Herb Pie from Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s Jerusalem

It’s that time again on the blog, when I wax all lyrical about the Yotam Ottolenghi/Sami Tamimi collaboration.  Instead of repeating myself I’ll point you herehere and here.  And is that me talking about then in the Globe?

Yeah, I’m kind of a fan.  You may have heard about their latest book, Jerusalem, which came out about a year ago.  There’s been plenty of press on it (including that recent Globe article), and with good reason–it’s amazing.  I have a lot of cookbooks, and there are very few I cook from nearly every week, but Jerusalem is one.  I always have to do a quick scan around the house for it because it never makes it back on the bookshelf–it’s in the sunroom, or the TV room, or the living room as often as it is in the kitchen, because I’m daydreaming and planning what I’ll be making next.  The hummus recipe‘s exceptionally smooth puree, the chocolate babka utterly decadent, the mejadra (lentils and rice) fragrant with coriander, the helbeh (a fenugreek cake) a surprising delight…

I could go on.  But I’ll limit myself for the moment to herb pie.

Another herb pie from #TastingJrslm.  Assembly 1

This tart is right up my alley.  I love savory middle-eastern pies–bureks from Bosnia and the Balkans, Greek spanakopita and variations thereon, you get the idea.  So what makes this one special?  The  generous handfuls of parsley, cilantro, arugula, and chard.  Herbs are the heart and soul of the tart, not just an accent.  That’s for the cheese to do.  Olive oil binds the phyllo together rather than butter (which is easier to work with, as you don’t have to guesstimate at how much butter to melt, leaving your leaves of phyllo to dry out while you melt more butter).   And the magic of lemon zest.  All this makes for a lighter, fresher finished product that disappears quickly.  Too fast, apparently, for me to remember to take pictures.  For that (and another take on this recipe), check out Sparrows and Spatula’s post here.

Another herb pie from #TastingJrslm.  Assembly 2

As you scan the ingredients, you’ll note that the recipe calls for anari cheese, which is not even carried by the fancy-schmancy Whole Foods cheese department.  Ricotta can be used as a substitute (and like anari is a cheese made from whey, so it is a very close substitute from what I can tell).  The second time, I tried ricotta salata, and both attempts were delicious.

Another herb pie from #TastingJrslm.  Assembly 3, ready for the oven.

When assembling the pie, you are instructed to layer the oiled leaves of phyllo together and then place them all at once in the pan:  once for the bottom crust, once from the top.  Maybe it’s nothing revelatory in the grand scheme of things, but for me it certainly was–I’ve always made spanakopita by buttering each phyllo leaf and then haphazardly transferring the delicate sheet to a pan.  So much easier to build up the layer on the countertop and then place it the baking dish.

Another herb pie from #TastingJrslm.  Cooling!

Because I have so many cookbooks, and so many things I want to try, I don’t normally repeat a recipe only weeks after trying it for the first time.  This is the exception– and there’s more phyllo squirreled away in the freezer for the next time.

Finally–a moment for the blogosphere.  If you want to see other great things that are being made from this cookbook, check out the Tasting Jerusalem blog group here (featured in the New York Times article linked to above).  This is also my first contribution to the Let’s Lunch group–thanks to Cheryl (author of A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family, a great book I read when it came out) for inviting me along!

Herb Pie from Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s Jerusalem
Cuisine: middle eastern
Author: adapted from Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s Jerusalem, also available [url href=”http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/mar/20/herb-pie-recipe-vegetarian-ottolenghi”%5Dhere%5B/url%5D
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for brushing the pastry
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 lbs. Swiss chard, stems and leaves finely shredded but kept separate
  • 3-4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 4 scallions (green onion), chopped
  • 1 3/4 ounces of arugula
  • 1 ounce flat-leaf parsley, chopped (about 1/2-3/4 cup)
  • 1 ounce fresh mint, chopped (about 1/2-3/4 cup)
  • 2/3 ounce dill, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 4 ounces of anari or ricotta cheese, crumbled
  • 3 1/2 ounces aged cheddar, grated (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 9 ounces filo pastry
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F/200C. Pour the olive oil into a deep frying-pan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 8 minutes without browning. Add the chard stems and the celery and continue cooking for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chard leaves, increase the heat to medium-high and stir as you cook for 4 minutes, until the leaves wilt. Add the scallion/green onion, arugula and herbs and cook for 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat and transfer to a colander to cool.
  2. Once the mixture is cool, squeeze out as much water as you can and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the three cheeses, lemon zest, eggs, salt, pepper and sugar and mix well.
  3. Lay out a sheet of filo pastry and brush it with some olive oil. Cover with another sheet and continue in the same manner until you have 5 layers of filo brushed with oil, all covering an area large enough to line the sides and bottom of a 8 1/2-inch pie dish, plus extra to hang over the rim. Line the pie dish with the pastry, fill with the herb mix and fold the excess pastry over the edge of the filling, trimming the pastry as necessary to create a 3/4 inch border.
  4. Make another set of 5 layers of filo brushed with oil and place them over the pie. Scrunch the pastry a little to create a wavy, uneven top and trim the edges so it just covers the pie. Brush generously with olive oil and bake for 40 minutes, or until the filo turns a nice golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve warm or at room temperature.

Check out the other Let’s Lunch creations!

Annabelle‘s Chocolate Pie at Glass of Fancy

Anne Marie‘s Apple Pie Sandwiches at Sandwich Surprise

Betty Ann‘s Calamansi Pie at Asian In America

Grace‘s Easy Apple Pie with Lard Crust at HapaMama

Jill‘s Guava and Cream Cheese Empanadas at Eating My Words

Lisa G‘s Sweet Ricotta Noodle Pie at Monday Morning Cooking Club

Lisa K‘s Great-Grandmama’s Chocolate Pie at The Little Good Ride

Linda‘s Biscoff Banana & Pear Galette at Spicebox Travels

Lucy‘s Sweet Potato Custard Pie at A Cook and Her Books 

Mai‘s Caramel Apple Pie Sundae at Cooking in the Fruit Bowl

Margaret‘s Cushaw (Squash) Pie at Tea and Scones, Too

Nancie‘s Edna Lewis’s Tyler Pie at Nancie McDermott

Naomi‘s Huckleberry Pie Ice-Cream at The Gastro Gnome

Rebecca‘s Summer-Fall Hand Pies at GrongarBlog


Eggplant Chickpea Stew

A version of this post was originally published on Honest Cooking.

While my sisters and I certainly spend enough time talking about food, I also seem to find plenty of time for the topic with my sisters-in-law. (We do talk about other things too, really). And while the overwhelming tendency is to discuss dessert-themed matters (both with sisters by blood or marriage), this week saw my sister-in-law raving about a dinner her dad/my father-in-law made from the New York Times food section: an eggplant chickpea stew by Martha Rose Shulman. (Yes, of course I read the New York Times food section every week. I somehow missed it. In short, it’s good to have helpful in-laws).

She enjoyed it with her parents Sunday night, we emailed the next morning, and I was cooking up my own version Monday night. We both decided it was a perfect workhorse of a recipe. Full of meaty eggplant and savory chickpeas, it’s brightened by red tomatoes and a pop of green parsley. It’s easy and relaxed for a summer evening, with a little zing of a “secret ingredient” — pomegranate molasses. It’s one of those flavorful stews that only improves overnight in the refrigerator and is delicious the next day for lunch at work–reheated in the microwave or room temperature. (And so much better than getting another underwhelming pre-made sandwich after waiting in line at one of those lunch places that are always packed for no other reason than their convenience).

About that pomegranate molasses: if you don’t have this (let alone know wha this is) you can still make this tonight! (I can already imagine that some of you shaking your head that you’ll never locate it). My in-laws to the rescue again, who discovered that honey is a great substitute. (Although my sister-in-law was a little surprised when I told her I already had a jar of the molasses in the fridge, she quickly sighed “Of course you do”). The end result of pomegranate juice boiled down into a syrup, pomegranate molasses is a blood red so dark it’s almost black, with a flavor that reminds me a bit of concentrated sour cherries with a tart acid undertone. I’ve used it before in babba ghanouj, and it certainly seems to play well with eggplant. You can, as you guessed, find it at middle eastern grocers, or online (I got mine here).

Make a big batch – double or triple depending on how big your supply of pots are – and enjoy around a big table of friends and family, or throughout the week — or both!

Eggplant Chickpea Stew (Adapted from the New York Times and my father-in-law)

  • 1 large eggplant (about 1 1/2 lbs or 700g)
  • salt
  • 3-4 T olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 28-ounce (800g) can of tomatoes, drained
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2T pomegranate molasses or honey
  • 1 12-ounce (425g) can chickpeas (or 1 1/2 cups pre-cooked chickpeas), drained and rinsed
  • Chopped parsley to garnish
    Preheat the oven to 450 F (230 C).  Line a baking sheet with foil and brush with olive oil. Slice the eggplant about 1/2 inch (1.25cm) thick and arrange on the lined baking sheet. Brush lightly with olive oil. Bake for about 20 minutes until the eggplant starts to soften, then wrap in the foil and allow to cool, where they will continue to soften.
    Heat 2T of olive oil and saute the minced garlic very briefly just until the aroma rises. Add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper and simmer for 5 minutes.
    Add the eggplant, molasses, and chickpeas and simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the eggplant is very soft, remove from heat, and garnish with parsley, and serve, or allow to cool to room temperature first.

The First “Backyard Bird”

I have “reserved”  a few chickens from Pete and Jen’s Backyard Birds this year.  (Also a rabbit or two, though we’ve passed on the pork as we are well supplied through our Meat CSA!).  This weekend was the first pickup.  I had to drive out to Concord (about a half hour) but it was quite a nice afternoon–right next door to Pete and Jen’s is Verrill Farm, so we visited their store and picked up some delicious rainbow carrots (deep burgundy with white cores!  But even more delicious than they were beautiful) but held back from buying more plants. 

Pete and Jen’s pickup was staffed by Pete and Jen themselves of course and in their lovely garden backyard–a nice atmosphere as plenty of others were there picking up their chickens as well.  Little E was excited by the great backyard they have, but not having napped enough soon got pretty cranky and unfortunately we were probably a bit more memorable customers than we would have wished.

Back home I prepared the recipe I had been planning for this bird for some time:  Za’atar Chicken from Sara Jenkins’ Olives and Oranges.  Za’atar is “the” middle eastern spice blend, one that varies by country; my mix is from The Spice House and is made of sumac, thyme, sesame seeds, hyssop, and oregano. 

The chicken recipe was simple (as some of the best recipes are); mix the spices together with butter and minced garlic, then massage this paste between the skin and the breast and thigh meat.  That was a bit tricky to get the hang of (you do have to use a knife to get yourself started) but eventually you manage to work it all in.  (I noticed the next day that I had an illustrated technique on how to do this in Jacques Pepin, I’ll have to remember that for “the next time” as well as figure out how to tie up the bird in a more attractive manner).  Stuff half an onion, thyme and lemon rind in the central cavity and roast.  (You can of course adapt this recipe to any spice/herb mixture you’d like, and travel the world based on the blend of your choosing)!



It was of course delicious–flavorful and juicy, certainly not dry.  Pete and Jen had explained that this was a “single breasted” bird (not exactly, but the breast is not nearly as big as other chickens), thus it was a far cry from those industrially produced chickens that can’t even stand up (like those jokes about Barbie not being able to balance if she were an actual woman; kind of like that).  Like the pork from our CSA, this is a slow maturing variety which makes it all the rarer. 


I served it with a side of escarole calabrese (escarole with hot sausage and pepper flakes, loosely adapted from Urban Italian) so it was a nice “tour” of the Mediterranean (to distract us from recent Boston weather, which is anything but).


To the leftover chicken, inspired by a sandwich at Flour which marries chicken with jicama, I added sliced up hakurei salad turnips and arugula from our CSA–this was enough for four sandwiches (two days of elegant lunch fare) with even a few juicy scraps leftover for snacking!