I always enjoy reading The New Yorker’s food issues, though I found the last one a little fluffier and puffier than usual, in particular, the portrait of Israeli-born, London-based super-chef, Yotam Ottolenghi.
Perhaps I have just had enough of the chef-love. Sure the stories differ in detail, but they basically lay out the same narrative: Dude (most often, still) discovers aptitude for cooking when on (genius) path to something else (art, philosophy, skateboarding, meth addiction). He spends some time hanging about with other super-chefs, opens eponymous restaurant at an age when many of us are still sleeping on futons and trying to pay back our student loans, and “changes the way that people [in a particular town, country, continent)] eat,” (though in ways that are never made explicit).
Or perhaps I am just jealous.
What I want from The New Yorker food issues are stories about places that I will likely never travel to and things that I will likely never eat. Though I aspire to be adventurous in my journeys abroad, I tend to return to the places that I have already loved: New Orleans and New York, Paris and Italy and Berlin. I am, by nature, too anxious to stray far from the comforts of the West, too afraid of getting sick, too vulnerable to things that nip and bite.
What I need is something that my parents have found: good friends who venture abroad and then invite you to come and join them once they have settled in and figured things out. Not only does this ease the anxiety of the new, it allows you to experience the new from a more local perspective; sleeping in apartments rather than hotels, shopping and cooking meals rather than eating in restaurants.
My friends live in Paris and London and Berlin. Not that I am complaining…
I was moved to read the article on Ottolenghi after checking out his (and partner, Tami Samimi’s) admittedly gorgeous cookbook, Jerusalem. My mother-in-law had received the book as a Christmas gift after making one of the recipes that was reprinted in the Montreal Gazette: a seasonally-apt and unusual sounding dish of roasted chicken with clementines and Arak (a Middle-Eastern anise-flavoured aperatif). She declared it delicious.
As is my new practice, I took out my iphone thinking I would photograph a recipe or two that looked good, and give them a try before picking up the book myself, but as I flipped through the vegetable section, I found myself wanting to photograph every page. What struck me first was the emphasis on raw vegetables, the diversity of tastes and textures on the plate, and the abundance of fresh herbs like cilantro, parsley and dill; just the thing to balance the body and soul after a week (or month) of Christmas eating.
I made a recipe from the book that was simply named: Basmati and Wild Rice with Chick Peas, Currants and Fresh Herbs. You can find it here. Just scroll down to the bottom.
Though I am trying to be better about actually following recipes, having put aside my recipe snobbery, and recognized the benefits of acquiring new approaches and techniques, I forgot to look at the recipe before shopping (and during cooking) and so ended up with something that was quite good, but different than what was on the page.
Since the link to the recipe is above, I will just tell you what I did: I simmered 1/3 cup of wild rice in salted water, and steamed 1 cup of brown basmati (for your health!) in another pot. Then, in a cast iron pan, I sauteed 1 teaspoon of ground cumin seed and 2 teaspoons of “Oriental” curry powder (it was all that could be found) in olive oil, added some thinly sliced garlic, a can of drained and rinsed chick peas, and 1/4 cup of water. When they were all done, I mixed them in a bowl with salt and pepper, 1/3 cup currants, and fresh parsley.
What really makes the dish is the crispy browned onions, but since I neglected to notice that we were out, I had to make due with some charred scallions.
But the best part of the meal were the two chopped salads: cucumber, scallion and fresh dill with a simple dressing of apple cider vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper; and carrot and beet with scallion, the same dressing and a healthy sprinkling of sumac.
It was even better today for lunch, though as you can see here, we ate most of the beet and carrot salad last night and so had a slightly less balanced meal in terms of colour, sweetness and crunch.