Courtesy Nir Mesika, chef, Timna, New York City
The Jewish holiday known as Purim, celebrated on March 23–24, provides a good reason to explore the complexity of Israeli cuisine. It’s exploding in popularity at hot restaurants, like Philadelphia’s Zahav, Shaya in New Orleans, The Palomar in London and New York City’s Timna, where you’ll find Chef Nir Mesika.
- 6 lamb chops (rib or loin), fat trimmed
- 2 tablespoons freshly ground cumin seeds
- 2 tablespoons ras el hanout (North African spice mix)
- 3 tablespoons preserved lemon, minced to a paste, divided (optional)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic, divided
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves, divided
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more to coat pan
- 1 teaspoon salt (increase to 1 tablespoon if not using preserved lemon)
- 1¾ cups vegetable stock
- 1 dried Persian lime (optional)
- ¾ cup cracked freekeh (can substitute bulgur)
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
- ½ lemon, washed and seeded, sliced thin
- 6 grape tomatoes, halved
- 6 small okra pods, stemmed and halved crosswise
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ cup Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons raw tahini
- 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
Combine cumin, ras el hanout, 1½ tablespoons preserved lemon, 1 teaspoon garlic and ½ tablespoon thyme in bowl with 2 tablespoons olive oil and salt. Mix well. Add lamb chops and coat. Marinate for at least 30 minutes in refrigerator.
In a large pot, boil stock with dried lime and remaining thyme. Add freekeh, reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer until liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.
In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add red onion, remaining garlic, jalapeño and lemon. Cook until tender and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add grape tomatoes and okra. Cook about 5 minutes, until okra is cooked through but still crisp. Add freekeh, paprika, remaining preserved lemon (if using) and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Mix well, adding salt, if needed. Keep warm.
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Over medium-high heat, add enough olive oil to coat bottom of large, heavy pan. Brush off excess marinade then add chops in single layer. Sear each side for about 2–3 minutes, then transfer to oven for 3 additional minutes, until a meat thermometer registers 130˚F (for medium-rare). Let rest 5–10 minutes.
To serve, divide freekeh among two plates. Place lamb chops on top. Garnish with yogurt, tahini and mint leaves. Serves 2.
Amir Nathan, wine director at Timna, recommends Chateau Musar’s 2012 Jeune Rouge, a blend of Cinsault, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon from Lebanon. “Like Nir’s style of cooking, this is traditional, with a twist,” says Nathan. “The wine is both savory and jammy, which makes it a bit funky, in a good way. The Cinsault’s spicy, white-pepper nose goes perfectly with lamb, and the Syrah and Cab bring dark fruit that pairs nicely with the spice rub.”