Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Ottolenghi Files (or, Jerusalem in Jerusalem)

So. Yotam Ottolenghi is sort of a little bit a hero of mine. By which I mean this- he left academia to pursue a career in food. He writes beautifully. His recipes are a wonder to behold. He is most probably responsible for introducing the Western world to sumac. How could he not be my hero?
When Plenty suddenly became The Next Big Thing (tm) in cooking, I was overjoyed but also a bit sad in the way that I am sad when any cult(ish)/geeky thing I am excited about-Ben Whishaw, Community, Neil Gaiman, Firefly, Doctor Who- goes crazy big.There's a sort of intimacy to the pretense that something is just my little secret; that it somehow belongs to me. When things go crazy big you lose that intimacy. On the other hand, watching things go big means that you get the pleasure of watching everybody come to know that x (Ben Whishaw, Community, Neil Gaiman, Firefly, Doctor Who, Ottolenghi) is pretty much the best thing in the world, and that is awesome.
I was gifted with the original Ottolenghi cookbook by some friends. I make Roast Chicken with Sumac, Za'atar and Lemon regularly. I borrowed (read: stole) Plenty from a friend of mine. I've made bunches of recipes from it and like them all. I've got my eye on a couple more of them. (Saffron tagliatelle with spiced butter? Yes, please.) So when Jerusalem came out, I couldn't not buy it. I live in Jerusalem. It's called Jerusalem. Clearly the cookbook gods were sending me a message.
I bought Jerusalem. I bought Jerusalem and I showed it to my friend, Naomi. Naomi is a constant in my life. She is a fellow freelancer, a former neighbor twice over and the originator of some great ideas (see: granola) Also, she has a doctorate in English lit., works in a frame shop and is an all-around a great friend. She was the one who suggested that we start an Ottolenghi club. Let's do Jerusalem in Jerusalem, she said. And so once a week we get together (even by Skype if necessary) to cook our way through Jerusalem. 
So here it is -Jerusalem in Jerusalem (or, The Ottolenghi Files, as I like to call it). I won't be writing about it every week because sometimes there are other things I want to talk about and because sometimes the recipes are good but not ohmygodholyshit good in a way that wants me to write about them right now. However, when the recipes are ohmygodholyshit good and when I feel like it, Jerusalem in Jerusalem will show up as a feature on this blog, starting with Turkey and Zucchini Burgers with Green Onions and Cumin (or, page 200 as we like to call it). Those were some damn good burgers and definitely worthy of this inaugural post. They were flavorful and moist (which is a feat for ground turkey since it has the tendency to get very, very dry very, very quickly), and just as good the next day for as they were for dinner the night before.

Without further ado:

Turkey and Zucchini Burgers with Green Onions and Cumin
Adapted from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

First, some changes. The fact that I keep kosher kept us from making this recipe as it is written. The sauce in the original recipe is yogurt-sour cream based sauce. To avoid the prohibition against mixing meat and milk, we used tehina and scaled down the recipe a bit. The sauce and the burgers were still pretty gosh darn awesome, but I have heard reports that the yogurt sauce is even more awesome. If you are yogurt sauce inclined, have at it. Also, I was somehow out of sumac (the horror! the horror!).  Don't let that happen to you.

The Sauce:
1/2 cup tehina
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sumac
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1. Mix all ingredients, except the water, together in a small bowl. If the mixture is too thick, thin with a small amount of cold water until it reaches a pourable, saucy consistency. Set aside.
The Burgers: 
1  pound (500g) ground turkey
1 large zucchini, coarsely grated (scant 2 cups)
3 green onions
1 large egg
2 tbsp chopped mint
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
some sunflower oil for searing
1. Preheat the oven to 475 F.  In a large bowl mix together all the ingredients (save the oil). Form into small patties (about 16 in all).

2. In a large skillet or frying pan, heat a good layer of oil on medium heat. When hot, add the patties and sear- about two minutes per side- until nicely browned. You may need to do this in two batches. Transfer the patties to a baking sheet and bake 5-7 minutes more. Eat warm or at room temperature alongside the sauce. These also make a really good take-to-work lunch when stuffed in a pita.


  1. I would agree that they were pretty gosh darn good! (So would Hillel...)