I have mixed feelings about Jerusalem. There are still so many recipes that make me drool when I look at their pictures, but that I didn't try for a number of reasons. Either they didn't abide by whatever diet I happen to be trying to lose weight for my brother's wedding next month (which I acknowledge is unfair to the book), or they were too involved and time-consuming for a weeknight meal, or they relied upon ingredients that aren't in season right now, or I lost confidence in the reliability of the recipes, and didn't want to be bothered with another recipe that I wasn't sure would turn out right. I'm surprised that I've only made 13 recipes in 3 months. That's ridiculous. Of those 13, I actively disliked or hated 5, and liked or loved 5. I was indifferent to 3. That's not a rave review.
Seasoning caused problems for me. Following Ottolenghi's measurements, a lot of this food was way too salty and way too spicy. Often, it felt like the ingredients were not coming together the way they were supposed to.
Even if I hated everything else I cooked from Jerusalem, I'd keep the book for the Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds alone. Best. Salad. Ever. It is so delicious. I've been keeping a perpetual supply of the simple Spiced Chickpeas in the fridge for the past few weeks, and tossing them in salads, eggs, or reheating them as a quick side dish.
The desserts look amazing. I WILL make Cardamom Rice Pudding with Pistachio & Rose Water, Chocolate Krantz Cakes, and the Spice Cookies. I still want to make Hummus. I still want to make Falafel. And Open Kibbeh. And Saffron Chicken & Herb Salad. And...and...and...
There seem to be as many post-it notes flagging recipes today as there were at the beginning of April. When I look at the book, the photography is so gorgeous that I want to reach into the page and start eating. My enthusiasm totally dies when I think about actually cooking, though, because the recipes have failed me 50% of the time. Tricky.
I will still cook from Jerusalem. There are lots of dishes yet to try. It's not a book that I recommend attempting to burn through all at one time, though. The recipes are unforgiving, the tone is one of "if you're not going to do it exactly as written, don't bother" (which makes me not want to bother), and if you cook from it a lot, the defeats begin to overwhelm the experience. For me, at least. I've never read another bad word about the book, so maybe I just suck. Listen to me. What has Ottolenghi done to me? Cookbooks should bolster your confidence in the kitchen, not deplete it.
It's a keeper, but I do want to go on record as saying that the book is overhyped. Gorgeous photos, enticing recipes, but, either because our tastes don't align, or because the recipes don't work as written/I messed up somehow, they are unreliable. I would NEVER serve an untested recipe from this book to guests. NEVER. I have to believe that the rave reviews are based upon layout and concept (Muslims and Jews can get along), not from use. I can't be the only person on the planet who cooked some disgusting food from this book.
I leave for NY tomorrow, so I may or may not be around for the next month. I'm not bringing any cookbooks with me, but I'll see if my mom has anything that I want to cook from. She's not a big cookbook collector, but she mentioned that she bought Barefoot Contessa's Foolproof recently. I'll flip through and see if I feel like it.