“I want to take Jerusalem food outside,” I’d said excitedly to Mike and Otto (boyfriend and cat, respectively) about ten days ago when we finally got our first glimpse of spring in Vermont.
This simple idea hit me like sudden blinding ray of light. I would start on the front porch and then, like the movable gnomes in the movie Amélie, I would take the food of Jerusalem on the road to various picnic spots around the state, or at least around town, to show you my environs. It would get me out of the house—it’s been a LONG winter—and challenge my photography skills.
I need things to get a little bit messy. When you routinely photograph inside in a controlled setting with light that know intimately from hour to hour, as I’ve been doing all winter, you can get into a rut of standardization. Besides Jerusalem authors Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi say that more than anything, their food takes its cue from places where the sun is shining. (Watch and listen up here.) So why not be out and in it?
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I started with the Basic Hummus recipe and our front porch. Ever since first hearing of the cookbook Jerusalem, and then verifying that the book includes a recipe for hummus, I’ve been very curious to know if the book’s hummus recipe is similar to that served at an Israeli-run restaurant in NYC called the Hummus Place. The first time I ate there, back in 2005, my hummus eating bar was flung sky high. I ordered the Hummus Fava, and I’ve never strayed. In that version—one of five served at the restaurant—the incredibly smooth and creamy and richly flavorful tahini-y hummus is topped with whole fava beans, tahini sauce, hard-boiled egg, olive oil, and spices. (See photo of Hummus Fava here.)
One day, our server asked if we like spicy condiments. “Oh, yes.” She returned with a very small bowl of a bright green coarsely ground herby mixture whose spicy flavor was difficult to pinpoint: It was kind of tasted like cilantro, and kind of like parsley, but not exactly like either. The reason, I learned on my next visit during which time I also learned the condiment’s name (“zhoug”), is that it combines cilantro and parsley along with garlic, chili peppers, various spices.
The Basic Hummus from Jerusalem IS like the hummus from Hummus Place, and both zhougs are equally good; though, chili peppers being relative, the zhoug from the cookbook is decidedly spicier than the zhoug I had at the restaurant. The Jerusalem recipes can be found online: the hummus on NPR’s site (where you can also hear the podcast of an interview with the authors) and the zhoug in Google Books. (Once in Google Books, search for “zhoug.” The recipe in original British publication using metric weights will come up.)
Jerusalem has gotten an amazing amount of attention from the press and from your everyday blogger, like me. With the number of recipes from the book foundable online, whether used verbatim with permission granted, adapted, or simply used as is with no apparent permission granted, it’s a wonder that print cookbooks are a viable option for publishers. Yet, they are. At least for now.
One way to counter the online avalanche of recipes is to create a pleasurable object experience. Nigel Slater’s Ripe, a previous DCCC pick, accomplishes this. Jerusalem accomplishes it with gorgeous food and location photography—the former done by the same photographer of Ripe, by the way—and a cushy binding (descriptor compliments of DCCC member Tamara). And of course not all of the 120 recipes in Jerusalem are available online.
My first attempt at showing you a bit of my environs is the photograph at the top of this posting, taken a few days ago. There it is. Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s basic hummus with a healthy side of zhoug. But my macro lens, so adept at rendering close-up shots of food, isn’t so good at showing the context of food. Take it from me, the house across the street beyond the porch railing is charming, and lucky for us but not our neighbors, much nicer to look at than our rental. Since that photo was taken it’s become gray and rainy again, and much cooler. But that is just a temporary setback to my food excursion plans.