My first reaction on seeing “Jerusalem: A Cookbook,” by chefs Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, owners of Ottolenghi restaurants in London, was that it was too good to be true. The food looks stunning, the chefs are friends from opposite sides of the Jewish-Muslim divide in that fabled city, Ottolenghi had had a hit cookbook just two years ago, and the hype was already starting. Obviously something had to give, and that something had to be the food. I was sure of it.
But that’s what testing is for. In the week I cooked through “Jerusalem,” I learned something almost every day, whether it was a new technique or a new combination of ingredients or flavors. Although these dishes are often derived from traditional recipes, Ottolenghi and Tamimi never let a chance go by to streamline or improve or reinvent. Thus does a cuisine evolve, one tweak and one lesson at a time. And in this case, almost every lesson was a winner.