4.13.2013

Cooking the Book(s).



There is so much I want to tell you. I'm this close, I promise. Until I can tell you, trust me, I'm going a little crazy myself. I am going through a major period of hurry-up-and-wait stuff right now. I know that everything will be clear soon enough, but being tremendously impatient coupled with my control freakdom makes the hurry-up-and-wait times extraordinarily difficult. And I'm kind of on a diet. No carbs and no wine. Until I go visit home in two weeks. This has been going on since the beginning of the month. Okay, so let us now add the fact that I am not allowing myself crispety crunchety saltedy things or wine (wine, y'all!) along with tremendously impatient coupled with control freakdom. And it's tax time.

I do realize this is hardly a very major diet. But pasta and wine are pretty much life forces for me. And those very life forces have slowly been forcing me out of my jeans. So there you go.

What's great is that Fred is in it to win it with me. And he has done this before, and is better at it. Actually, Fred has been the one cooking the majority of our 'dietary' meals thus far. He has felt inspired in the kitchen whereas I have felt defeated. I keep looking at that coy bucatini, pointing and smiling at me, the potatoes, now with their glib eyes and ears, watching, listening, mocking me. And the damn wine. That half bottle of Pinot Blanc in the back of the fridge, becoming sour and pursing its lips, “Tsk, Tsk, Elliott. Tsk, Tsk.

So I eat an almond and perhaps a hardboiled egg and despondently wander out of the kitchen to the den to watch an episode of Iron Chef America and endure. I endure the dumb diet and I wait. I wait for the news about this and the word on that and for my jeans to have a bit more room for me in them again.

The funny thing about the dietary restrictions which I have imposed on myself – they really are not a hill to die on. I can eat most stuff. And if getting crunked mattered, I am allowed to drink spirits. In fact, I had a martini last night. But that's just not my thing. And, unfortunately for me, I have yet to jump on the coktails-with-food train. For me, it is, and always has been, wine. It would appear that wine is being replaced with whine. Apologies.


Listen, the sun is shining, the air is warm and filled with floral scents, I'm healthy, I'm in love, I have tremendously wonderful and loyal friends, and the future looks very bright. I know all of that. So let's call off the WhaAAaaaAmbulance, shall we?

Just recently, I bought a couple of stunningly, eye-arrestingly, beautiful cookbooks (making my collection the envy/horror of any hoarder). I like to read cookbooks. I like to read cookbooks like novels. I like to pore over every image, or illustration, and let my eyes stop and rest on each color, texture and shape of food, pot, napkin, fork, tabletop, background and light source before I read through its recipe and story. It soothes me. In a world where, at times, I feel I can control very little, I can look at that recipe and now that, once I round up all of the right ingredients, I can do that, too. I can make that beautiful, delicious dish all by myself. I can make something big and whole from little, tiny, seemingly disparate elements. In one room of my life, my kitchen, I am in complete control. Unless, of course, I try to make bread. I can't seem to make bread.

One of the cookbooks I alluded to above is called Jerusalem. If you're a food geek, or a cookbook person, I am certain you are aware of it. The cover alone will stop you in your tracks. As I was reading through it last week I noticed that many of the recipes were compatible with my carbohydrate-free, sugar-free diet. And so yesterday, seeing as I had a very little on the calendar with work, I went out into the great big City of Angels and foraged for all of the elements to make the cover recipe.

I know I very rarely reprint other people's recipes. I like to share my own. Plus, if you want a recipe from a cookbook, you can just go find it. No need to reference it here. But for those of you who have not yet picked up your own copy of this book, perhaps this will propel you to do so.


The ingredients should not be too hard to find. The things you may have difficulty finding, like the harissa paste, are remedied easily: make it yourself. I did.

Following my shopping expedition, I put all of the ingredients away in the kitchen and took a late afternoon nap. Then I popped up, put a record on the turntable and got cracking. I made the yogurt sauce, the harissa, and the Zhoug, charred my tomatoes, and put them aside. As I chopped the onion and sliced the garlic for the ground lamb, I realized how calm I felt. As the world around me felt chaotic, unsure, and out of my own control, here I was, in my little kitchen, conducting my very own symphony. And everything was pitch perfect.

The great thing about this recipe is that it appears complicated – and in some ways it is – it's ultimately pretty straightforward and undemanding. You will, however, dirty many a dish in the process.

The even better thing about this dish is, though it has no butter, bread or bread-like things, or cheese, it is extremely satisfying and fulfilling. It is rich with layers of texture, color, temperatures, and flavors. It tastes really complex. This dish would gratify an indulgent brunch or a simple dinner. This recipe and this dish really is like a symphony. And the best part is, you get to be both the conductor and the audience.

And during tax time, isn't it nice to know you can be in complete control of something and indulge in it as well?


Braised Eggs with Lamb, Tahini & Sumac
From Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi

Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
10 oz/300g ground lamb
2 teaspoon sumac plus extra to finish
1 teaspoon ground cumin
scant 1/2 cup/50g toasted unsalted pistachios
7 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
2 teaspoons harissa paste
1 tablespoon finely chopped preserved lemon peel 
1 1/3 cups/200g cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup/120 ml chicken stock
4 large free-range eggs
1/4 cup/5 g picked cilantro leaves, or 1 tbsp Zhoug (recipe in cookbook)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Yogurt Sauce
scant 1/2 cup / 100 g Greek yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons/ 25g tahini paste
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon water (as needed)
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a medium, heavy-bottomed frying pan for which you have a tight fitting lid. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 6 minutes to soften and color a bit. Raise the heat to high, add the lamb, and brown well, 5 to 6 minutes. Season with sumac, cumin, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and some black pepper and cook for another minute. Turn off the heat, stir in the nuts, harissa, and preserved lemon and set aside.
While the onion is cooking, heat a separate small caste-iron pan over high heat. Once piping hot, add the cherry tomatoes and char for about 4-6 minutes, tossing them in the pan occasionally, until slightly blackened on the outside. Set aside.
Prepare the yogurt sauce by whisking together all the ingredients with a pinch of salt. In needs to be thick and rich but you may need to add a slash of water if it is stiff.
Add the chicken stock to the meat and bring to a boil. Make 4 small wells in the mix and break an egg into each well. Cover the pan and cook the eggs over low heat for 3 minutes.
Place the tomatoes on top, avoiding the yolks, cover again, and cook for 5 minutes, until the egg whites are cooked but the yolks are still runny.
Remove from the heat and dot with dollops of the yogurt sauce, sprinkle with sumac, and finish with cilantro.
Serve at once.

Three years ago: Ludobites 4.0

Post a Comment