We had houseguests this weekend. Perfect houseguests. I have known Catherine and Jerry since we were in our very early careers. When we were in our 20s and early 30s. When we wore clothes with very large Joan Collins padded shoulders (!!) We lost touch, then reconnected a few years back, and fell right back into a comfortable friendship.
Catherine and I cooked together all those decades ago, and picked up the same rhythm this weekend, spending Friday evening plotting our menu, and Saturday executing it. Inspired by Jerusalem, the marvelous new cookbook, and her recollections of meals in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt, we put together a mezza feast, with nine dishes, some from the cookbook, and others from Food52. (Ttwo of the Food52 recipes are from my IRL friend Rivka, who writes the charming blog filled with perfect recipes, Not Derby Pie.)
(Apologies for the photos, taken on the fly in terrible light.)
We made hummus from the book and it was alright. A little thick. It calls for a great deal of tahini, and maybe that’s the hummus that is served in Jerusalem? I will use the chick pea cooking technique, using baking soda to release the skins, but far less tahini, the next time.
Here’s the labneh from Jerusalem, a combination of cow and goat’s milk yogurts, which is fantastic. Plated it per Rivka’s instructions.
We made a roasted butternut squash and tahini puree, finished with date syrup. I loved this dish. Catherine thought it might make a great soup, thinned with broth. I can see that, but I liked it with warm pita, and as a third dip, with the labneh and the hummus. This will be an awesome lunch food this week.
Fattoush is my new BFF. It’s refreshing, tart, and crunchy. Just what I’m looking for in post-holiday eating. I will be making it again and again. It’s a panzanella of a different culture, which has me wondering what other bread-ish salads there might be out there. Carol’s blog, In Medias Recipe was the first to highlight this salad. Highly recommend!
The eggplant from Plenty (also Ottolenghi) made an appearance, as it’s just so darn good. As did my homemade merguez (from the freezer!) And this gorgeous recipe for halibut was reimagined with swordfish, cut into big chunks and roasted in a very hot oven.
It was a feast, with warm pita, crisp California Sauvignon Blanc and a ripe Spanish red.
Dessert (Muttabaq) was fantastic last night, and again today (for breakfast, at tea time, and dessert!) Goat cheese and fresh ricotta filled phyllo dough, hot from the oven, it gets sprinkled with lemon syrup. If you are more of a cheese person, this dessert is going to thrill you.
And then, for breakfast, to gild the lily, we put a poached egg, hot sauce, and more onions on the leftover mujaddara. Happy happy happy meal.
So, seriously. Buy this book and cook from it.