Friday, 30 December 2016

Tasting Jerusalem #42 – Holiday Menu

written by Dee 

December’s Tasting Jerusalem theme gave us free reign to design a menu for the Holiday Season which was convenient for Jay and me, as it was something that we were going to do anyway.  It was a nice way to round off the year and we had fun choosing the recipes that made up the final menu.

In the end we divided our menu over two meals as there was too much delicious food to get through in one sitting.

Ruth’s Romano Peppers
The main dish in the first sitting called for the romano peppers to be stuffed with a mixture of minced lamb, rice, herbs and spices and then cooked in a pan, but we had to modify the recipe slightly by cooking the peppers in the oven rather than on the hob, as we didn’t have a pan that was large enough to fit them all in.
It doesn’t happen often for us when cooking recipes from the Jerusalem book, but we found these stuffed peppers looked better than they tasted.  They were just a bit on the bland side.  It felt as though the water that the peppers were cooked in had diluted the flavour.  The water was of course needed to cook the rice, but I wonder if cooking the rice before adding the stuffing could have allowed the peppers to be roasted without so much water.

Spicy Carrot Salad
For the second dish in the first sitting, we took on the spicy carrot salad as we wanted plenty of colour to brighten up the dark winter evenings (and days too over here in England), and the orange carrots, green rocket/arugula and red dressing certainly delivered on that score.
This was another recipe that we had to tweak as we didn’t set enough time aside to make the Pilpelchuma that was needed for the salad dressing, but we had some very good Harissa from Belazu which we used instead.
The salad itself was simple to make and was packed with flavour, principally from the dressing; a potent mixture of vinegar, harissa and spices.  We didn’t cook the carrots for too long as we wanted them to retain a crunchy texture.  The rocket/arugula leaves added an interesting freshness and peppery taste, making this a great salad.  We would happily make it again.

Tomato and Pomegranate Salad
We returned to an old favourite for the third dish in the first sitting.  The Tomato and Pomegranate Salad that was featured in the Ottolenghi Mediterranean Feast television series.  We’ve written about this salad before, the last time being when it was included in another showcasing menu for our first anniversary (click here for details) .  As with the carrot salad, this was another colourful addition to the menu, and its sweet, sharp dressing ensured that it was a delight for the taste buds as well as the eyes.

All three dishes worked very well together and the big flavours that the two salads delivered more than compensated for what we found to be lacking in the peppers.
After we finished the meal, there were plenty of leftovers.  The peppers fed us twice but there were still enough of both salads to keep going for another couple of meals, so we used them as the basis of an expanded menu.  The new recipes were not taken from the Jerusalem book but each has its own story which is worth sharing here.

Brussels Sprouts with Feta
We had some leftover sprouts from our Christmas dinner so decided to use them to make one of the first recipes we spotted when we bought the Zahav book by Michael Solomonov.
I’m a recent convert to sprouts, while Jay has always loved them, and to see them featured in a recipe that we could feature as part of our Tasting Jerusalem project was too good an opportunity to pass up.
We were completely blown away by this dish.  We both agreed that these were the best Brussels Sprouts that we had ever tried.  They were first blackened in a frying pan, and then mixed with onions which had been softened and flavoured with a wine vinaigrette, and finally garnished with crumbled feta.  The sprouts took on a toasted, almost nutty flavour and lost all of the bitterness which puts many people off them.  The onions and dressing add a little acidity and the feta finishes the dish off with salty freshness.  There were so many flavours and textures contained in a pretty simple meze dish but it has to be sampled to appreciate how great it is.  We will certainly be making it again.

Rose, Cardamom and Pistachio Snowballs
We finished off the menu with a dessert recipe and another one which we had made before, though in a slightly different form (read about it here)
The recipe for these shortbread-like biscuits was designed by Beth from the Tasting Jerusalem group, and reached the final five entries in the 2016 LA Times Holiday Cookie Bake-Off, so well done to Beth.
These were a nice way to finish off the meal.  They were sweet, crumbly and full of flavour, mostly from the rosewater, though that is probably due more to our ground cardamom being past its peak than any failing in the recipe.  We kept the pistachio chunks quite large, and they added a nice crunchy texture, though at the expense of the cookies’ appearance, which was not as roundly uniform as they might otherwise have been.

This was a great way to round off the year and we were happy with the menu we chose.  I think we will be able to work with the recipe for the peppers to make them more to our liking, and those sprouts are definitely too good to wait until Christmas.

January 2017 will be a vegan month, and February will see us celebrating our second Tasting Jerusalem anniversary, so there is plenty to look ahead to.

“Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of Jerusalem by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ebury Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to  following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, liking our Facebook Page or joining our Google+ Community and finally checking out all of our groups’ dishes on Pinterest

(Please note: I have listed the UK publisher and have linked to the UK Amazon site.  The US details are provided on the web site)

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