I’ve heard people refer to certain cookbooks as a “bible,” though I never understood that sentiment until now. I recently picked up a bible of my own: Jerusalem, written by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. It’s an excellent cookbook — and it’s an ideal place to start when planning your
Thanksgiving Hannukah Thanksgivukkah menu.
“We both grew up in the city,” the authors write in the introduction, referring to Jerusalem. “Sami in the Muslim east and Yotam in the Jewish west, but never knew each other.” The juxtapositions of life, flavor and tradition “is Jerusalem in a nutshell,” they write, and this idea is expressed on every page of their immaculate cookbook.
Jerusalem dives into the complex story of a city and its people while providing well-rounded and intriguing recipes. The recipes incorporate overlapping histories and competing methods, with old and new versions of dishes colliding. Many dichotomies exist within Jerusalem — it’s a melding of backgrounds and conservative and new-age concepts — but no matter what table you sit at, you’ll find bright flavors and delicious food. All of this makes Jerusalem appropriate for a year when Hanukkah and Thanksgiving collide.
One of the best recipes of the cookbook is the hummus. “Political and nationalistic discussions about hummus…are almost compulsive,” the authors write. “The arguments never cease.” Today the debate surrounds who makes the best hummus and which is the best hummusia, or eatery that specializes in hummus. “The hummusia fetish is so powerful that even the best of friends may easily turn against each other if they suddenly find themselves in opposite hummus camps,” the authors write. “Hummus is,” they sternly note, “a source of identity.”
And that appears to be true of all food in Jerusalem, whether tied to technique, recipe, or cook. The authors highlight distinctly Arab dishes like mejadra, a spiced rice dish with lentils and fried onions, and a Palestinian spicy freekah soup as well as traditionally Jewish dishes like latkes (my Hanukkah fave) and chicken soup with knaidlach (or matzo balls, as they’re more commonly known in the U.S.). Each page highlights a different element of Jerusalem, a recipe with roots in Tunisian, Spanish, Yemeni, Syrian, or Georgian Jewish communities, in Palestinian homes, in Israeli restaurants. The authors write about the kosher rules against shellfish and update a Tunisian fish stew with prawns and mussels. They discuss the incorporation of traditionally Middle Eastern flavors and spices to European Jewish households using Ottolenghi’s mother and her recipe for tomato and sourdough soup as the example.
And sometimes Ottolenghi and Tamimi simply take common Israeli-Palestinian ingredients or recipe ideas and place their own unique spin on them. Two of my favorite flavor combinations in this book are found in the authors’ original recipes. The first is a dish of charred okra — an ingredient Tamimi’s grandmother often threaded and dried — is charred in a searing hot pan then tossed with fresh tomatoes, garlic, and chopped preserved lemon. The simple preparation begets irresistible complex flavors: The salty tang of the preserved lemon cuts through and highlights the sweetness of the okra and tomato. The second is the barley risotto, a dish inspired by Italian culinary technique but flavored with smoked paprika, lemon peel, and tomatoes before it’s topped with olive oil-marinated feta and crushed caraway — distinctly Middle Eastern ingredients.
On this serendipitous and rare holiday occasion of Thanksgivukkah, Jews and non-Jews across America will gather with families to eat. Consider preparing a dish or two from Jerusalem — you’ll find a pair of recipes to get you started on the next page.
Find recipes for the basic hummus and chicken with fennel and roasted clementines on the next page
1 ¼ cups / 250 g dried chickpeas
1 tsp baking soda
6 ½ cups / 1.5 liters water
1 cup plus 2 tbsp / 270 g light tahini paste
4 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 cloves garlic, crushed
6 ½ tbsp / 100 ml ice-cold water
The night before, put the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover them with cold water at least twice their volume. Leave to soak overnight.
The next day, drain the chickpeas. Place a medium saucepan over high heat and add the drained chickpeas and baking soda. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the water and bring to a boil. Cook, skimming off any foam and any skins that float to the surface. The chickpeas will need to cook between 20 and 40 minutes, depending on the type and freshness, sometimes even longer. Once done, they should be very tender, breaking up easily when pressed between your thumb and finger, almost but not quite mushy.
Drain the chickpeas. You should have roughly 3 cups / 600 g now. Place the chickpeas in a food processor and process until you get a stiff paste. Then, with the machine still running, add the tahini paste, lemon juice, garlic, and 1½ teaspoons salt. Finally, slowly drizzle in the iced water and allow it to mix for about 5 minutes, until you get a very smooth and creamy paste.
Transfer the hummus to a bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap, and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. If not using straightaway, refrigerate until needed. Make sure to take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before serving.
Roasted chicken with clementines & arak
6 tbsp / 100 ml arak, ouzo, or Pernod
4 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp grain mustard
3 tbsp light brown sugar
2 medium fennel bulbs (1 lb / 500 g in total)
1 large organic or free-range chicken, about 2 lb / 1.3 kg, divided into 8 pieces, or the same weight in skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
4 clementines, unpeeled (14 oz / 400 g in total), cut horizontally into -inch / 0.5cm slices
1 tbsp thyme leaves
2 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
salt and freshly ground black pepper
chopped flat-leaf parsley, to garnish
Put the first six ingredients in a large mixing bowl and add 2½ teaspoons salt and 1½ teaspoons black pepper. Whisk well and set aside.
Trim the fennel and cut each bulb in half lengthwise. Cut each half into 4 wedges. Add the fennel to the liquids, along with the chicken pieces, clementine slices, thyme, and fennel seeds. Stir well with your hands, then leave to marinate in the fridge for a few hours or overnight (skipping the marinating stage is also fine, if you are pressed for time).
Preheat the oven to 475°F / 220°C. Transfer the chicken and its marinade to a baking sheet large enough to accommodate everything comfortably in a single layer (roughly a 12 by 14½-inch / 30 by 37cm pan); the chicken skin should be facing up. Once the oven is hot enough, put the pan in the oven and roast for 35 to 45 minutes, until the chicken is colored and cooked through. Remove from the oven.
Lift the chicken, fennel, and clementines from the pan and arrange on a serving plate; cover and keep warm. Pour the cooking liquid into a small saucepan, place over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, and then simmer until the sauce is reduced by one-third, so you are left with about cup / 80 ml. Pour the hot sauce over the chicken, garnish with some parsley, and serve.
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.