Saturday, September 7, 2013

Celebrating the New Year

I have an abiding interest in French cooking, and a growing fascination with Middle Eastern culinary traditions. I am planning a Seder next spring that will consist of dishes from some or all of Morocco, Syria, Iran, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Israel and Italy, and am in the process of searching out and testing recipes for that event.

So for the Jewish New Year, I made a dinner combining these traditions and asked our invitees -- dear friends all -- to be my test panel.

Here's what I made:

For hors d'oeuvres, Mustard Batons and Salmon Rillettes on toasted baguette slices, both from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table. The batons, puff pastry with Dijon mustard filling, have already become one of my standby recipes: I keep some frozen ones for spur-of-the-moment situations. (I am working my way through Dorie's book and will report in more detail when I am finished.)

Dorie Greenspan's Mustard Batons
Dorie Greenspan's Salmon Rillettes on Toast
The appetizer was Watercress and Chickpea Soup with Rose Water and Ras el Hanout, from Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. The soup was very green, its slight bitterness tempered by the rose water. But the carrots and chickpeas, roasted in ras el hanout and other spices and added at the end, elevated this soup to an exotic Middle Eastern dish. Another possibility for Passover. (I used Clotilde Dusoulier's simple but rich vegetable broth from her new vegetarian The French Market Cookbook.)

Ottolenghi's Watercress and Spinach Soup
Moving to Syria, the main course, from Jennifer Abadi's fine A Fistful of Lentils, was Dja'jeh Zetoon b'Limoneh (Chicken with Lemon and Olives), a simple dish that nevertheless packs a satisfying Middle Eastern taste profile due to the combination of curly parsley (really!), dried oregano, cumin and of course lots of lemon and olives. A good candidate for my Seder.

As a side, I made Burghol m'Jedrah (Bulgur Wheat with Lentils), from the same book. I totally screwed this up (burned the garlic, added bulgur before the lentils), but it came out okay nonetheless. The simple earthiness of the dish made it very satisfying, and a good vehicle for the sauce from the chicken.

Apples and honey are traditionally served at the Jewish New Year, so I made an Apple and Walnut Cream Tart, which I finished with a little honey and crème fraîche. The recipe was one I found at Bon Appétit's website.

A good time was had by all, and I made some progress toward my Sephardic Seder to come.

L'Shana Tova!

Bobby Jay


Amanda said...

The show I am working on is going to host a chef you mentioned (I signed a confidential agreement and cannot write anything about it since it will air in February), but I am cannot wait to meet him and will bring my two cookbooks for him to sign.
I read many middle eastern blogs, most of them in french, from Syrians, Lebanese, Libyans... who migrated to France. I wish more people would open their minds, and taste, learning and admiring different cultures, cuisine and traditions. We would then see that we are not all so different and that we strive for the same harmonies that life offers to all.

Bobby Jay said...

Please let me know more about your show when you can.

I agree that appreciating different food cultures can help us to open our minds more generally. This is one of the bases of my love for food.