I am a huge fan of Yotam Ottlolenghi and his partner Sami Tamimi. They are the uber cool chefs behind the Ottlolenghi restaurants in London and the authors of the best selling cookbook Plenty which is widely admired as one of the best vegetable cookbooks to be published in years. When I heard that Yotam was coming to Los Angeles and cooking a special dinner from his new cookbook Jerusalem, I signed up. The dinner was held at the cozy and intimate cooking school at Osteria Mozza restaurant in Hollywood. Yotam was there and cooked much of the meal in front of us with the assistance of the talented cooks from Osteria Mozza.
We sat at several long Tuscan style tables decorated with rustic linen runners in shades of red and gold that were lit by candle light. The food was served family style in several courses. We really got to know our fellow diners by passing around the food throughout the meal and the lively conversation included lots of talk about great food. The food kept coming and the wine was flowing. The convivial spirit continued the whole evening and included the chef himself sitting with each and every one of us to chat and sign his book. Everyone was charmed by his down to earth personality as well as his talent and knowledge about the foods, customs and culture of the Middle East. I had never eaten these foods before and I am now a fan and cannot wait to cook from his new book. I have started reading the opening chapters (this cookbook is one of those that you can read from cover to cover) and am thoroughly enjoying learning about this region of the world -- its foods, customs and history. Jerusalem is where Yotam Ottolenghi and his friend and co-author Sami Tamimi grew up. This cookbook has a strong sense of place and it makes you not only want to cook and eat the foods from this part of the world, but also to travel there.
The super cozy room at Osteria Mozza where the cooking school is located and where these special dinners are held
Nancy Silverton, co-owner and chef at Osteria Mozza, introducing Yotam Ottolenghi
The first course:
Na'ama's Fattoush, pureed beets with yogurt and za'atar, and raw artichoke and herb salad
We watched as the chef prepared the food
The second course:
Cod cakes in tomato sauce, roasted butternut squash and red onion with tahini and za'atar, Chermoula eggplant with bulgur and yogurt
He visited with all of us and then signed his book
The spectacular main course:
Braised eggs with lamb, tahini, and sumac
Served with Mejadra, a side dish of fried onions and lentils
Poached pears in white wine and cardamon
Served with Mutabbaq, a sweet dish made with filo pasty, ricotta cheese, goat cheese, and pistachios
"Jerusalem" is a fabulous new cookbook filled with wonderful stories about this fascinating part of the world, sumptuous photographs, and recipes for many delicious dishes infused with Middle Eastern flavor. It is a great sequel to "Plenty" and both of these books will open up a new world of culinary adventures for anyone who loves to cook.