A confession: my dinner menu hits quite a rut in the last long, cold stretch of winter. Tired of heavy foods but without fresh spring produce, it’s a struggle to find inspiration in the kitchen. When the weather does finally turn warm (or jumps straight to 90 degrees, as it suddenly was this past week), the produce at the farmers markets still isn’t quite ready. Fortunately, I received some new cookbooks for Christmas that I finally cracked open to plan our recent holiday meals. I’m particularly smitten with Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. (I’m not the only one — the book was just named cookbook of the year by the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).)
Between the pictures and the background stories I could spend many a evening curled up on the couch reading it — but it wouldn’t be long before I’d feel driven into the kitchen to try a recipe. Not content to try just one, I made two recipes for our Passover/Easter weekend: Saturday night’s seder featured the Marinated Sweet & Sour Fish (pictured above) and for Easter dinner the next day, Stuffed Eggplant with Lamb and Pine Nuts.
The fish recipe starts with a flavorful red and yellow pepper, onion and coriander sauce — and there was far more sauce than needed for the amount of fish I used. (I used hake, which looked fresher than the cod at the supermarket that day. I’d probably try it with cod next time though.) So for lunch the next day, I reheated some of the pepper sauce, spooned it over toasted bread and topped it with sliced hard boiled eggs, olive oil and sea salt. It was so good I’m actually considering making just the pepper part again to keep on hand.
The lamb-stuffed eggplant gave me a new way to prepare lamb on Easter when it was just the family and I didn’t have an excuse to cook a whole leg of lamb. The recipe is definitely company-worthy, though, and not too labor-intensive. The eggplant is roasted first, then topped with ground lamb and pine nuts and baked some more, until it is tender and saturated with the paprika-infused sauce. Delicious.
As an added endorsement, the colorful pictures also caught the eye of the littlest foodie tot — who likes to flip through the book with me and was eager to help mix the spices to season the eggplant dish.
I will definitely be making the eggplant many more times, especially when local eggplant arrives at the markets later this year.
There are so many more recipes I’m eager to try. Do you have Jerusalem yet? Let us know what we should make next. (Or get your kids in the kitchen and let’s cook Jerusalem together! Need more inspiration? Mardi of Eat Live Travel Write recently made the book’s turkey and zucchini burgers — with her middle school boys’ cooking club. Love it!! And OMG! Yummy hosts a monthly “Tasting Jerusalem” cooking event, with a recipe contest going on right now.)