Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Jerusalem, a Cookbook: Turkey & Zucchini Meatballs...

My favorite new reading companion, Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, has some of the most intriguing, flavorful, and beautiful recipes that I have ever encountered in a cookbook.  Most of the featured dishes include ample amounts of vegetables married with fragrant herbs and spices that just call out to me.  Indeed, as New York Times food critic Julia Moskin generously (and accurately) writes in her July 30, 2013 book review, "Jerusalem seems like an open door to a new realm of flavor.  The recipes are full of sun, accented with salt, and rife with crunchy and creamy contrasts. There are new grains, greens and spices to explore, and fistfuls of garlic, capers, feta cheese and other familiar ingredients from around the Mediterranean."

What I especially love is that these two accomplished chefs grew up (at the same time) on opposite sides of a divided city (Sami Tamimi hails from the Arab East while Yotam Ottolenghi grew up in the Jewish West).  Only later were they brought together in London, where they discovered their parallel histories and became close friends -- and ultimately collaborators in this "inherently controversial" and very personal cookbook about the cuisine of their home city, Jerusalem, with all of its diversity.

Jerusalem is seriously the first cookbook that I have ever wanted to cook my way though to completion (and yes, I do own Mastering the Art of French Cooking!).  In the few short weeks since I acquired the book, I have already made several more trips than usual to my local Middle Eastern market to pick up ingredients that have never before seen the inside of my pantry or refrigerator.  Likewise, the recipes and the authors' stories have inspired me to use familiar ingredients in new and different ways.

The following recipe captured my attention early on because, although a meatball recipe, the meatballs themselves are absolutely loaded with vegetables.  In fact, my husband Asaf, a devoted and proud carnivore, expressed absolute disbelief when I told him the delicious meatballs I had served him for dinner were mostly zucchini!
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So here is Ottolenghi and Tamimi's recipe for Turkey & Zucchini [mini] burgers with green onion & cumin, just one of many simple, delicious, and surprising recipes that fill the pages of this amazing cookbook.

In a large bowl combine 1lb. of ground turkey and 2 cups of coarsely grated zucchini.  [That's about 2 standard zucchinis or 1 large one.]

Thinly slice 3 green onions, 2 tablespoons each of chopped mint and chopped cilantro, and 2 cloves of crushed garlic.

Measure out 1 teaspoon of ground cumin, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.

Combine all the ingredients, along with 1 fresh egg.

Next, form the mini burgers (about 18-20).  [Note, the mixture is very wet, so I found it was easiest to form the burgers by the tablespoon full.  This is a rustic dish, so the shapes do not need to be perfect by any means.]

Next, pour about 6 tablespoons of sunflower oil into a large frying pan, heat over medium heat until hot, and sear meatballs in small batches on all sides.  Cook each batch for about 4 minutes [or a little longer] until golden brown.

Carefully transfer the seared meatballs to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in a 425°F  oven for 5-7 minutes until cooked through.

Serve meatballs either warm or room temperature with a garlic infused yogurt dipping sauce (recipe below) spooned over them or on the side.

Ottolenghi and Tamimi's recipe for Sour Cream, Yogurt, and Sumac Sauce, which can be made ahead of time and refrigerated:

Combine the following ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve:
1/2 cup of sour cream,
2/3 cup of plain yogurt,
1 teaspoon of lemon zest,
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice,
1 small clove of garlic (crushed),
1-1/2 tablespoons of olive oil,
1 tablespoon of sumac,
1/2 teaspoon of salt, and
1/4 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper.

[Note, I think these meatballs are also delicious served with a more straightforward yogurt and garlic sauce, which you can make by following the same recipe but eliminating the sour cream, lemon, sumac and black pepper, and reducing the amount of olive oil to about a teaspoonful.]

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