Friday, April 29, 2016

Joan Nathan's Lemon Almond Macaroons ("Almendrados")

I found this recipe, from the reliable guide to all things Jewish cuisine, Joan Nathan, in the New York Times cooking section. After a very flavorful meal, I thought they were fine but a little boring. But then they really grew on me and now I quite like them and think it is a recipe to keep.

I might like them with orange zest and dipped in chocolate!

Lemon Almond Macaroons

2 c whole blanched almonds, plus about 30 almonds for decoration
    **I used 10 oz almond meal instead
1 c granulated sugar
1 large egg
finely grated zest of 1 lemon

If you are using whole almonds, process very finely. Add 3/4 c sugar (I spazzed and added 1 c), the egg, lemon zest, and salt to taste, and make a cohesive dough. It will be very firm. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper or use a nonstick liner. Place remaining 1/4 c sugar in a small bowl (I used yellow decoration sugar, but I don't love the texture. I might try finely chopped unblanched almonds).

Scoop pieces of dough "about the size of a walnut," roll them into balls, and then into sugar. Gently press an almond point first into the top of each cookie. Arrange one inch apart on baking sheet (they don't really spread, so you could fit a lot on a sheet).

Bake until cookies have the barest hint of color but still remain (quite!) soft, 8-10 minutes. Cookies must be soft when removed from oven to avoid excess hardening when they cool.

Jerusalem-inspired Salad

I already had a pretty good vision of the salad before I even checked "Jerusalem" out from the library, so when there was a recipe which almost matched my vision ("Spiced chickpea and fresh vegetable salad"), and a serving suggestion for the lamb which matched the other part of my vision, it gave me confidence to proceed as I pleased. And I liked what I came up with. As with all salad recipes, I used amounts of vegetables/etc that looked right to my eye at the time.

Jerusalem-inspired Salad

Spiced chickpeas:
canned chickpeas-- thoroughly rinse and drain
1 t ground cardamom  (I used a big can of chickpeas so I think I tripled all spices to get enough)
1 1/2 t ground allspice
1 t ground cumin
1/4 t salt

Tomato-- I used red tear-drop tomatoes and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
Sweet red onion
Cilantro: bunch leaves and stems, coarsely chopped
Parsley: bunch, coarsely chopped

6 T olive oil
grated zest of 1 lemon
2 T lemon juice
1 1/2 T sherry vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 t sugar
a generous amount of ground sumac
salt, pepper

Serve with: 
avocado if desired

Cut tomato (or attractively half small tomatoes), cucumber, and onion into pieces to match the chickpeas. Mix with herbs.

Make dressing: whisk olive oil, lemon juice, zest, vinegar, garlic, sumac, and sugar, as well as salt and pepper to taste.

Mix cardamom, allspice, cumin, and salt. Toss chickpeas in the mixture to coat well. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and lightly fry the chickpeas 2-3 minutes. I did this in several batches, because I used a lot of chickpeas.

The recipe I used as inspiration has you keep the chickpeas warm and serve them on top of the dressed salad. I let them cool and dressed the salad and then folded in the cool chickpeas.


Another recipe I made for my "Jerusalem" inspired Passover. Ottolenghi and Tamimi describe it as one of their most loved dishes, and the ultimate comfort food. I quite liked my adaptation, too. I doubled it and used -- the horror, I know!-- prepared fried onions. But last year I tried to fry some shallots and experienced an oil-fire fire ball in my kitchen. It extinguished quickly and didn't hurt anything, but it was big and scary enough that I had time enough to think, "well, this is how it ends. This is how I burn my house down."

Anyway, traumatized from the shallots, I just bought a big plastic jar of French's fried onions. And you know what? I liked it. I might add more next time.

Although, I could simply saute/caramelize some onions instead. That would be easy and delicious.

On a more interesting note, the tradition behind this dish is that it is descended from Esau's pottage; some communities even call it "Esau's favorite." Since Esau is MY favorite (my whole Sunday School class knows this), I ought to like this dish.

The name, variously spelled mujaddara, mejadra, moujadara, mudarda, and megadarra, means "pockmarked" which we're told refers to the lentils pockmarking the rice.


1 1/4 c green or brown lentils

fried onions (recipe calls for 700g onion; 3 T AP flour; 1 c oil; fry thin slices 5-7 min)

2 t cumin seeds-- I ran out the day before, so used ground cumin
1 1/2 T coriander seeds-- loved the flavor but was a wimp about the texture. I'd use ground next time
1 c basmati rice
2 T olive oil
1/2 t ground turmeric
1 1/2 t ground allspice
1 1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 t sugar
1 1/2 c water
salt, pepper

Can be served with, if you are doing dairy:
thick yogurt OR melted butter

Place lentils in small saucepan, cover with plenty of water, boil, and cook for 12-15 minutes, until the lentils have softened but still have a little bite. Drain, set aside.

Fry onions, in batches, if you're doing that.

Toast cumin and coriander over medium heat a minute or two. Add rice, olive oil, turmeric, allspice, cinnamon, sugar, 1/2 t salt, and plenty of pepper. Stir to coat rice with oil, and then add the cooked lentils and the water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer over very low heat 15 minutes.

Remove from heat, lift off the lid, quickly cover with a clean tea towel, and seal tightly with the lid. Set aside 10 minutes.

Finally, add 1/2 the fried onion to the rice and lentils and stir gently. Adjust seasoning. Serve with the rest of the onions piled on top.

Lamb "Shawarma"

I've been wanting to get on-trend with Ottolenghi/Tamimi for a while now, so when I planned our Passover this menu this year, I used it as a chance to embrace a "Jerusalem" theme for the meal.

I gave their "Lamb Shawarma" recipe to Mom to execute and she and brother Ignacio did a great job. I put shawarma in quotes because this is not lamb shaved off a spit. Lamb is a great favorite of mine and I was really pleased with how this turned out.

The rest of the menu came together nicely. Of course, there was Mom's perfect unleavened bread. As suggested in the lamb recipe, I made a harissa-based spread that I'm not sure was necessary for me personally. I made a salad inspired by the serving suggestion for the lamb and another recipe in the book-- tomato, onion, cucumber, parsley, and cilantro, dressed in a lemon sumac vinaigrette, with fried spiced chickpeas. I made a Jerusalem rice and lentil dish, mejadra. S. contributed a beautiful, delicately spiced fruit salad. Of course, we always have brown eggs (thanks S.!) and charoset (thanks I.!) and grape juice (thanks Mom!) Dessert was lemon-almond macaroons from a Joan Nathan recipe and sugar-free rhubarb pie.

Lamb Shawarma, adapted from "Jerusalem" by Ottolenghi/Tamimi

2 t black peppercorns
5 whole cloves
1/2 t cardamom pods-- I used ground
1 t fennel seeds
1 T cumin seeds
1 star anise-- I used ground
1/2 cinnamon stick -- I used ground
1/2 whole nutmeg, grated-- I used ground
1/4 t ground ginger
1 T sweet paprika
1 T sumac
2 1/2 t salt
scant 1 oz fresh ginger, grated
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2/3 c chopped cilantro, stems and leaves
1/4 c freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 c oil
1 bone-in leg of lamb, about 5 1/2 - 6 1/2 lb (used boneless, ~4 1/2 lb)
1 c boiling water

Put first 8 ingredients in pan, dry-roast over medium high heat for a minute or two, until the spices begin to release their aromas. Don't burn them. Add nutmeg, ginger, and paprika, toss for a few more seconds, just to heat them, then transfer to a spice grinder. Process to a uniform powder. Add the remaining ingredients except the lamb (I now realize I forgot to, which is terrible; and the fact that I liked the result any way makes me want to make it again and make it right).

Use a small, sharp knife to score the leg in a few places, making slits 2/3 in deep through the fat and meat to allow the marinade to seep in. (We used a boneless leg, and didn't want it to fall apart if we took the netting off. So I. speared it-- a lot and pretty deep I think-- between the netting and left it on).

Place in a large roasting pan and rub the marinade all over the lamb; use your hands to massage the meat well. Cover the pan with foil and chill overnight.

Preheat oven to 325.

Put the lamb in the oven with its fatty side up and roast for a total of 4 1/2 hours, until the meat is completely tender. After 30 minutes of roasting, add boiling water to the pan and use this liquid to base the meat every hour or so. (Add water as needed to make sure there is always ~1/4 inch in the bottom of the pan. We didn't have to do this). For the last 3 hours (so, after 90 minutes), cover the lamb with lid or foil to prevent the spices from burning. Once done, remove the lamb from the oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes before carving and serving.

Serve with pita (or, in our case, unleavened bread) with chopped onion, parsley, sumac, cucumber, tomato, and they suggest a spread of 120g chopped canned tomatoes, 20 g harissa, 20 g tomato paste, 1 T olive oil, salt, pepper.