Easter dinner in Jerusalem: an international gathering
At any season, the city of Jerusalem is an enchanting place. But Jerusalem has a special magic at Easter when pilgrims from all over the world walk through the gates of thewalled Old City to wonder at the Dome of the Rock, the Wailing Wall, and the Holy Sepulchre.
The tourists crowd the narrow, twisting streets hunting bargains in mother-of-pearl, olive wood, and brass. Shoppers and merchants haggle good naturedly in a babble of languages.
A half-block away, people who live and work in the Old City are negotiating the price of food for their Easter dinners.
When I visited Jerusalem one spring, I was invited to Easter dinner by members of the international community who have come to call the city home. They work for the United Nations, teach at one of the many international schools , or are scholars of history, archaeology, or the Bible.
The dinner hostess was a Spanish woman who founded and operated a library for children in the Old City. Maria began her preparations for dinner three weeks in advance by ordering a leg of lamb from a tiny butcher shop in the Old City. Meat is expensive here, and scarce.
She shopped for her vegetables and fruits in one of the long dark, cool, alleys in the cavernous bazaar. Pyramids of oranges, grapefruits, marrows (squash), artichokes, and eggplants cover the tables in the stalls.
The shopping task is compounded by endless haggling and bargaining. It is usually limited by the amount a person can carry in a plastic tote bag.
Maria orders the Easter cookie, mammool. It is a delicious butter cookie made with semolina and filled with dates or walnuts and flavored with rose water. The dough is pressed into seashell-shaped molds before baking.
We gather for Easter dinner at an apartment in the Old City. To reach the building one passes through a heavy wooden door set into an ancient stone wall. Once through the wall the teeming street retreats as we cross a serene courtyard lush with palm trees and bougainvillea the color of raspberry sherbet.
Guests bring other dishes. A Greek brings lemon soup. An Englishwoman brings French bread baked that morning in a Bethlehem convent. There is hummus with wedges of pita bread for scooping, and a fresh parsley salad called tabboule. A rice pilaf is studded with pine nuts.
A second Englishwoman brings trifle for dessert. The special Easter dinner ends the way all dinners in the Holy Land do. A package of rainbow-colored Jordan almonds is pressed into the guest's hand along with a request to tarry a few more hours. Greek Lemon Soup 2 quarts chicken stock 1/2 cup raw rice 4 egg yolks Juice of 3 lemons Croutons
Heat stock, add rice, and simmer about 10 minutes or until rice is cooked.
Just before serving, dllute egg yolks with a little of the hot stock. Blend that mixture into the remaining stock.
Add lemon juice, stir for a few minutes, and serve immediately with croutons. Serves 8. Tabboule 1 cup fine bulgar (crushed wheat) 1 pound tomatoes, peeled, chopped, seeded 2 cups chopped green onions 3 cups chopped parsley I tablespoons fresh or dried mint 1/2 cup olive oil 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Rinse wheat, cover with boiling water and let stand 30 minutes. Drain throroughly and squeeze dry in a piece of cheesecloth or clean dish towel.
Combine tomatoes, green onions, parsley, and mint. Beat together oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Fold into tomato mixture. Mix in wheat until well blended. Cover. Chill.
Serve in a romaine boat or a lettuce cup. Serves 6 to 8.
Note: Middle Eastern women spend most of the morning preparing salad for the main meal at noon. Food processors make it a snap. Spanish leg of lamb 6-pound leg of lamb 1 1/2 cups chicken bouillon 1/2 cup olive oil 4 cloves garlic, minced 1 tablespoon dried oregano 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme Juice of one lemon Salt and freshly ground pepper
Sprinkle the lamb with salt and pepper. Mix 1 cup of bouillon with garlic, oregano, thyme, and lemon juice. Place lamb in a dish and pour marinade over. Rub marinade in well. Transfer lamb and marinade to a double plastic bag. Squeeze all air out and seal with a twist tie. Place in a dish and refrigerate. Marinate for several hours or overnight.
Bring meat to room temperature. Remove from marinade, wipe dry, and insert a meat thermometer. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a roasting pan, brown lamb in oven for 15 minutes.
Turn oven down to 350 degrees F. Roast to desired degree of doneness. Allow approximately 20 to 25 minutes per pound for an internal temperature of 140 degrees, rare; 25 to 30 minutes for 160 degrees, medium; and 30 to 35 minutes for 170 to 180 degrees well done.
Add remaining bouillon to marinade and baste roast frequently. Allow lamb to stand 10 minutes before carving. Slice thin. Remove fat from pan juices. Correct seasoning and serve juices on the side. English Trifle 1 12-ounce poundcake or sponge cake 1/2 cup raspberry jam 1/2 cup blanched almond slices 1 10-ounce package frozen raspberries, defrosted 23 1/2-ounce packages instant vanilla pudding 3 1/2 cups milk 2 cups whipping cream
Cut cake into cubes and line bottom of serving bowl. Spread jam on top. Pour thawed raspberries over and let stand 30 minutes. Make instant pudding with the 3 1/2 cups milk and let set. Spread this carefully over cake and raspberries in bowl.Pipe whipped cream over all. This dessert may be refrigerated for an hour or two. Serves 8.
Note: Optional decorations include candied fruit such as cherries.