More Comfort Food and A Trip to the Holy Land

October 19 – October 25, 2020

Monday:                   Brussels Sprouts Pizza Carbonara

Wednesday:            Past with Spicy Sausage, Broccoli Rabe and Chickpeas

Thursday:                 Creamy Tomato Bisque with Cheddar – Chutney Grilled Cheese

LinksGems Golf Photos on Twitter: "Pittsburgh Field Club was designed by  Alex Findlay in 1914 and later tweaked by Donald Ross & A.W. Tillinghast.  From the elevated first tee, where a church

Friday:                       Dinner at the PFC with Hilda, Tim and Julie

Saturday:                  Smash Burgers with Caramelized Onions and Gruyère

Sunday:                     Muhammara and Hummus with Pita / Roast Chicken

Ina Garten continued to bring comfort last week to our dogless and empty home.  Her creamy tomato bisque and her smashed burgers with caramelized onions are great and her brussels sprouts pizza carbonara is spectacular.  Buy her new book (Modern Comfort Food) and cook that pizza or you will regret it for the rest of your life.

But there was a lingering gloom at Casa Stuarti and, to paraphrase Merlin speaking to a down-at-heart young Arthur in T. H. White’s great The Once and Future King: 

The best thing for being sad is to learn something new.  You may miss your only love, [You may lose your dog].  There is only one remedy – to learn something new.

One of the things you can learn, from a course on the MasterClass website, is Middle Eastern cooking from Yotam Ottolenghi.*  Born in Israel, now based in London, Yotam’s cooking is big-flavored – actually, Brobdignaggian-flavored – and it looks as good as it tastes.  And for no extra charge, he will help you to chill when cooking for a crowd or trying a new recipe.  Cooking, he will remind you, is about joy and sharing – and no one wants to share your insecurity.  But most people would like to share your good food.

           *If you can, sign up for MasterClass and watch Ottolenghi teach. His enthusiasm for food and cooking is contagious. If you find your own enthusiasm flagging, Ottolenghi is the perfect antidote.

In the Middle East diners share huge platters of food and mounds of pita bread.  So, we’re going to give you three recipes (and a sub-recipes) from the dinner we cooked for Billy and Emily on Sunday, last.  One of the recipes (Spatchcocked Roasted Crispy Chicken) is from the great Alex Guarnaschelli, but the other two or three or four are from Ottolenghi.

There are very few ingredients here that you won’t find in your pantry.  But you may not have pomegranate molasses or tahini, and you will need to purchase, beg or steal these to bring these recipes to their peak of flavor per Ottolenghi.  A small enough request from a chef who, after all, is from the Holy Land where somewhat more onerous obligations were laid on Jews, Christians and Moslems.

Mezze Spread with Muhammara and Hummus

and Crispy Roast Chicken

(adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi – MasterClass – and Alex Guarnaschelli, The Home Cook)

Why Guarnaschelli in addition to Ottolenghi?  Well, Ottolenghi is essentially a vegetable chef.  He has great recipes for lamb and shrimp as well, but where he shines is in making cowboys love grilled carrots with labneh, dukkah and tarragon oil, or football players roast peppers so that they can taste the wonders of the Muhammara recipe below.  But, since Barbara is a sort of cowgirl, and I am a sort of football player, we tossed in a simpler protein (chicken) and A. Guarnaschelli has a recipe we’ve been meaning to share with you for a while.  (This is, roughly, our thirtieth chicken recipe.  If it were our 300th, we’d still share it because it’s that good.)  Make no mistake, though, the Muhammara and Hummus and, if you buy it from a good Middle Eastern bakery or make it yourself, the pita, will be the stars of this dinner.

Timing:                      The chicken will take about 1 hour

                                    The Muhammara will take about 1 hour

                                    The Hummus, along with the Tahini Sauce

                                    and the Confit Garlic Oil will take 1 hour, if

                                    you use canned garbanzos or overnight and

                                    a couple of hours if you use uncooked garbanzo


You can make the Muhammara and Hummus first and then cook the chicken.  Or you can cook the chicken first or contemporaneously – it works at room temperature as well as hot.

Muhammara (Pepper, tomato and chili dip – pronounced:  “Moo – humm’ – rah”)

Takes about one hour to make

Ingredients:             Serves 6, by itself, 12 if alongside the hummus dip

5 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and quartered (cut down the four sides to get the quarters and then I usually slice another piece from the bottom of the pepper)

1 white onion, peeled and roughly chopped

2 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise, stem core removed

1 red chili, stem removed

8 garlic cloves (these will become sweet during roasting, so don’t fear any bitter garlicky taste)

1 ½ tbsp tomato paste

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp coriander seeds

2 tbsp pomegranate molasses, divided

100 grams (a scant 7 tbsp) walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

100 grams pomegranate seeds (we did not have these – they would have been a good addition)

5 tbsp olive oil, divided


Ground black pepper

1 tbsp parsley leaves, roughly chopped, for serving

Pita to serve


Preheat oven to 425 F

Slice and prep peppers, onions, tomatoes and chili.

Peel garlic

Measure out herbs and seeds and have olive oil, tomato paste and parsley close to hand.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.


Add peppers, onion, tomatoes and chili to the sheet pan.  Toss with 3 tablespoons of oil, ½ teaspoon of salt and lots of black pepper.

Roast in oven for 20 minutes.

While the vegetables are roasting, to a small frying pan over medium, add 1 tablespoon of oil and the tomato paste.  Cook for 5 -7 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the tomato paste is a deep red and caramelized.  Set aside to cool.

To another small pan over medium, add the cumin and corander seeds and toast, stirring frequently, until toasted and quite aromatic – about 2 minutes.  Grind these spices into a coarse powder with a mortar and pestle.

After 20 minutes, remove the peppers, onions and tomatoes from the oven and mix with the garlic cloves, then roast for another 20 minutes or longer until softened and lightly charred.

When the vegetables are cool enough to handle, peel and discard the pepper and tomato skins.  Some will not come off and that’s ok (particularly any charred pieces – there’s a lot of flavor in charred skin).

Into a food processor, add the roasted vegetables, the tomato paste mixture, the ground spices, 1 tablespoon of the pomegranate molasses, ½ teaspoon of a salt and some good grinds of black pepper.  Pulse into a coarse paste – you want the mixture to be slightly chunky.  Now add the walnuts and pulse just to roughly blitz – the pieces of walnut will add some texture.  Finally, stir in the pomegranate seeds.


Transfer the muhammara to a serving platter or bowl, spreading out and creating a well in the center.  Garnish with extra pomegranate seeds and parsley.  Now drizzle 1 tablespoon each of the pomegranate molasses and the olive oil over the top.  Serve with lots of pita (cut into serving pieces) on the side.

Hummus (pronounced   “who’ mus”)


If you do what we do – use canned chickpeas (already cooked) – this will take about an hour. 

If you cook your own chickpeas, you’ll need to soak them overnight and then cook them for 45 to 75 minutes.  Then you’ll need another hour.

Ingredients:                         Serves 6 easily as an appetizer

   For the Confit Garlic Oil:

12 garlic cloves, peeled

6 thyme sprigs

1 green chili

200 milliliters = ¾ cup plus 1 ½ tbsp of olive oil


  For the Tahini Sauce:

4 2/3 tbsp

1 ½ tbsp lemon juice

1 garlic clove, crushed

A pinch of salt or more to taste

3 tbsp water plus more as needed (1 tsp is a guess)

  For the Hummus:

Garlic Confit and Tahini Sauce (see above)

2 ¼ cups canned or home-cooked chickpeas

4 2/3 plus tbsp tahini paste

¼ cup lemon juice

5 tbsp plus 2 tsp ice-cold water and probably more

1 ½ tbsp parsley, finely chopped

Pita – to serve


Make Confit Garlic Oil and Tahini Sauce

Measure out the rest of the ingredients, chopping the parsley

Make the Hummus:

Set aside a little less than ½ cup of chickpeas for garnish

Add the remaining chickpeas, tahini past, 8 of the confit garlic cloves (we used 6), ½ teaspoon of salt and the ¼ cup of lemon juice to a food processor and run until smooth – a minute or more.  Then, with the machine running, slowly drizzle in the ice water until smooth and the volume is increased.  If you want an even lighter texture, add a bit more ice water.

Taste and adjust lemon juice and salt as desired.

Add the parsley, 2 tablespoons of Confit Garlic Oil and a pinch of salt to the reserved chickpeas and stir.

Transfer the hummus to a shallow platter and smooth it out with the back of a spoon, creating a well or a couple of swirls that you can fill with the tahini sauce.

Spread the tahini sauce into the well or the swirls.

Spoon the herbed chickpeas over the hummus and top with the remaining confit garlic cloves and, if you like, the thyme and chili from the jar.

Finish with a drizzle of some more Confit Garlic Oil. 

Serve with quartered pita.

Spactchcocked Chicken and left-over Smash-burgers (protein to accompany Ottolenghi’s Muhammara and Hummus

Spatchcocked Roasted Crispy Chicken

This will produce the most delicious crispy chicken you have ever cooked – unless you’ve made Nashville Hot Chicken.

Timing:                About 70 minutes, after heating oven to 500 F

Ingredients:                               Serves 4 – 6

Whole Chicken (4 lbs. – if larger, add a bit of cooking time)

Kosher Salt


Preheat Oven to 500 F (wait at least 10 minutes after oven reaches 500 F)

Spatchcock Chicken (remove backbone, then place breast-side up and press on breast to crack and flatten chicken).

Season the chicken all over, liberally, with salt.

Put the chicken on a baking sheet (no need for oil) and cook for 20 minutes.

Reduce the oven temp to 450 F and cook for an additional 30-35 minutes – you want an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken to register at least 155 and up to 165 F.

Let the chicken rest for 10-15 minutes, then cut into pieces and serve.

One thought on “More Comfort Food and A Trip to the Holy Land

Leave a Reply