Hello there! ’Tis really and truly the season, isn’t it?
I feel as though it’s been days since I’ve gotten to bed at a reasonable hour, drunk anything that didn’t come from a just uncorked bottle, or eaten a meal that didn’t end with cookies.
And it isn’t even New Year’s yet!
Which is terrifically fun. Obviously. Though is it horribly dull of me to say I’m ready to get back to our quieter everyday routine? What can I say, I’m a cancer. Home and hearth is where my heart is.
Plus, I’m looking forward to putting my shiny new Christmas gifts to use!
My family tried (and semi-succeeded) in going mildly minimal on gifting this year. That is to say, we gave presents that were things people needed (socks! Oh my gosh, I love socks! And I’m not even saying that in a sarcastic voice. I reeeeaally love getting socks as a present. Somehow I always need them.) or that were really high quality and would earn their keep with use.
Joel and I, under our chosen guise of Vikre Distillery and its special holiday subsidiery companies Vikre Confections and Vikre Saltworks, made tasty edibles and drinkables to give as gifts. On the receiving end I acquired some exciting new food-related gifts as well (surprise), like fancy oils and vinegars, some gorgeous cookbooks, a new blender (a serious necessity), plus a foraging knife and German glass egg coddlers (also necessities, clearly).
As I am nothing if not eager and suggestible, there is a high probability that our meals for the next couple of months will be heavily peppered with coddled eggs, foraged ingredients (in winter in Minnesota? Hmm. Well, it’s worth a try.), blended soups, and the cuisine of a particularly vibrant city in the Middle East.
Why not start today?
I am so drawn to so many of the dishes in Jerusalem, it leaves my head spinning. The flavors of garlic, lemon, parsley, mint, and spice rubs simply seep out through the pages. Think caramel sweet roasted butternut squash and red onion with za’atar, silky eggplant rubbed with charmoula and piled with herby bulgur, lemony leek meatballs.
Yet in spite of all this, there was not a shadow of a doubt in my mind when I opened the cookbook to try a first recipe, the one I would use would be Na’ama’s fattoush.
The fattoush in the book is not really fattoush in the strictest sense of the word at all, but rather Sami Tamimi’s mother’s (named Na’ama) brilliant take on the chopped bread and vegetable salad. This atypical version uses a mildly tangy, comfortingly creamy buttermilk like dressing, lashed with just a bit of garlic and lemon juice. It’s a bit like panzanella was introduced to a chopped cobb salad. (And they quickly decided to move in together and then basically live happily ever after.)
My version is even farther from your standard fattoush, but more fit eating during the far end of December when eating tomatoes and cucumber sounds about as appealing as putting ice down your back (to me at least).
I had a large tupperware of winter vegetables that I had tossed together and roasted to save them from a sad, wilted end amidst all of our holiday eating elsewhere. I tossed them with toasted shards of naan bread and filled in the gaps in crunch and freshness with bundles of chopped fresh herbs.
Then I swathed it all generously in milky white yogurt dressing and said a happy thank you to Na’ama, wherever she may be.
Winter Vegetable Fattoush adapted a good bit from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi (serves 4-6)
Don’t be afraid of all the ingredients! For the most part, once you have them lined up, you’re just stirring them together.
- 1 cup thick Greek-style yogurt
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 large, stale Turkish flatbread or naan
- about 6-8 cups mixed winter vegetables, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (I used a quarter of a very large cauliflower, two carrots, one sweet potato, a parsnip, a small golden beet, plus some chunks of red cabbage)
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 2 Tbs. lemon juice
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 Tbs. sumac (if you can’t find sumac, use lemon zest from the lemon you squeeze for the juice)
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt and the milk. Set them aside in a warm place while you prepare the rest of the salad.
- Heat your oven to 425F. Spread the vegetables out on two rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle them generously with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and then use your hands to toss them until they’re coated with the oil. Pop them into the oven and roast them, stirring once or twice during the process, until they’re tender, about 20-25 minutes. Then, remove the vegetables from the oven and set them aside.
- While the vegetables are roasting, put the red onion in a small bowl and stir in the apple cider vinegar and a generous pinch of salt. You can add a pinch of sugar too, if you’d like. (You’re basically quick pickling the onion.)
- Toast the breads until they’re brown and crispy, then tear them apart into bite-sized pieces. When you’re ready to assemble the salad (you can serve it slightly warm or wait for the vegetables to fully cool, your choice), drain the vinegar off of the onion. Now, toss everything together (including the garlic and lemon juice) in a very large salad bowl. Taste and add more salt if you wish. Drizzle the salad with olive oil and serve.
- This salad will keep for a couple days in the fridge, though the bread pieces will get pretty soggy. But, they’re supposed to be a bit soggy. However, if you prefer you can always toss the vegetables with the dressing and no bread, and just add bread pieces to each serving each time you serve the dish.