Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Trip to Jerusalem

It's spring.  Can you imagine?  We've had sunshine for 3 days straight and I'm still not used to it, I just keep staring out the window in shock and awe.  Yesterday I worked outside for a bit, though I'll be the first to admit there was less working and more staring at the light playing off the tulips.

I've spent the winter months writing furiously on our elimination detox, developing recipes and making sure every statement we make about food allergies and intolerance is well-researched and supported by facts.  Our testers just started with the first week of the menu and what do I keep hearing?

"This is good."

People are shocked that a diet that eliminates all the major allergens, most grains, and many meats tastes like anything at all, let alone delicious (yes, it tastes like delicious).  This, my friends, is why this project is taking so long.  When Julie and I embarked on creating the ultimate elimination diet guidebook and meal plan, the very first thing I said was, "The food has to be real food, and it has to be delicious."  There will be smoothies and cleansing options (and they will be equally amazing), but if smoothies aren't your schtick, you don't need to drink them.

So, outside of elimination recipes, what have I been cooking?  Ben and I have been loving on the recipes from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.  I know this cookbook is old news; it's circulated through the national consciousness and people have moved on, but I can't.  Not quite yet.  Vegetables flavored with za'atar, sumac and harissa speak to me on a visceral level.

In my practice, I tell patients that I don't care how they eat their vegetables, as long as they eat them and low, here is a cookbook that gives me plethora of vegetable choices in lip-smacking combinations.  Their roasted butternut squash and tahini recipe has been a revelation, though I'll admit that more often than not I make this recipe with unpeeled sweet potatoes because it's easier.

Here are a few of the recipes I've made (and remembered to photograph before gobbling up!):

Pureed beets with coconut cream and za'atar

I use these recipes as a guide, a map toward unknown flavors and a hint of places I've never been.  Of course, they must be modified to suit your particular brand of dietary intolerance.  Most of the veggie and meat dishes are naturally gluten-free, but they're definitely not dairy-free.  There's yogurt everywhere, and in our house the best we can tolerate is a little butter, so I've been making substitutions.  In the pureed beets with yogurt and za'atar, I used coconut cream mixed with lemon juice and honey instead of date syrup (not that I haven't tried to find date syrup, it just doesn't exist where I live).  It was lovely, served with pita for the gluten-eaters and crackers for the rest of us.  

Tuna steaks in chraimeh sauce

A few weeks ago we hosted a small birthday dinner for a friend and true to form, decided to prepare a number of dishes for the very first time the day of the party.  One was tuna steaks in chraimeh sauce.  Mr. Ottolenghi's recipe calls for salmon steaks, but we had tuna in the freezer.  The sauce was delectable and I followed the recipe exactly (rare, I know).  There was paprika and caraway, cumin and cayenne, cinnamon, chiles and tomato paste.  Ben declared that he'd like to eat this sauce on everything, and the entire table scraped pita bread across the bottom of the pan until it was gone.

Hummus with golden raisins, toasted pine nuts, fresh parsley and olive oil

Do you make hummus?  I do, every week it seems.  I have my recipe memorized and can throw it together in about 5 minutes, so I was a little suspicious of a new hummus recipe.  I shouldn't have been, because everything we'd tried thus far was amazing.  Jerusalem's recipe calls for a lot of tahini and to drizzle the olive oil over the hummus at the end.  Through many, many batches, we've reduced the tahini a bit and add olive oil to the beans while processing so we can easily consume hummus on the go.  However, now that's we've experienced decorated hummus, I'm not sure we can go back.  Dried fruit perfectly complements the savory complexity of the tahini, lemon, garlic and garbanzos, and we've even taken to sprinkling bits of sumac and za'atar over our plates.

Roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad

Roasted vegetables, slightly cooled, with nuts, pomegranate and spices: I have a new way of cooking vegetables!  I'm not the biggest fan of green salads unless it's high summer (yes I know, what kind of nutritionist am I?) but a cooked vegetable salad... that I can embrace with my whole heart.  When I made this I was missing a key ingredient: hazelnuts.  Do you ever make a great grocery list thinking you have certain ingredients in the cupboard and then come home only to discover you were utterly mistaken?  This happens to me constantly, and necessity breeds invention.  Pistachios are sort of Middle Eastern, right...?  At any rate, that's what I used, and the salad was fabulous.

Stuffed eggplant with lamb (or beef) and pine nuts

In the grey days of March we prepared stuffed eggplant twice and both times it was utterly amazing.  The flavors were both grounding and complex and the cinnamon added just a hint of fun.  I don't eat lamb, so we used ground beef, and though I have nothing to compare it to, I'm sure it was just as good as the lamb would be.

Baby spinach salad with dates and almonds

Just two paragraphs back I said I don't care for green salads, yet I'm now showing you one.

Oh, the hypocrisy!

But this salad is different.  It has sautéed pita (or GF bread) and warm almonds thrown on top.  It has marinated dates and chili and sumac.  This salad has weight to it.  In fact, I've taken to making it with a poached egg on top for suppers, and I think you should too.

Are you sold yet?  Ready to run out and buy Jerusalem?  Good!  Meanwhile, I'm taking what I've learned and playing.  Last week we had grilled chicken legs rubbed with ras el hanout and garlic salt.

I wonder what I'll cook this week?