A feast for the eyes and the taste buds, “Jerusalem: A Cookbook,” by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi is inspiring, and easy to use. The pictures of the food and people of Jerusalem capture the spirit of the Old City – you can almost hear the Hebrew and Arabic and smell the mountains of spices.
Because the residents of Jerusalem – Jewish, Muslim and Christian – follow many different dietary laws, you’ll find meat and dairy dishes, as well as some shrimp dishes, in “Jerusalem.” A picture so beautiful accompanies each recipe you may not even feel the need to cook from it. But you should.
It was hard to pick just one recipe from the hundreds in Jerusalem, but since we had ground lamb in our fridge, I narrowed it down to kofta b’siniyah, which translates roughly into meatballs in a pan. The chapter on meatballs opens with a short history on meatballs in Jerusalem, citing the various versions in Jewish, Muslim and Christian eateries. The chopped meat is cost-effective; a portion of ground meat goes further than a cut. Kofta is the Arabic word for meatball, ktsitsot is Hebrew.
My first kofta memories date from the time I spent working in a Lebanese restaurant back in my home town, Toledo, Ohio which boasts a large Lebanese community. It was there, at Ferdos, that I first tasted and fell in love with lamb. Since that time, lamb dishes have been a regular luxury in my life. I don’t cook it all of the time, but when I do I’m awed by the way that the warm spices of cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg transform the meat into something from another country. As I started searing the kofta, I again told my partner what I always say when I’m making Middle Eastern food: “I must’ve been a Middle Eastern mother in my past life!”
Below is my version Kofta B’siniyah, adapted from “Jerusalem: A Cookbook.”
¼ cup tahini paste
Juice of 2 lemons
¼-½ cup cold water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove crushed
1 tablespoon pine nuts toasted (to garnish)
Chopped parsley (to garnish)
1 lb ground lamb
½ medium onion chopped
Mix the sauce ingredients together and then mix the kofta ingredients in a bowl and shape the meatballs. Sear the meatballs, and spoon the sauce around them.
Erika Davis is the Chief of Staff at Hazon. She also works as a freelance writer for The Sisterhood, Jewcy, Kveller and others while maintaining her personal blog Black, Gay and Jewish. She is a Jewish Diversity Advocate and works closely with the Jewish Multiracial Network. Erika likes Syrian Jewish cooking and is convinced she makes the best hummus in Brooklyn.
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