You may have heard Ben Lee’s “Gamble Everything for Love” playing over the final credits after a recent “Blacklist” episode. Click on the post title to watch the video while reading.
I haven’t left the country often: day trips to Canada and Mexico, India-twice, Jerusalem-once. In the early 70s, my second husband decided that he wanted to move to Israel. I had children and was reluctant to migrate, but had never traveled abroad and I agreed to go for a lookaround. After an endless flight from LAX, we landed in London, stayed in a damp, heatless hotel (the only warm spot was in bed, under the covers) saw the Queen’s jewels in the Tower of London, watched the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, had a pint at a corner pub, and visited a cousin in a damp, heatless flat. I have never been so cold for so long.
Then, on to warmer climes. In Tel Aviv, the sun shone bright on Dizengoff Square, the air was soft and warm, the crowds were direct and boisterous, and the streets were alive with traffic, food vendors, and the Israeli military carrying machine guns—it was the 70s. After my first falafel from a street cart, I vowed to have at least one every day. At the Jerusalem bus depot, we followed a woman holding a “Room for let” sign and stayed in her spare room for a week, ducked for cover under a table at an outdoor restaurant when a bomb exploded down the street—it was the 70s—hitch-hiked to a kibbutz in Eilat, wandered around Masada, and bobbed like corks in the Dead Sea. The food was splendid—grilled lamb on skewers, fresh, flat bread, local feta cheese, bread, vegetables, and yogurt for breakfast, and some creamy, desserty, ricey dish with a perfumey aroma.
Anyways, recently I borrowed Yotam Ottolenghi’s book, “Jerusalem”, from a friend and remembered everything. I could smell the cumin-laced street felafel, feel the breeze off the Mediterranean Sea, and decided to use recipes from the cookbook for our January Return to the Light soirée. Authentic ethnic food, whether it be from Mexico, India, Italy, or Israel, is usually inexpensive but time-consuming. Home cooks preparing pozole, curry, or gnocci spend a long time in the kitchen; Middle eastern food is no exception, but the ingredients are readily available and the cuisine offers many healthy options. So…I squeezed, roasted, peeled, diced, chopped, and ground for the better part of a week. I wanted to serve fresh, warm, pita bread, but didn’t want to bake it from scratch, so I found this website that used Rhodes frozen dinner rolls—they worked perfectly.
MenuSauces: Muhammarah Tahini lemon Sour cream sumac Lebanese dressing Meze: Pickled eggplants Goat cheese stuffed dates Beet & walnut salad Swiss chard fritters Lemon leek meatballs Baba ganough Za’atar bread Israeli chopped salad Roast chicken with clementines Basmati and orzo with pine nuts Semolina cake with orange blossom whipped cream Chocolate coconut pecan-stuffed dates
With the help of my prep slave, the Sweetie, I did much of the menu in advance, so party day was painless. As is the routine, everyone arrived promptly at 1:00, making timing and serving the food much easier. We commiserated about the Seahawks loss, exchanged books and pictures, listened to travel and retirement plans, napped, took walks, watched the sky fade from grey to black, and enjoyed the pleasures and privileges of being old friends.
Beet, leek, and walnut salad
- 4 medium beets
- 4 medium leeks, cut into 1″ segments (4 cups)
- 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups arugula
- Crumbled feta cheese, walnuts, and pomegranate seeds for garnish
- 1 cup walnuts
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 tsp. chili flakes
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 2 tsp. tamarind water
- 2 1/2 Tbs. oil
- 1tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 425°. Wrap beets in foil and roast in the oven for 1-1 1/2 hours. Once cooked, you should be able to stick a knife through to the center easily. Cool until they can be handled, peel, halve, cut into wedges, and set aside.
Place leeks in a medium pan with salted water, bring to a boil, and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold water, pat dry, transfer to a separate bowl, and set aside.
Blend dressing ingredients. Toss beets and leeks separately with dressing and cilantro. Toss arugula with dressing.
Place base of dressed arugula, then a layer of beets, then a layer of leeks, another layer of beets, a second layer of leeks, top with beets and garnish with feta cheese, walnuts and pomegranate seeds.
Roast chicken with clementines and ouzo
- 1 miniature bottle ouzo
- 4 Tbs. olive oil
- 3 Tbs. orange juice
- 3 Tbs. lemon juice
- 2 Tbs. whole grain mustard
- 3 Tbs. brown sugar
- 2 fennel bulbs
- 1 large chicken, cut into pieces
- 4 clementines, unpeeled and sliced horizontally
- 1 Tbs. thyme
- 1 Tbs. fennel seeds
- Salt and black pepper
Whisk or blend first six ingredients together, add salt and pepper.
Trim fennel and cut into eight wedges per bulb. Add fennel wedges to marinade, add chicken pieces, clementine slices, thyme, and fennel seeds. Mix well with your hands and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
Preheat oven to 425°. Transfer chicken pieces (skin side up), marinade, and fennel to baking dish large enough to accommodate everything in a single layer. Roast for 35-40 minutes. Lift chicken, clementines, and fennel from baking pan, arrange on serving platter; cover and keep warm. Pour cooking liquid into small saucepan and reduce, over medium-high heat, by one-third. Pour hot sauce over chicken and serve.