It was beastly hot in NYC yesterday. By the time the mercury hit 100 degrees the cat had tried to climb into the open refrigerator and we were all collapsed in the back yard like Dali’s dripping clocks. With company coming in a few hours, I wasthisclose to offering popsicles to our guests instead of dinner.
But the glorious new cookbook Plenty had just arrived in my mailbox and it was as if a fresh cool breeze had found me limp in the backyard and blew me back into the kitchen.
Plenty is a summer blockbuster of a cookbook. Gorgeously illustrated with pictures of sumptuously photogenic food, I sat down and thumbed through every page before deciding that anything I cooked was going to hit the spot.
Yotam Ottolenghi, the book’s author and the owner/chef of a number of eponymous food shops and a cafe in London, also writes a popular column for the UK’s Guardian newspaper. His opulent new hotspot, Nopi, is the toast of the town. Clearly, he is a man whose star is shining as brightly as the vibrant flavor combinations he puts on his plates.
Born in Israel, Ottolenghi mixes a Middle Eastern and Mediterranean palate with a multitude of global tastes such as the Indian, Asian and African spices he has encountered on his travels. Rather than rooting his recipes in tradition, he seems to concentrate simply on flavor combinations that taste bright and delicious: sweet potato wedges with lemongrass crème fraiche; broccolini with sweet sesame salad; okra with tomato, lemon and cilantro.
The book is also entirely vegetarian. While Ottolenghi likes meat and serves it in his shops and restaurants, the column he writes for the Guardian, The New Vegetarian, puts vegetables at the forefront of the menu. There was some kind of kerfuffle at one point when readers balked at the idea of someone other than a purist writing a column that celebrated the vegetarian palate, but Ottolenghi won out with his brilliant recipes.
Plenty. The title says it all: vegetables are plenty enough for dinner, and there are plenty of new ideas here to stimulate your palate. The word also implies good fortune, which is what you will feel when you open the book.
The following are adaptations of Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes.
Beet, Orange and Black Olive Salad
I loved the combination of oranges with the sweet beets and salty olives. This is a perfect summer salad on a hot night.
Serves 2-4 people
5 small beets or 2 large ones
Small head raddichio
½ small red onion thinly sliced
Handful chopped Italian parsley
Handful black olives, halved
3 Tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 tsp. orange flower water
1 ½ tsp. red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Place unpeeled beets in a pot of cold, salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until al dente. Place beets in cold water when cooked and peel when cool. The skins should slip right off. Cut into 1-inch pieces.
Supreme oranges by trimming off their tops and bases, then peel with a knife by following their natural curves. Over a bowl, remove the segments by slicing between the membranes. Transfer oranges slices and juice to a bowl with the beets. Discard the membranes.
Cut the radicchio into 1/2- inch slices. Break them into separate leaves and add to salad.
Add remaining ingredients and toss everything together gently. Adjust seasoning and serve.
Royal Potato Salad
Ottolenghi calls this a “Royal” salad after the kind of potatoes he uses, but even with the Yukon gold potatoes that I used, it is rich enough to be true enough to its name.
15 quail eggs (I used 4 fresh hen’s eggs)
1 cup sweet peas
1 ¾ boiled new potatoes with skins on
1 cup basil leaves
½ cp parsley leaves plus a handful for garnish
1/3 cup parmesan
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup olive oil
½ tsp. white wine vinegar
Bunch of sorrel or mint, julienned
Salt and pepper
Place eggs in a saucepan with cold water. When water boils cook quails eggs for 30 seconds if you like them soft boiled, or hen’s eggs for 4 minutes. Place in cold water to cool and peel.
Blanch peas in boiling water for 30 seconds and chill in an ice bath. Set aside.
Cook potatoes in salted water for 15-20 minutes until they are cooked but not falling apart.
Meanwhile, place basil, parsley, pine nuts, Parmesan and garlic in a food processor and pulverize. Add oil and pulse until you have a runny pesto. Reserve in a bowl.
Drain potatoes and cut in two while hot. Put in the bowl with pesto and toss with vinegar, sorrel or mint, and peas. Mix well so that all the flavors absorb. Taste and adjust seasoning. Don’t be afraid of salt here.
Cut the eggs in half if they are quail eggs, or quarters if you are using hen’s eggs. Gently fold into salad. Garnish with chopped parsley.
Very Full Tart
This tart is emblematic of the book’s title. It is plenty big and plenty delicious.
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
6 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium eggplant, cut into 2-inch dice
Salt and pepper
1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
1 small zucchini, cut into 1-inch dice
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
11-inch savory pie crust (your recipe)
A few sprigs of thyme
1/3 cup ricotta
4 ounces feta
7 cherry tomatoes halved
2 medium eggs
1 cup heavy cream
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Removes seeds and stems from peppers and place in an ovenproof dish. Drizzle with oil and place on top shelf of oven.
Mix eggplant in a bowl with 4 tablespoons olive oil and spread on a large baking pan in the oven beneath the peppers.
After 12 minutes, add sweet potatoes to eggplant and stir gently. The add zucchini and roast for 10-12 more minutes. Remove all vegetables, including the peppers, from the oven and reduce temperature to 325 degrees. Cover peppers with paper towels to steam skins off, then slice into ½-inch strips.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Saute onions with bay leaves and some salt for about 20 minutes until they caramelize. Remove bay leaves and set aside.
Lightly grease a 9-inch tart pan and roll out piecrust to fit. Line the dough with parchment paper and pie weights or dry beans. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove parchment and weights. Continue baking for 10 more minutes or until crust turns golden. Remove from oven and cool slightly.
Scatter cooked onion over bottom of crust and top with roasted vegetables, evenly spread. Scatter with thyme leaves. Next, dot with chunks of both cheeses and then with halved tomatoes, cut-side up.
Whisk eggs and cream in a bowl with salt and pepper. Carefully pour this mixture into the tart. Scatter more thyme on the top if you want. Place in oven and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until filling sets and top has turned golden. Remove from oven and allow to rest for ten minutes before serving.