Those of you who have been reading about Les Petits Chefs for a while now (we’re celebrating three years this term!) will know that I don’t shy away from “difficult” recipes with them. Spurred on by the boys and their “can-do” attitude, I always imagine that anything is possible in the science lab twice a week with between 12 and 17 boys under the age of 13. I mean, if the boys can approach every task and recipe so positively, why shouldn’t I? For sure it means that we are pushed for time some weeks. An hour from start to finish is not long. But we definitely achieve some pretty amazing dishes in that time. And the more we make, the more I imagine we can achieve…
So when I saw that Beth from OMG Yummy and Sarene from Fringe Food were starting an online group called Tasting Jerusalem, where interested home cooks will work through the stunning Jerusalem: A Cookbook” by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi (Ten Speed Press), I couldn’t help but wonder whether the Petits Chefs might test a recipe or two from the book. As Beth says in her first post, “Middle Eastern cuisine, informed by the religions, cultures and geography of the region, enjoys complex flavors that are foreign to many of our palates, which is why we have launched #TastingJrslm. The goal of this group is to become familiar with the region’s culinary personality by traveling virtually through its ingredients and flavors using the recipes in Jerusalem.” Well now, I am all about travelling virtually through cooking and I figured the boys would probably be up for the challenge too!
January’s theme was sumac. (Yes I know it’s February now but I didn’t get my act together in time to make this in the right month) and the recipe I chose was Turkey and Zucchini burgers with Green Onion and Cumin served with a Sour Cream and Sumac Sauce on page 200. I mean burgers (they are more like sliders) – what little boy wouldn’t want to make those?
According to Sami Tamimi, co-author of Jerusalem, sumac is a versatile spice and “can be added to so many dishes.” But what is it? According to Beth’s post, it’s a dried red berry with a tangy flavor and fruity undertones. Its culinary use is said to date back to ancient Roman times. Today, it’s most often found in Middle Eastern cuisine, where flecks of the ground, red berry appear in savory dishes. Tamimi also uses it in puddings (desserts). Sumac can be used on its own to add a bit of zip to dishes or in spice blends like za’atar, which also features thyme, sesame seeds and sometimes oregano. I had a bit of trouble finding sumac locally (I didn’t look too far from home but I definitely know I can find it in Toronto, just not on a Sunday when I need it on a Monday!) but it’s available at Middle Eastern grocers and through many online retailers such as Penzeys Spices and Dean & DeLuca.
I ended up using Za’atar for all but one boy’s sauce – he’s allergic to sesame seeds, and I had planned to make a substitute of lemon zest rubbed with salt but we kinda ran out of time. He was happy with his sumac-less sauce (that I also tasted) – it was fine. Could have used a little more zip, though, and I will try the lemon zest/ salt combo myself at some point. Of course, now I’ll be buying the sumac too – because I have a whole lot of recipes from Jerusalem that I have bookmarked that call for it too!
The recipe was fairly easy to work through – zucchini, an egg, mint, cilantro, green onions, ground turkey, garlic, cumin and cayenne pepper all mixed up (with the boys’ hands – ewww!) to form slider-sized patties.
We seared the patties in a frying pan, then finished them off in the oven. We found them a little sloppy to work with (and if we’re really being honest here, I didn’t check that the zucchini had been squeezed out – some of them were fairly watery, so perhaps that’s the reason for the slippy mix), they didn’t really stick together until they were seared. Once they were in the oven, however, they were fine.
And whilst I cleaned up the messy, messy work stations with a couple of my older Petits Chefs, the younger guys worked with Miss Carter to make the sauce. Basically a mix of Greek yoghurt, sour cream, lemon juice and zest with some garlic, it’s a great base dip/ sauce even without the sumac/ za’atar.
Isn’t the sumac pretty? It definitely added some “zip” to the sauce – I’ll be using this recipe again for sure – it’s a great dip for vegetables as well as these little sliders!
And the sliders themselves? Juicy and tasty (even reheated after a subway ride home!) with a little kick from the cayenne nicely complemented by the tangy lemony sauce. I’m excited to try these again – though I think I might make meatball shaped – easier for dipping. On the other hand, a full sized burger of this recipe might be pretty darned good too.
So there you go. If 11 little boys under the age of 13 can cook from Jerusalem, so can you!
And don’t forget to check in next week to see what book Les Petits Chefs cook from next….
** Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of “Jerusalem: A Cookbook” by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ten Speed Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to omgyummy.com, following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, and liking the Facebook page.