My Ottolenghi Obsession, Jerusalem and The Boss

On October 21 I saw Bruce Springsteen….. (Because the Night  video from that show)

Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi  (picture from the Ottolenghi site)

..and also attended The Cookbook Store’s event featuring Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi who were introducing their latest book, Jerusalem. The recipes all come from their shard home city, where they were born in the same year, Sami on the Arab east side and Yotam in the Jewish west.

I honestly don’t know which I was more excited about.  (I did not wear plaid to the cookbook event but I did wear plaid to the concert.  No bandana, I swear.)

If you read Cheese and Toast occasionally you may know that I am obsessed with their vegetarian cookbook Plenty.  Why?  Because the recipes look amazing, taste amazing and they always work.  Really.  I do have a bit of a track record of experimenting with new dishes for dinners I’m hosting.  Like clockwork, 45 minutes before guests arrive, unwashed hair and pajama pants on, I’m panicking in the kitchen with dramatic wails of “just call Pizza Pizza, it’s going to be a disaster!”

But to be honest, that was years ago before I figured out the folly of my ways.  So much better to make a simple roast chicken and caesar salad, be mellow and enjoy a glass of wine rather than clutching the Chianti bottle, face pressed against oven door hoping the souffle will rise.  This does not tend to set a relaxed tone for guests.

All of this to say, that I would make any recipe from the Ottolenghi series of cookbooks for the first time even for The Boss himself.  They’re foolproof in my experience.

For this reason, I was really interested to hear Yotam and Sami talk about their testing and recipe writing process surrounding their third book, Jerusalem.

Did I mention they were warm and charming?  Utterly even. I do not think anyone there would have disagreed.

ON TESTING RECIPES:

Sami and Yotam explained that their goal when writing the recipes was to “not think like chefs”.  They put a lot of effort into testing and their testers were home cooks.  The Jerusalem cookbook uses quite a few ingredients that might be tricky to find in a pinch  (But as they joked, “once you Ottolenghize your cupboard, you’re OK”) so they list substitutions 90 percent of the time for more difficult to find items.  And though they obviously take great care with combining ingredients and flavours it was a bit of a relief to hear “if you miss one ingredient, you’re OK”.

(this was an interesting contrast to the Thomas Keller event (for the Bouchon Bakery cookbook) where though all the recipes are carefully tested til perfect, Chef Keller said he doesn’t really aim for the “home cook” because he can’t define the term.  He knows home cooks that can barely boil water and some that are as good as himself…and then I am sure he winked right at ME in the 18th row. Oh stop.)

(from top) Cannelini Bean and Lamb soup, Hot Yogurt and Barley soup and Chickpea Soup with rosewater and ras el hanout (from Jerusalem)

ON FLAVOUR

They’re definitely not shy on flavour, referring to themselves as strong and gutsy with the belief that the food should taste as vibrant as it looks.

FAVOURITE DISHES

Sami confessed to eating store-bought tortelleni with Parmesan and pepper when lazy (what a relief!), Yotam said his most comforting food was lentils and rice with some yogurt and caramelized onion.

One of the beautiful market images from the book.

HOW THEY CHOSE THE RECIPES

They both agreed that though they tested and made many more recipes that were included in the final version of Jerusalem, they only put in anything they truly, truly loved and dropped anything else.   They also talked about the photo shoot for the book (as you can see from the soup pic the photos are stunning) explaining that they did not use a food stylist, preferring to have the food presented “as it fell on the plate” without too much intervention.   So they actually shot about 8-10 photos a day (which is apparently unheard of).

Spice Trader

WHERE TO GET INGREDIENTS

In Toronto helpful audience members recommended Spice Trader (877 Queen Street West) and Arz Fine Foods (1909 Lawrence Avenue East).  Both are worth a trip whether you need anything or not, so it will be a fun and delicious mission.

You can also order online at the Ottolenghi website to buy ingredients such as Palestinian za’atar.

As if I wouldn’t show off the signed book!

If you want to try a couple of recipes before purchasing this book, I’ve blogged about a few from PLENTY such as the vibrant Sweet Winter Slaw, Socca with Roasted tomato and onion and the Celeriac and Lentil Salad with Hazelnuts and Mint.

The Lentil Celeriac Salad..

Or just get the damn books.  Best excuse to visit The Cookbook Store three times in a row.

Advertisements

6 Comments

Filed under Cookbooks, Magazines (+recipes from), Travel and Food, Uncategorized

6 responses to “My Ottolenghi Obsession, Jerusalem and The Boss

  1. Carolann

    Sounds like a fun experience.CarolAnn

  2. Harry Cardwell

    Sue – Of you can find some way to watch BBC Iplayer (UK version), you’ll really enjoy this TV documentary featuring Otto Lenghi In Jerusalem.
    http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/blog/2012/12/21/jerusalem-on-a-plate-/

    Or wait for it to show up here…maybe.

  3. OH thank you! I will check this out. Much appreciated.

  4. Hey – I can’t believe you got Springsteen and Jerusalem:A Cookbook into a single blog post! I am a longtime Springsteen fac but just discovered Jerusalem yesterday. Just blogged about it at http://midlifebatmitzvah.wordpress.com/2012/12/24/hope-in-a-cookbook/ And I have a Springsteen post at http://midlifebatmitzvah.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/how-bruce-springsteen-nearly-wrecked-my-marriage/ … But never would have managed to get them into a single post. 🙂

    • Wow! Your Springsteen post is amazing–as a freelancer I can totally understand…especially when you brought up the clothes (I mean that is a really nice pair of leather boots, good fitting jeans, nice jacket…I could go on) . I hope that you felt a little bit of coolness after you saw the concert–was amazing wasn’t it…..$2500 amazing?

      • I am totally fine with it now. Amazing concert(s) — caught Wrecking Ball when he was in San Jose last spring and recently in Oakland, where I managed to get INTO THE PIT and was about 40 feet from the stage. It was like watching him in a 400-person club.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s