February 10, 2014


A few weeks ago my husband and I went to see Gravity in the theater. Watching a movie in a theater is a big deal for us. If I’m paying for a sitter to go watch a movie, then the movie better be worthwhile.

Most movies we go out to see are big budget action flicks best appreciated on the big screen. Think James Bond and Jason Bourne.

We’d heard and read a lot about Gravity. That the special effects were AMAZING. That the technology behind the visual effects was MINDBLOWING. That we simply HAD to see it in the theater. And not just any theater. An IMAX theater. So we did. And it was…boring. Yes, the special effects were good. But with the amount of hype I’d heard, George Clooney would have had to take my hand and pull me into his orbit to live up to my expectations.

That’s the problem with hype. Most things can’t live up to it.

That's why I waited so long to buy Jerusalem, the not-so-new cookbook featuring the multiculturally-influenced cuisine from (you guessed it) Jerusalem. I’d heard about it. Of course I had. It had generated lots of buzz in the foodiverse. But the hype held me back. There were too many superlatives being used to describe it. Too much swooning. Too many adjectives ending in “est.”

But then I heard about specific dishes. Read a couple of recipes featured alongside the book reviews. Saw photos. Of roasted butternut squash and red onion drizzled with tahini sauce. Lentils and rice topped with caramelized onions. Chicken and rice infused with cardamom. Tomato and eggplant baked into cheesecake. And shakshuka, a mix of tomatoes and peppers, flavored with harissa and topped with poached eggs. This year’s Eggs in Purgatory, apparently.

So I gave in. In spite of my misgivings I bought the book. And tried one recipe after another. The book opened up a new world of flavors for me. Earthy z’aatar, piquant harissa paste. Savory dishes redolent with cinnamon and cardamom. Simple ingredients, prepared simply, but in unfamiliar ways.

Some things, it seems, do live up to the hype.

Finely dice red peppers.

 Put peppers in a large saute pan along with harissa, tomato paste, garlic, cumin and salt.

Cook down until the peppers are soft

Add tomatoes (I used canned).

Simmer until the tomatoes and peppers begin to dissolve into a thick sauce.

Create dip in the sauce and pour one egg (or yolk) into each dip.

Cook until egg whites are set and yolks are done to your liking.

Serve hot with sliced baguette.


Recipe from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp Pilpelchuma or harissa paste
1 tsp smoked Spanish paprika (this isn’t in the recipe, but I added some for extra kick)
2 tsp tomato paste
2 large red peppers, cut into ¼ inch dice (2 cups in total)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
5 large, very ripe tomatoes, chopped (a 28-oz can of diced tomatoes is also fine)
4 large eggs, plus 4 egg yolks
½ cup labneh or thick yogurt

1.    Heat the olive oil  in a large frying pan over medium heat and add the pilpelchuma or harissa, smoked paprika (if using), tomato paste, peppers, garlic, cumin and ¾ teaspoon salt. Stir and cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes, to allow the peppers to soften.

2.    Add the tomatoes, bring to a gentle simmer, and cook for a further 10 minutes until you have quite a thick sauce. Taste for seasoning.

3.    Make 8 little dips in the sauce. Gently break the eggs and carefully pour each into itw own dip. Do the same with the yolks. Use a fork to swirl the egg whites a little bit with the sauce, taking care not to break the yolks.

4.    Simmer gently for 8 to 10 minutes until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still runny (you can cover the pan with a lid if you wish to hasten the process).

5.    Remove from the heat, leave for a couple of minutes to settle, then spoon into individual plates and          serve with the labneh or yogurt. (I served with slices of baguette.)

Serves 2 to 4


  1. We've tried Harissa before and liked it. It's hot like Sriricha, but does not have the vinegar taste and smell. Good you're trying out different flavors & combinations.

    1. Ujwal Kaki -- that's a great way to describe it. You and Prakash Kaka should start your own food blog!


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