Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Way I Cook

People often ask me what I like to cook, and I always answer "everything," which is a slight exaggeration, but I do enjoy learning about and trying new cuisines. For the past few years, I have been delving pretty deeply into the food of Turkey and the Middle East, including Syria, Iran, Jerusalem, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia.

We had dear friends for dinner last night and I made a Middle Eastern/French meal. Hors d'oeuvres consisted of crostini topped with salmon rillettes made with poached and smoked salmon, dill and preserved lemon, which I learned to make a lesson at Atelier des Chefs in Paris,
Salmon rillettes
and mustard batons (puff pastry with mustard inside) from Dorie Greenspan's excellent Around My French Table,
Mustard batons
The starter was watercress and chickpea soup with rose water and ras el hanout from Ottolenghi's Jerusalem, a beautiful expression of complex and warm Middle Eastern spices.
Watercress and chickpeas soup
For the main course I made roast chicken with sumac, za'atar, lemon and pine nuts from the same chef's first book, Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, an old favorite that showcases different -- but just as interesting -- Middle Eastern flavors.
Roast chicken with sumac, za'atar, lemon slices and pine nuts
As a side, I made Persian rice with tons of herbs, using my new Instant Pot and a recipe from Melissa Clark's Dinner in an Instant. This was only partly successful: the wonderful crust (tahdig) that is a hallmark of Persian rice was not quite thick enough. Still, Clark's method is easier than the way I usually do it, so I'll try again, adjusting based on my experience.

Dessert was back to Dorie's French table, for Marie-Hélène's apple cake, made especially for my apple-loving old friend.
Marie-Hélène's apple cake
With the exception of the rice, I had made all of these dishes before, but not in the same combination, and I think it turned out to be a coherent and interesting sequence of dishes.

Bobby Jay

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