Cookbooks: “Jerusalem” and “The Square”
Jerusalem is a collection of home-cooking recipes from the Muslim, Jewish and Christian traditions in the city of Jerusalem.
There are scads of full-page colour photographs, some of the city of Jerusalem but mostly of the finished dishes themselves, which is vastly helpful for someone like myself who’s never cooked (or seen) the majority of these particular dishes before and genuinely needs photographs as a guide to where I’m supposed to be heading while in the kitchen.
*Aside: This is one thing I greatly appreciate about contemporary cookbooks — the loads of photographs. I remember my mom’s old cookbooks, that were all black and white typed pages and no helpful pictures. When you’re trying something new in the kitchen, especially if you’ve never seen or experienced the dish yourself, then a full-page photograph can be a lifesaver.
Not to mention that it makes a cookbook so much more enjoyable to paw through and drool over.
The authors of Jerusalem have previously published “Plenty” (a terrific vegetarian cookbook) and “Ottolenghi: The Cookbook“, a book that draws on the Mediterranean influenced cuisine that’s the backbone of the four Ottolenghi locations in London.
“Plenty” is already taking up space on my kitchen bookshelf, but not “Ottolenghi”. After starting to read (and cook through) “Jerusalem”, I’m thinking I might have to remedy that oversight. The recipes are all straightforward, home-chef friendly and easily adapted to what’s on hand in your pantry (I’m making a version of the Roasted Cauliflower & Hazelnut Salad tonight, even though I don’t have the called-for pomegranate seeds — I think I’ll survive).
*It just occurred to me: I have pomegranate molasses that I can mix into the dressing . . . ha-HA!
The second book I picked up is “The Square: Savoury” by Chef Philip Howard, a hefty, 500+ page book that approaches cuisine as fine art:
Howard is an award-winning, Michelin-starred London masterchef, and his book draws from his over 20 years of experience in the kitchen of his retaurant, The Square (naturally).
“Savoury” is volume 1 of a planned two-volume set, and it focuses on starters, salads, soups, pastas and meat dishes. I’m assuming that the not yet released volume 2 will be all-desserts, all the time which, if it’s as lavishly detailed and gorgeously photographed as volume 1, should be a big hit.
*Aside 2: And I just read on another website that Volume 2 will, indeed, be called Sweet.
But the two books (Jerusalem and The Square) are as different as can be — I use Jerusalem pretty much straight-on in the kitchen, but I view The Square as inspiration, and don’t even pretend I can yet cook from it.
I mean, to be fair, I *could* actually cook from The Square because Howard has delivered painstaking instructions for how to complete his dishes. He even writes in his introduction, “I decided that if I were to write such a book, I would be as thorough and comprehensive as possible. To this end, the recipes may appear longwinded and rather laborious, but hidden in their detail is enough guidance for success, I hope.”
And while his recipes truly *are* longwinded and laborious, I’m not complaining, as all that excess verbage may just help me create something truly extraordinary (someday?) in my own home kitchen — plus, the full-paged photographs that accompany each recipe are not only beautiful but extremely helpful as, again, I visually know what I’m working toward.
Or, “failing toward”, I should say. The exceptionally skilled presentations are a tad intimidating (to say the least).
Right now, I’m studying the minor aspects to Howard’s dishes — the sauces and creams and finishing touches (he very kindly breaks down each recipe into an overview, ingredients, methodology, key components and serving instructions). I tried out his Truffle Cream sauce the other night and poured it over some asparagus. It was just the kind of unexpected addition that elevates a simple dinner into something much more special, even if the occasion isn’t.
Though, really, when you’re making a truffle cream sauce, the occasion is bound to be special in and of itself.
*NOTE: I take cookbooks with me to breakfast and study them as I down cups of coffee and pour salt onto my eggs. I think I should warn you that The Square is awfully heavy to lug around in one’s backpack, but worth it for the treasure it spills.