Sunday, October 13, 2013

Ottolenghi's Salmon Steaks in Chraimeh Sauce

Oh, what a sauce this is.   What a glorious, glorious sauce.

And it comes from our new Jerusalem cookbook, from one of this blog's favorite chefs and current culinary darling, Yotam Ottolenghi.  I need not detail that this blog has featured recipes from Ottolenghi here and here and here and here,  but I will anyway because, whoo boy, I love these recipes. 

This sauce comes from the Sephardic Jews, who resided on the Iberian peninsula until the Spanish Inquisition.  After their expulsion from Spain in 1492, many Sephardic Jews were folded into the Mizrahi communities in Northern Africa and the Middle East.  Such intermingling of people and cultures has produced some culinary superstars; this being no exception.  Indeed, you can taste the Spanish, Moroccan, and Libyan influence on this sauce.

Sephardim pride themselves on their chraimeh recipes, and often serve them at Rosh Hashanah and Passover celebrations (whereas Ashkenazim might serve gefilte fish).  The husband father's family is Jewish, his grandparents immigrated from Germany in the early 1930s.  Come Rosh Hashanah, despite the fact that he does not practice, the husband is greeted in the street by strangers with a hearty Shanah Tovah, a celebratory Happy New Year, or a simple Shalom

Whether you celebrate Rosh Hashanah or not, this is a dish you want to break out for any party or (why not?) just a standard weekday dinner.  It's so very, very good.  The sauce is the star, and you might even want to double or (gasp!) triple the sauce just so you have some more around (freeze it!) next time you need a sauce fix.  Your choice of fish doesn't matter much.  We used salmon, but you could use halibut or tilapia or grouper or sea bass or flounder or amberjack (which apparently is most commonly used in Jerusalem) or whatever.  Serve as a starter, warm or at room temperature with challah or any good white bread for dipping and lots of lemon.

Then lick the plate clean. 

One Year Ago: Breakfast Bomber Sub
Two Years Ago: Roast Pork with Onion and Apple
Three Years Ago: Good Earth Bread

Ottolenghi's Salmon Steaks in Chraimeh Sauce
Adapted from  Jerusalem: A Cookbook

4 Servings

scant 1/2 cup sunflower oil (or another mild oil), divided
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
4 salmon or sea bass steaks, about 1 lb
6 loves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 tsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp caraway seeds, dry toasted and freshly ground
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or even a little more--we found that we could have withstood a little more heat)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 green chile, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup water
3 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
lemon wedges and cilantro for garnish
salt and pepper


1. Heat two tablespoons of oil over high heat.  Place the four in a shallow bowl, season generously with salt and pepper, and toss the fish in it.  Shake off the excess flour and sear the fish for a minute or two one each side, until golden.  Remove the fish and wipe the pan clean.

2.  Place the garlic, spices, chile, and 2 tablespoons of the oil in a food processor, and pulvarize to form a thick paste.

3.  Pour remaining oil into frying pan, heat well, and add the spice paste.  Stir and fry for 30 seconds, ensuring the spices do not burn.  Add the water and tomato paste to the spices to stop the cooking process.  Bring to a simmer and add sugar, lemon juice and salt and pepper.  Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper as needed.

4.  Put the fish in the sauce, bring to a gentle simmer, cover the pan and cook for 7-11 minutes, until it is just done.

5.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Garnish with lemon wedges and cilantro.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Ottolenghi's Raw Artichoke and Herb Salad

Well hello again.  It's fall.  It's my favorite season of the year, and generally it means squash soup and apple butter and warm blankets and sweaters.  However, the weather has been warm during the day (but brisk at night), so instead we have Ottolenghi's raw artichoke and herb salad.  This is a good thing.

We have a new cookbook, my friends.  And we all know how much I love new cookbooks, and it's even better to have a new cookbook from Ottolenghi, given that I am quite a fan of his other cookbook (see here and here and, yes,  here).  This cookbook celebrates the variety of foods from Jerusalem, where Greek Orthodox monks, Russian Orthodox priests, Hasidic Jews, non-Orthodox Jews, Sephardic Jews, Palestinian Muslims, Christian Arabs, Ethopian Copts, and Russian nuns (to name a few) all come together in this global city to create, as Ottolenghi says, "an immense tapestry of cuisines."  Ottolenghi, with his business partner Sami Tamimi (Click here for a lovely tale of the two and of their London shops), explore the commonalities of cuisine and the divergences in this rich cookbook, where artichokes, cucumbers, mint, tomatoes, pickled vegetables, herbs, olive oil, lemon juice, olives reign supreme.

Thus, it is not surprising, given the culinary chops of these two and the depth of culinary culture of this city, that this herb salad is so delightful. In this recipe Ottolenghi sings the praises of the artichoke, advocating for an afternoon set aside to buy too many (in fact "great numbers") and to trim and clean them, storing all of the ones you don't use in the freezer for a rainy day.  Not bad advice.  And this salad is recommended as an accompaniment to anything fatty and hearty, such as lamb shawarma or latkas.  Yum.

Here are the negatives to this recipe:  I found there was a little too much oil, but I think my palate has changed to want a less olive oil.  And here's the kicker:  for all of their hype, the artichoke hearts were underwhelming.  Can you believe that?  After the work of shedding their leaves and peeling the base and shaving what's left, it was surprising to find that I didn't love them.

Here are the positives:  light, refreshing, and quite tasty.  I might play with the choke--maybe sun chokes?  Maybe just long curls of cucumbers?  But the mint is lovely, and you'll be happy to know, because who isn't, that mint has lots of potassium.  I am a huge fan of arugula.  Couple that sweet, cool mint and that sharp arugula with the distinctive taste of cilantro, and, people, you have the base of something very, very good.  But try it once with the artichoke hearts.  See if you like it better than I did.

One Year Ago: Breakfast Bomber Sub
Two Years Ago: Roast Pork with Onion and Apple
Three Years Ago: Good Earth Bread

Ottolenghi's Raw Artichoke and Herb Salad
Adapted from  Jerusalem: A Cookbook

2 Servings

3 large globe artichokes
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups arugula
1/2 cup torn mint leaves
1/2 cup torn cilantro leaves
1 ounce pecorino toscano or romano cheese, thinly shaved
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Prepare a bowl with water mixed with half of the lemon juice.

2.  Remove the stem from one artichoke and pull off the tough outer leaves.  Once you reach the softer, pale leaves, use a large, sharp knife to cut across the flower so that you are left with the bottom quarter.  Use a small, sharp knife to remove the outer layers of the artichoke until the base (or bottom) is exposed. Scrape out the hairy "choke" and put the base in the acidulated water.  Discard the rest, then repeat with the other artichokes.

3.  Drain the artichokes and pat dry with paper towels.  Using a mandoline (or a large, sharp knife), cut the artichokes into paper-thin slices and transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Squeeze over the remaining lemon juice, add the olive oil, and toss well to coat.  You can leave the artichoke for up to a few hours if you like, at room temperature.

4.  When ready to serve, add the arugula, mint, and cilantro to the artichoke and season with a generous amount of salt and pepper.  Toss gently and arrange on serving plates.  Garnish with the pecorino shavings.