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A Sensory Feast: Jerusalem, A Cookbook

The cookbook that is an international obsession. Written by London-based restaurateurs, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, both born in Jerusalem in the same year. Tamini was born on the Arab east side and Ottolengui in the Jewish west. 

The cookbook that is an international obsession. Written by London-based restaurateurs, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, both born in Jerusalem in the same year. Tamini was born on the Arab east side and Ottolengui in the Jewish west. 

The energy of Jerusalem is introspective. It is born out of an interplay between the peoples that have been coming and going for millennia and the spirit that seems to hover among the olive tree, over the hills and in the valleys.
— Jerusalem, A Cookbook

If you are a foodie and you haven't gotten swept up in the craze surrounding this cookbook, you're missing out. From the "all Jerusalem" dinner parties to the themed potlucks, this cookbook has taken the world and social media (check out #tastingjrslm). Perhaps its the alluring combination of beauty and substance: its a coffee table book, a cookbook and a history book all rolled into one. At the very least, it merits a nice splatter proof stand. 

 

Za'atar: a mixture of sumac, sesame seed and herbs frequently used in the Middle East and Mediterranean areas.

Za'atar: a mixture of sumac, sesame seed and herbs frequently used in the Middle East and Mediterranean areas.


It's an understatement to say that Jerusalem is more complex and nuanced than most cities. It's a city brimming with emotion, flavor, passion and fiercely held traditions. Throughout history, it has acted as a meeting point between three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa, each leaving a cultural, religious and epicurious mark.

What this cookbook does so well is bring the emotion of place to life. It is a sensory experience allowing one to see, hear, taste and smell the intricacies of life without leaving your chair. From crowded bazaars and the wafting scent of za'atar (right) to hills dotted with pick-your-own fig, olive and lemon trees. The spices and emotions bursting forth from each recipe and photo tell the story of a place and people that are passionate about their heritage and food. 

Yes, there is a basic hummus recipe. But then there is Mejadra, an ancient Arab dish (think crispy fried onions, lentils and fresh yogurt Greek yogurt sauce), roasted chicken with clementines and arak, braised eggs with lamb, tahini and sumac or the comforting (simple, yet sublime) couscous with tomato and onion...and on and on and on. 

The New York Times declared Jerusalem one of the most "sticky" cookbooks around. Not sticky in the tactile sense (although that will be a by-product of frequent use), but that you can't let it go. I'm stuck. 

 

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