A Month with Simple

There have only been two cookbooks my hands have ever taken turns being attached to: Aromas of Aleppo, and Tasting India. With Ottolenghi’s Simple now being added to the list, (thank you Danny) my hands don’t even know what to do with themselves. I’ve made about 8 of his dishes within 3 weeks, and have picked up certain things from them that I can’t wait to try out in some of my own recipes. For instance,

FRIED CAPERS. Shut the front door.

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On the day I came back with the first of the asparagus, purple and green, I knew I wanted to smother them with buttered, toasted almonds, fried capers, and dill. Because that’s what page 82 told me to do. Everyone at the table loved that extra touch of salt on fresh tender stalks.

The next day, I wanted to try the capers out in a cantaloupe salad, because while I crave sweetness, I tend to crave the saltier side of things a tad bit more. I’m still developing the recipe for this one but YES, it worked out pretty nicely: cantaloupe, blood oranges, green olives, sumac caramelized shallots, crispy tarragon, fried capers, feta, sorrel and radish microgreens.

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ORANGE PEELS and SEAFOOD and SPICE oh my (a much-needed reminder)

My family’s favorite was this shrimp with orzo and marinated feta. It reminded me of mussels I make with orange peels and canellini beans (which is a recipe I should definitely write up!). I’ve had a similar dish, minus the peels, at MP Taverna about a year ago. It was called a seafood paella and it, too, had feta and orzo and lots of red pepper. In short, Ottolenghi had me at orange peels. And marinated feta. If you look back in the archives, I have at least 10 recipes using orange peels, and one with marinated cheese. I’m a little in love over here.

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GRATED FRIGGEN CAULIFLOWER

Now on to this bright one. I adored this salad. While most of the cauliflower gets roasted (including it’s leaves, which is so very elegant and is zero-waste friendly), some of it is grated raw and tossed in with pistachios, pomegranate seeds, parsley. It added a beautiful crunch and freshness to this salad and I can’t wait to grate cauliflower into other dishes, too.

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PEAS AND CILANTRO (and how it’s currently peas season so let’s play)

I took some liberties with this one by adding cumin and aleppo pepper to the green sauce, and blistered shishito peppers to the potatoes. I want to put this sauce on everything! I also want to try out other herbs and flavors, so look out for something similar by me in the near future. We are in the thick of sugar snap season!

MARINATING TWO DAYS IN ADVANCE: Chicken Marbella

When I read that this chicken can be left alone, in the fridge, with olives and capers and dates and all the things, I was happy. This meant I could spend my Thursday morning working on my blog instead of being in the kitchen, fussing over chicken, because I did all that fussing two days ago. All I had to do was pop it in the oven and go about my business, and return to a beautifully flavored meal, sticky with pomegranate molasses.

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I’m not even close to spending less time with this book. My rose harissa just arrived, the very one that Ottolenghi suggests we use. There’s also tomato after tomato recipe, eggplant recipes…I’m simply waiting for the right time.

In the Garden

We just planted Black Cherry tomatoes to go along with 3 other tomato plants, and scarlet runner beans that hopefully will not find it’s way to our Sicilian eggplants’ mauve flowers. If they do, (or if the new furbaby does) well, there goes that roasted eggplant with curried yogurt my hand keeps returning to. Page 66.

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Syrian Rice: Bizeh b’Jurah

Syrian Rice: Bizeh b’Jurah

“Let me make you guys a nice, Syrian dinner on Sunday” was really my way of saying, I need a day in the kitchen. An entire day, please and thank you. One beginning with an early morning trip with Lori to a couple of Middle Eastern markets where rose petals, olives, barrels of legumes, Syrian cheeses, jarred tamarind, freezers stocked with homemade kibbeh and sambousaks, still-warm jelly and custard donuts, are aplenty. (Y’all know I came out with allll the donuts. And cheese.)

It’s the first day of Hanukkah, guys, and I needed to do something I love for people I love, and I needed to slow everything down so I could enjoy every second of it. That includes hugging the wonderful woman who brought out her freshly made donuts. If I couldn’t do any of this, a meltdown in the very near future would occur LET. ME. TELL. YOU.

It’s been over two months since I shared something with you. I get up in the mornings to cook something quick for dinner, then run out to work. I get home at 9pm. I’ve been feeling a disconnect in my kitchen and will like to borrow yours on the weekends. Let me feed you!

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Bizeh b’Jurah is Syrian rice with peas and meat. I made it a couple of years back on Rosh Hashanah after having seen the recipe in Lori’s copy of Aromas of Aleppo: The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews. I LOVE THIS BOOK. It feels most family to me. Every month or so I crack it open for inspiration. This recipe is simple and hearty. It could be a side dish but it could also be a main. I made a few changes to the original recipe. Where she uses coriander seed, I use cumin. Where she uses water, I prefer a rich beef stock. At some point you’re supposed to create a paste with garlic and seed but I omit that part because I adore the wholeness of sliced garlic and seeds. For color and texture, grated carrot or shredded purple cabbage, a variety of fresh herbs and/or spring onions. I turn to the season for this one.

Bizeh b’Jurah, 6-8 servings

  • 4-5 garlic cloves, sliced
  • olive oil, enough to coat pan
  • 1 tbs tomato paste (optional)
  • 1 pound flanken, cut in 2-inch cubes, seasoned with salt n pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon allspice (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 cup long grain rice or basmati (rinsed)
  • 1 cup of frozen peas
  • 4 cups beef broth/stock (or water, or vegetable stock)
  • fresh herbs, chopped (any green that you love)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced purple cabbage or grated carrot (optional)

In a medium saucepan, sear the flanken on both sides and set aside. Add a little more oil if needed, then add cumin seeds, garlic, and tomato paste if you’re using, saute for about a minute. Add meat back into the pan and pour the stock over it. Cover and simmer for about an hour and half, til tender.

Using a strainer to catch the meat, pour the liquid into a measuring cup. Measure out two cups of the broth because that is all you’ll need. Return the broth and meat into the pot and add the rice and peas, giving it a quick stir. Cover and let simmer til liquid is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes.

Toss in any herbs or crisp veggies you’d like, or leave as is! Chickpeas make a nice addition.

In keeping true to what I needed that day, I took my time with everything. I learned how to make Syrian stuffed grape leaves (Yebra) and enjoyed rinsing, drying, and trimming each small-to-enormous leaf. Adding meat and rice to each one and rolling them, sometimes sloppily, was fun. I eventually got the hang of it. In this recipe, also found in Aromas of Aleppo, you get a tanginess from lemons and tamarind (ou), and added sweetness from dried apricots and prunes.

Even tearing a part Syrian cheese was done slowly. I can eat a whole bowl of this (okay, I actually did eat a whole bowl of this.) I love the addition of nigella seeds.

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I hope that we all take a moment to self-care this winter. I always find getting through the cold and all the holidays pretty difficult, but HEY, for Christmas and New Years I’ll be on the beach away from New York, and that is MAJOR self-care. If you can’t get away, please do something you love. Take your time in doing it. It’s that necessary.