The Jerusalem Cookbook Review - 120 Amazing Recipes By Yotam Ottolenghi

'ECLECTIC' applies to the many aspects of Jerusalem: A Cookbook. Yotam's recipe selection is eclectic; the spices used in the recipes are eclectic; even the presentation is eclectic! Take a peek...

Jerusalem Cookbook (photo credit: PR)
Jerusalem Cookbook
(photo credit: PR)
Though containing 150 or so recipes(including variations), Jerusalem: A Cookbook is more than a collection of recipes; it's a tribute to the unique combinations of spices and cultures that meet and blend in the city of Jerusalem. It's a brief history of that troubled city, a graphic tribute to the varied cultures, traditions and palettes of the area. Jerusalem: A Cookbook is a short visit to a place we all have impressions of as seen through the eye of a gastronome. The co-authors contribute to this cross-cultural tone; though were born in the same year (1968) and both grew up in Jerusalem, one came from the Arab east side; the other from the Jewish west side and both had to immigrate to the UK to meet.

Understanding the co-authors of Jerusalem: A Cookbook provides an interesting insight to the foundation of the book. The two were born in the same year in the same city; they dined at many of the same restaurants, but they never met until each had relocated to London. Yotam Ottolenghi, the public face of this writing duo, completed a Master's degree in philosophy and literature while working on the news desk of an Israeli daily. In a dramatic life change, he relocated to London, attended the Cordon Bleu, and began his culinary career as a pastry chef. His co-author and close friend, Sami Tamimi grew up on the Arab east side of Jerusalem, imbibing the Arabic culinary and cultural traditions of his neighborhood. When the two met, working at the same restaurant, their religious differences were outweighed by their commonality of cuisine and interest in sharing the unusual tastes and flavor profiles with their adopted home.

Jerusalem: A Cookbook
, published by Ten Speed Press, is attractive even before you try a single recipe. The cover is lightly padded, giving the new owner a small sensory hit as he or she touches it. Leafing through its pages is a joy. 130 full color photographs display the richness of the dishes, provide cultural and historical insights and invite us into the winding streets and alleys of Jerusalem. Between its padded covers, the authors interweave their story and the story of Jerusalem, drawing us more deeply into their lives and the struggle for survival that is the history of Jerusalem.
Considered a niche book, Jerusalem: A Cookbook is exceeding sales expectations and there are various reasons for this. The food world, that idiosyncratic sphere inhabited by foodies, chefs, celebrity chefs, food reviewers and their retinue, are currently focused on Mediterranean fare; not exclusively, of course, but in significant enough numbers to set a welcoming stage for Jerusalem. Additionally, the multiculturalism and message of peace-though-food is also current and news-worthy. The authors are successful chefs, have co-written other popular cookbooks and the recipes are delicious and practical for home cooks.
This primary success is supported by substantial internet fascination. Facebook pages, internet experience sharing blogs, video recordings of home cooks demonstrating techniques and discussions of where to find ingredients or which variations were most successful leave a significant footprint on the web. Even some professional chefs weigh in on the Jerusalem experience as well, building or expanding their audience on the shirttails of the success of Jerusalem while promoting its additional success at the same time.

Of course, no cookbook can succeed without excellent instructions and delicious recipes, and Jerusalem: A Cookbook has both. Though not necessarily appropriate for the after-work cook, as many of the recipes have long prep times, the techniques required to complete the dishes are not difficult. Additionally, the authors ensure that the challenge of these recipes is not in locating the ingredients. Rather than introducing the audience to Mediterranean haute cuisine, the authors present a small variety of classics which can be combined to create a wide variety of basic, yet tantalizing meals. 
You may want to begin exploring this Mediterranean tour-de-force by crafting some of the basic, and nearly unanimously-approved, hummus from scratch. The chick peas must soak for at least 8 hours, so you can't whip this up just before guests arrive. But you can have it ready to serve in the refrigerator and watch jaws drop when they taste the subtle spices and enjoy the smooth texture of this staple.
Prefer to start with dessert? Try the Apple and Olive Oil Cake with Maple Icing. This super-moist treat combines sharp Granny Smith apples, sweet raisins and a touch of lemon to create an ambrosial capstone for any meal. 
Whether embarking on Roasted Chicken with Clementines, a sweet-savory combination of citrus, flavorful chicken and anise or creating your own fresh hummus, Jerusalem: A Cookbook will take you on a gastronomic and international journey you won't soon forget.

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