My new Napa friend, who shall be known as Betty from this point forth, invited me to join her book club last week. Not just any book club; a cookbook club called Literary Foodies! Every month Betty and her friends pick a cookbook from which everyone will make a dish and bring to a potluck – along with some wine, of course. This past week, Betty hosted a dinner centered around Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s Jerusalem, a book that celebrates the dishes and culture of their home city, and offers up a variety of recipes for vegetable, seafood, and meat dishes (unlike Ottolenghi’s other vegetable-only book that I own, Plenty – also excellent).
Betty made a tasty shellfish and tomato stew, which she prepared days in advance, adding the seafood just before dinner. She also whipped up wheat berries with swiss chard, and a fresh heirloom tomato salad. Another girl made a chimichurri-inspired roasted eggplant dip, while two other ladies brought roasted sweet potatoes and fresh figs and crispy tomato and onion couscous. For my dish, I selected Kofta B’siniyah – lamb meatballs – with my own tahini sauce. Not only were they super easy to make, but they were positively delicious!
Tahini Sauce (makes 1 1/2 cup)
- 1 cup tahini (I love al wadi tahini and buy it by the six-pack)
- juice of 2 small lemons
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 3/4 cup water, or more
In a food processor fit with a steel blade, process tahini, lemon juice, salt and paprika. Add water in a slow steady steam until you reach desired consistency. It should be relatively thin, but still stick to a spoon.
Jerusalem’s Kofta B’siniyah (serves 6-10)
- 14 oz ground lamb
- 14 oz ground veal
- 2/3 cup white onion, finely chopped
- 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, roughly chopped, plus extra whole ones to toast and garnish
- 2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped, plus extra to serve
- 1 large medium-hot red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
- 1½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1½ tsp ground allspice
- ¾ tsp ground nutmeg
- 1½ tsp ground black pepper
- 1½ tsp salt
- safflower oil
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, and mix with your hands. Form into long, torpedo-like balls and place onto a platter or baking pan. Arrange on a plate and chill, covered, until you are ready to cook them, for up to one day.
Heat 1 TB safflower oil in a nonstick pan over a medium-high flame. Add the meatballs, and cook in batches for about six minutes, turning every 90 seconds so all sides are browned. Scrape excess meat from pan before cooking next batch, and add more oil as needed. Your meatballs should be medium, but you can finish them in the oven at 400 degrees for a couple minutes if you want them well-done (mine were cooked plenty just on the stovetop).
Spread tahini sauce on a serving dish, and top with toasted pine nuts, a sprinkle of smoked paprika, and chopped parsley. Arrange meatballs and drizzle with more tahini sauce. Serve the remaining tahini sauce on the side, along with toasted pita bread.
The meatballs are so yummy, and you can taste every single ingredient – especially the baking spices. I thought they would be overpowering, but they add a layer of subtle sweetness that brings harmony to every bite.
I am hoping to host the next Literary Foodies meeting at my apartment! Any cookbook suggestions? I’m thinking The Canal House…