I’ve lived in Cambridge for four years and three months. That’s the longest I’ve stayed in a city since I left my childhood home when I was 17. Which has gotten me thinking about what home is. And what it means to me to have really planted roots. Oh, not in the get married/buy a house/make babies/get a dog/build a picket fence kind of way, but roots nonetheless.
But when I say I’m going home, I always think of the city where I grew up and the house where my parents still live. Nothing new here, of course, and many of you probably share the sentiment. But nowhere have I seen this feeling of home so poignantly captured as in Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi‘s most recent cookbook collaboration.
I’ve written about this London-based pair before and shared a small handful of their recipes. But their latest venture is much more than a cookbook. It’s a journey to their shared home of Jerusalem, where they grew up on opposite sides of the city.
In the introduction to the book, they explain: “It is more than twenty years since we both left the city…Yet we still think of Jerusalem as our home. Not home in the sense of the place you conduct your daily life or constantly return too. In fact, Jerusalem is our home almost against our wills. It is our home because it defines us, whether we like it or not.”
They continue, “the flavors and smells of this city are our mother tongue.” I love that. Our mother tongue. I get that.
I speak street food. Hummus and tahina, falafel and schwarma, all wrapped up in warm pita and laffa. Fresh carrot juice and bourekas.
I speak market food. Tomatoes and pickles, goat cheese and sheep cheese, rugelach and, well, more rugelach.
I speak home food. Spicy carrots and eggplant dips, chicken soup and harira, syrup-drenched cakes and pistachios by the handful.
I speak these foods and they inform my cooking even though each of my visits to Jerusalem have been brief. I can only imagine what it’s like to have grown up there. And then to make the journey back, senses more keenly aware of everything after an absence.
I can imagine. And I can cook now that I have the recipes. And I can share them with you. Here is my first taste from the cookbook.
(For more discussion of the cookbook, check out my column this month in the Jerusalem Post. You’ll also get a non-so-sneak peek at another recipe before I post it here in a few days.)
Roasted cauliflower with tahina
Adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook. The original recipe calls for frying the cauliflower, but I simplified it with a quick roast in the oven. I made it with multi-colored cauliflower, having found purple, green, and yellow varieties in the grocery store. This makes a lot of dressing. I had enough left over after five heads of cauliflower to drizzle over a few more brassica vegetables – a head of broccoli and a few kale salads. Feel free to make only half of the dressing.
A few notes on tahina Make sure to refrigerate it after opening because it can go rancid quickly (the same is true of sesame and nut oils). If the tahina separates, heat it up slightly to make it easier to mix. When you first add liquid to the tahina it will thicken but quickly loosen up as you stir. For this recipe, add enough liquid so the sauce becomes about same consistency of honey. I’ve been told the most authentic brand you can buy outside of Israel is Roland.
Serves at least 10 as a side dish
– 3 heads of cauliflower
– 8-10 scallions
– 1 small bunch parsley
– 1 small bunch mint
– 3 cloves garlic
– 2 lemons for zest and juice
– 4 T olive oil, divided
– ¾ C tahina
– 2/3 C Greek yogurt (I used 1% fat)
– 1 t pomegranate molasses (sometimes called pomegranate syrup), plus extra for drizzling
– About ¾ C water
– Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 425˚F.
Prep. Trim the end of each cauliflower and then quarter them through their cores. Cut out the cores and then break the vegetable apart into bite-sized florets. Cut the scallions in 2- to 3-inch pieces. Roughly chop the parsley and mint – you’ll need ¼ cup of each for the dressing; reserve any extra for garnish. Mince the garlic. Zest one lemon. Juice both lemons – this should yield a little over ¼ cup.
Toss. Toss the cauliflower in a bowl with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, a few pinches of salt, and a few grinds of pepper.
Roast. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Spread the cauliflower on the pan in a single layer and roast in the oven for 30-35 minutes until the cauliflower is crisp and parts of it have turned golden brown. Transfer to a large bowl to cool.
Saute. Heat up the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a small pan. When the oil is shimmering, add the scallions and sauté for about 5 minutes until they begin to color. Transfer to a bowl to cool.
Whisk. Spoon the tahina into a bowl and mix in the yogurt, garlic, herbs, lemon zest, ¼ cup of lemon juice, pomegranate molasses. Slowly pour in the water, whisking with each addition. Only add enough water to get the sauce to a thick, smooth pourable consistency, similar to honey. Taste a floret dipped in the sauce, and season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.
Serve. Mix the vegetables with a some of the sauce, enough to coat the vegetables without drowning them. (As I mentioned, there will be leftover sauce!) Drizzle with pomegranate molasses and any leftover parsley or mint.