January 31, 2013

First Dabblings in Jerusalem

I finally put Smitten Kitchen back on the shelf and moved on to some other new cookbooks that I've been anxious to tackle.

My mom and I had both been pining for the new Jerusalem book before the holidays. Every year for Christmas, it's inevitable that we both end up with the same cookbook as a gift. This year, this was that book.

A few weeks ago, we realized that we were both making the same pasta dish from the book: the Conchiglie with Yogurt, Peas & Chile. So, we did a bit of a cook along that night via text message. Well, let me rephrase. She sent me some bits of info as she made it an hour earlier. I tried to manage entertaining a seven month old in her high chair while I cooked.

"Putting peas into pot of pasta right before draining to save a pot / time."

"My oil is not turning red...probably cuz different chili flakes."

She was right on about the peas cooking with the pasta. I'm not sure why the recipe isn't written as such. The recipes in the book are certainly not hard, but I have noticed they are perhaps a tad fussy, a tad more complicated than you would think they need to be.

But this pasta dish is fabulous.

It was the perfect thing to eat coming off of the holidays. The sauce is simply thick and tangy Greek yogurt pureed with some green peas, garlic, and olive oil. It is the prettiest green color and feels fresh and hopeful of Spring.

The pasta and some additional peas get mixed with the sauce along with lots of fresh basil and feta (I actually don't think the feta adds anything and would skip it next time).

And then.

You fry up some pine nuts in olive oil with chile flakes (I used red pepper flakes) and scatter the nuts and oil on top of pasta.

The sauce makes it refreshing; the pasta makes it comforting and substantial; the pine nuts and their oil add spice. It's so delightful, really.

And it was also great as leftovers--cold or hot. (I had it cold for lunch the next day and hot for dinner that night.)

We have both had great success with a handful of other recipes that we've made from the book too. I loved Na'ama's Fattoush--a fresh and tangy salad of chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, torn pieces of stale pita, lots of fresh herbs, yogurt, lemon, and sumac. I know this salad will be even more amazing this summer with super fresh vegetables.

I also loved the Hummus Kawarma (Lamb) with Lemon Sauce--a pool of hummus topped with spiced ground lamb and a lemon sauce.

The Red Pepper and Baked Egg Galettes were also good, a great weeknight staple, although not quite as fantastic as some of the other recipes.

The book itself is beautiful. It's full of delicious recipes that feel healthier but don't sacrifice on taste. It's a fabulous break from the norm.

Conchiglie with Yogurt, Peas & Chile, Adapted slightly from Jerusalem

2 1/2 c Greek Yogurt
2/3 c olive oil
4 cloves of garlic
1 lb frozen peas, defrosted
1 lb conchiglie pasta
1/2 c pine nuts
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 2/3 c torn basil leaves
Salt and white pepper

In food processor, blend together the yogurt, 6 tbsp olive oil, the garlic, and 2/3 c peas until smooth and creamy. Transfer to large mixing bowl.

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. Add the remaining peas for the last couple of minutes of pasta cook time.

In the meantime, heat the remaining olive oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and red pepper flakes and cook for about 4 minutes, until the pine nuts are light golden brown.

Drain the pasta and peas and gradually add them to the sauce (the book says it's important to add the hot pasta gradually so as not to make the sauce separate). Toss in the basil, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper.

Serve in individual bowls with some of the pine nuts and oil drizzled over the top.

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