the edges. Use an offset spatula or a knife to help you peer between the edge of the couscous and the side of the pan: you want a really crisp edge all over the base and sides.
  4. Invert a large plate on top of the pan and quickly invert the pan and plate together, releasing the couscous onto the plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.


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7 Responses to Tasting Jerusalem: Couscous, Creativity, and a Contest!

  1. Lana Watkins April 30, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

    Sue is one of my “old” virtual friends and a really dear soul:) I am happy she is joining forces! I had fun cooking with couscous, and I cannot wait to replicate the recipe from the book (and I promise I will:)
    I posted my blog post on FB and Twitter with the hashtags. What else am I supposed to do?
    BTW, the prom photos were precious:)

  2. Couscous & Consciousness April 27, 2013 at 5:01 am #

    So thrilled to be joining in with the group. I’ve now posted my version of the Burnt Aubergine & Mograbieh Soup.

    • Beth Lee April 27, 2013 at 7:46 am #

      Heading over to read about it now – so glad to have you Sue!

  3. Hannah April 9, 2013 at 3:47 pm #

    Hi Beth! I’ve been so behind and am happy to be catching up on reading today. Thank you for all the photos/links you shared in your March recap! I’m very excited for this month’s cooking and can’t wait to make the Couscous with Tomato and Onion. And I love the contest you’re hosting! Time to get creative. 🙂

    • Beth Lee April 11, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

      Hi Hannah! I am also VERY behind and very excited to make the tomato recipe and the eggplant one. And I am still itching to marry last month’s barberries with the couscous…

      We were sure wishing that you were in SF with us at the IACP show. Next year in Chicago Hannah!

      • Hannah April 11, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

        Yes!! It was fun following the results of the IACP. Woohoo for Jerusalem!

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