Celebrate Thanksgivukkah with Jerusalem, a Cookbook

Categories: Best Cookbooks

I've heard people refer to certain cookbooks as a "bible," though I never understood that sentiment until now. I recently picked up a bible of my own: Jerusalem, written by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. It's an excellent cookbook -- and it's an ideal place to start when planning your Thanksgiving Hannukah Thanksgivukkah menu.

"We both grew up in the city," the authors write in the introduction, referring to Jerusalem. "Sami in the Muslim east and Yotam in the Jewish west, but never knew each other." The juxtapositions of life, flavor and tradition "is Jerusalem in a nutshell," they write, and this idea is expressed on every page of their immaculate cookbook.

Jerusalem dives into the complex story of a city and its people while providing well-rounded and intriguing recipes. The recipes incorporate overlapping histories and competing methods, with old and new versions of dishes colliding. Many dichotomies exist within Jerusalem -- it's a melding of backgrounds and conservative and new-age concepts -- but no matter what table you sit at, you'll find bright flavors and delicious food. All of this makes Jerusalem appropriate for a year when Hanukkah and Thanksgiving collide.

One of the best recipes of the cookbook is the hummus. "Political and nationalistic discussions about hummus...are almost compulsive," the authors write. "The arguments never cease." Today the debate surrounds who makes the best hummus and which is the best hummusia, or eatery that specializes in hummus. "The hummusia fetish is so powerful that even the best of friends may easily turn against each other if they suddenly find themselves in opposite hummus camps," the authors write. "Hummus is," they sternly note, "a source of identity."

Eve Turow
And that appears to be true of all food in Jerusalem, whether tied to technique, recipe, or cook. The authors highlight distinctly Arab dishes like mejadra, a spiced rice dish with lentils and fried onions, and a Palestinian spicy freekah soup as well as traditionally Jewish dishes like latkes (my Hanukkah fave) and chicken soup with knaidlach (or matzo balls, as they're more commonly known in the U.S.). Each page highlights a different element of Jerusalem, a recipe with roots in Tunisian, Spanish, Yemeni, Syrian, or Georgian Jewish communities, in Palestinian homes, in Israeli restaurants. The authors write about the kosher rules against shellfish and update a Tunisian fish stew with prawns and mussels. They discuss the incorporation of traditionally Middle Eastern flavors and spices to European Jewish households using Ottolenghi's mother and her recipe for tomato and sourdough soup as the example.

And sometimes Ottolenghi and Tamimi simply take common Israeli-Palestinian ingredients or recipe ideas and place their own unique spin on them. Two of my favorite flavor combinations in this book are found in the authors' original recipes. The first is a dish of charred okra -- an ingredient Tamimi's grandmother often threaded and dried -- is charred in a searing hot pan then tossed with fresh tomatoes, garlic, and chopped preserved lemon. The simple preparation begets irresistible complex flavors: The salty tang of the preserved lemon cuts through and highlights the sweetness of the okra and tomato. The second is the barley risotto, a dish inspired by Italian culinary technique but flavored with smoked paprika, lemon peel, and tomatoes before it's topped with olive oil-marinated feta and crushed caraway -- distinctly Middle Eastern ingredients.

On this serendipitous and rare holiday occasion of Thanksgivukkah, Jews and non-Jews across America will gather with families to eat. Consider preparing a dish or two from Jerusalem -- you'll find a pair of recipes to get you started on the next page.

Find recipes for the basic hummus and chicken with fennel and roasted clementines on the next page

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