This past weekend I had the major itch to do some cooking. More on this at a later date, but for the week prior I had not eaten solid food, and it was interesting that my cravings were for all things bright, crunchy, and fresh. Also, I recently told myself I needed to cook through more of my cookbooks before I allow myself to buy any more. My Amazon wish-list is out of control.
Taking into account that the farmers markets are in full swing, and my desire for vibrant and textured foods, it was an easy to choice to cook a few dishes from my newly acquired copy of Plenty (Sample recipes) by Yotam Ottolenghi (Twitter | Wikipedia), an Israeli born Brit with many popular restaurants, and a recurring column in the Guardian called The New Vegetarian.
Mr. Ottolenghi is not a vegetarian, nor am I, but there is much for an omnivore to learn from cooking like one every once in a while. There is so much versatility and many varied applications within a single vegetable. And it impresses me when such a simple and pure piece of produce can be elevated to become a “wow” dish (not that an unadorned tomato or carrot isn’t impressive on its own). I’ve referenced my meal at L’Arpege many times, but this remains the single most impressive display of vegetable prowess I’ve encountered.
Plenty is a large book, with a wide range of dish types, flavors, vegetables and grains used. It has everything from the more simple and straight-from-the-garden type of dish, to complex preparations with layered flavor creations, to the more detailed, hearty, and warm presentations which easily replace entrees for the usual meat eater. The book also takes command of many Middle Eastern ingredients and flavors which deserve more room in my repertoire, though Plenty is certainly not limited to that geography. I easily see this book becoming a favorite in my partial-vegetarian home, for the full recipes, or simply a reference point when deciding how to be more creative with vegetables, along side my current veg-bible, Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters.
Chanterelles from Peachtree Road Farmers Market ($14/lb!), Pennsylvania crimini from Whole Foods
Prep’ing the creamy, anise scented wild mushrooms in parchment
“Tomato party” – fregola, cous cous, varied preparations of tomato, tarragon
Green gazpacho – cukes, spinash, celery, chile, walnuts, basil, yogurt, sherry, ice cube (nobody likes hot-spacho)
OK, OK, I do eat meat too. We grilled these shrimp, also from PRFM. They were very good. About half of them were filled with a dense orange substance which was mostly near the back of the head, but also ran down the back, above the digestive tract. I assume this is roe, but it was certainly new to me. Can anyone verify?
A simple snack of grilled bread with warm, fresh mozzarella.
Stuffed, grilled clams
The often whispered, but rarely seen “double spatchcock”. One with a fra diavolo marinade, the other dry brined with lemon.
Plated the chicken and mushroom with Plenty’s poached vegetables – asparagus, baby leeks, zucchini, squash, potatoes, carrots poached in white wine and olive oil, topped with homemade caper aioli (I used the blender method of mayo).