I once wrote a post on here called Ten Things You Should Never Serve At A Dinner Party that was mildly controversial. Craig’s sister Kristin was offended that I included “boneless, skinless chicken breasts,” so on my next visit to Washington State, she cooked up a Chicken Piccata that really put in me in place.
And now I’m about to put myself in my own place by refuting number ten on that list: sorbet. Here’s what I wrote then: “This is a dinner party, not a cleanse. If you’re feeling lazy, that’s fine, but at the very least, have the decency to serve us ice cream. But sorbet? SORBET? That’s it…I’m leaving.” Wow, I don’t even recognize the person who wrote that… especially now that I’ve made the sorbet that I’m about to tell you about. But first, the context.
Hello from a train. I’m writing this as I make my way from London to Paris through the Chunnel; there’s no Wifi, so by the time I hit “publish,” I’ll be in my hotel, but you can still picture me on a train. Last night, after getting in from “The Pajama Game” (more on that in a bit) I spent over an hour editing pictures from my three days in London. I couldn’t believe my eyes; had I really done so much in such a short period of time? More importantly: had I really eaten so much?
Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem is so popular Julia Moskin of The New York Times did an article about “Jerusalem fever.” Do I have Jerusalem fever? Well, I’ve been cooking from it gradually, making that fattoush a few months ago, and that beet dip I posted about yesterday. The beet dip was for this week’s Clean Plate Club and the entree, also from Jerusalem, is the one you see above: eggplant stuffed with lamb and pine nuts.
“Dip” is a funny word because, really, does it make you hungry? It connotes a drop in the road or a dippy person. It’s also kind of retro. “How about some chips and dip,” says a mom on a black-and-white TV show from the past, doesn’t matter which one. Oh: it also connotes chewing tobacco which my college roommate used to spit into a cup. He’d leave the cup around our dorm room and every so often I’d glance into it and want to puke. So dip, yeah. It’s not the sexiest food word.
Sometimes recipes take you by surprise; you think they’re going to taste one way, they wind up tasting another way and you wind up liking that other way better.
With the fattoush recipe from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem, I was expecting crispy pieces of pita bread tossed with pretty typical Israeli salad vegetables (cucumbers, tomatoes, etc.), yogurt, olive oil and lemon juice. Instead, you use naan (or stale Turkish flatbread, if you can find that) and don’t toast it at all. You toss that with a yogurt mixture before making the salad and what happens next is so special, I’m not going to describe it in this paragraph. You’ll just have to click ahead (unless you came to this post directly, in which case this moment is…awkward.)
They look like the aliens in Toy Story, the ones that gaze up and worship The Claw; only those aliens are cute and kohlrabi, which I often see at the farmer’s market, is rather beguiling. What is it? What are you supposed to do with it? What does it taste like? Last week, I bought a few orbs and brought them home in order to finally unpack the mystery of kohlrabi.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Or, to put it another way, I lost my round of The Piglet. Granted, there was no way I could ever have triumphed over Naomi Duguid’s brilliant Burma. She totally deserved her win.
But I have to confess, I took great comfort the next day when Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem joined me on the loser’s bench. It helped me realize how arbitrary this all was. Jerusalem was a clear front-runner for Cookbook of the Year; but Marco Canora, who judged this round (and, incidentally, is one of the chefs featured in my book!), found Jerusalem wanting. Funny enough, he singled out a dish I had made a few days earlier to great fanfare and called it “not particularly exciting.” Again, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
A year or two ago, my friends Lauren and Amy gifted me with a cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi called “Ottolenghi: The Cookbook.” And even though it’s a beautiful, tall book with colorful pictures and herb-flecked recipes from Israel by way of London, I hardly ever used it. I made mental notes to cook from it–the sumac chicken, for example–but nothing ever happened. And then something did, finally, happen: Ottolenghi published another book, Plenty, that’s all the rage now. Instead of running out and buying that, I reopened the Lauren/Amy Ottolenghi book and discovered a world of wonders within. I decided to cook two recipes from it for a dinner that I cooked for my friends Kenny and Brendan.