When I first heard that Yotam Ottolenghi and Sammi Tamimi were coming out with Jerusalem, I pre-ordered it, watched all the YouTube videos from Jerusalem On A Plate, and waited eagerly for two months. When my book finally arrived, I tore open the packaging and scanned every single page with a crazed grin on my face half hoping I might find a few inches of my cheek next to an apple stand and then surprisingly rejected when I didn’t. Then I became overwhelmed with sadness, put the book on the shelf beside my other neglected Israeli cookbooks (The Book of New Israel Food, Orna & Ella – The Cookbook, Jerusalem – A Culinary Adventure) and didn’t open it up again until last week.
For Yotam and Sammi, Jerusalem is where it all began, and their book is an attempt to recreate the flavors and smells from their childhood. For me, Jerusalem is really where my life started.
Some of my closest friends today are from that trip, and Jerusalem is where I met and fell in love with my husband. Jerusalem is where I discovered my love of cooking, realized that I wanted to become a lawyer, and where I dream of returning every time I find myself in the library at odd hours. It’s impossible to describe the homesickness I feel when I think of our life in Jerusalem: the relief of cold tile under my feet; the look of soapy streams flowing from ground-floor apartments after a good “sponga”; the smell of caramelizing onions on Shilo St., children’s voices… everywhere; ice-cold canteloupe-flavored popsicles on the beach in Tel Aviv; bright colors; loud noises; hot days.
I know I’ve probably mentioned this before, but Leah Goldberg said that “only birds know, suspended between Heaven and Earth, the pain having two homelands.” I read this line years ago and it has never left me because no matter what, I’ll never fully “fit in” in Jerusalem. But my identity has been so shaped and affected by my life there that “home” doesn’t really fit anymore either…
I started this blog to keep “Jerusalem” in my every day life, that is, the feelings, inspiration, creativity, and joy that I experienced there. My nostalgia and longing have really prevented me, though, from keeping that purpose alive. Because I don’t foresee getting back to Jerusalem for any significant amount of time in the near future, I have resolved to actually open up those Israeli cookbooks on my shelf, starting with this one.
This soup is slightly tweaked from Jerusalem – not because I know better – but because my friends Anna & Molly might (this is their version). My favorite aspect of this recipe is that you don’t have to chop, dice, mince or do anything to the garlic other than crush the hell out of it. The roasted flavor is strong but brightened up by the sweetness of the tomatoes and freshness of the lemon. I made it twice last week, and by day four, I made it into breakfast shakshuka (see below) – very hip.
Recipe slightly adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook, Jerusalem
Makes about 4 servings for hungry, hungry people
What You Need:
1 onion; diced
1 tblsp cumin seeds
1 tblsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp tomato paste
3 medium-sized tomatoes; peeled (you can just use a peeler if the tomatoes are firm enough) and diced
4 big garlic gloves; crushed
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tblsp sugar
2 tblsp lemon juice
1 2/3 c water
2 c vegetable broth
1/2 c quinoa
2 tblsp dill; finely chopped
Note: If you double this recipe, which I recommend, add slightly more tomato paste.
How to do it:
Roast the eggplant over a medium flame on top of your burner. If you have a gas range, place some foil under the burner to keep the area clean (keeping the actual burner uncovered). Set aside until it cools and then remove the burnt flesh and stem. Set aside.
Sautee the onions and cumin seeds for about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and saute for another minute. Add the diced+peeled tomatoes, sugar, lemon juice, garlic, vegetable broth, water, salt, pepper and eggplant. Cook on a simmer for about 15 minutes.
While that’s simmering, cook the quinoa in a separate pot.
After the 15 minutes of simmering, use a standing mixer or blender to blend the soup until all the eggplant is blended. Garnish with dill and enjoy! Taste, taste, taste. It’s friggin’ delish.
Leftover soup? Tear a handful of spinach and crack a couple of eggs. Salt & pepper, cover with foil, cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes. Makes for a delicious breakfast!
(Check this out for a more traditional shakshuka recipe.)