Cookbook Review: Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi + His Summer Eggplant Recipe Step-By-Step | Squid Ink | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Cookbook Review: Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi + His Summer Eggplant Recipe Step-By-Step

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Mon, Jul 12, 2010 at 7:11 AM

click to enlarge Ottolenghi.jpg
Summer is the season of love. Or so we like to remember. And so while cookbook publishers tout their latest releases as easy, spend-no-time-indoors cookbooks (they'd rather you be grilling), we prefer the opposite -- books that entice you to spend entirely too much time in the kitchen coveting recipes and anticipating that farmers market-scented dinner. Just as in Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty, the recently released sequel to his bestselling Ottolenghi: The Cookbook.

If you don't know Ottolenghi, his four veggie-centric, namesake restaurants have created a cult-like following in London, and his vegetarian food column runs in The Guardian. Notably (or not), Ottolenghi is not a vegetarian.

Perhaps that's partly why this vegetable-centric cookbook is so mesmerizing. Or it could be Jonathan Lovekin's deliciously austere photos. Or the book's quirky organization, which is by ingredient, but only those vegetables Ottolenghi really likes such as "Leaves, Cooked and Raw" and his favorite, "The Mighty Aubergine" (eggplant -- but you knew that). But utimately, it's the recipes that make a cookbook. And these are unfussy (though not notably necessarily speedy), and the sort of things you wish you'd come up with first (seared pear and goat cheese crostini, fried Swiss chard "cakes" served with a sorrel-Greek yogurt sauce).

On first flip-through, many of the recipes have a distinct Middle Eastern flair, like the cauliflower braised in saffron water with red onions and green olives (Ottolenghi grew up in Jerusalem). But then there is that black pepper tofu (fried tofu swimming in a fresh red chili and crushed black pepper sauce, with an impressive 5 tablespoons of peppercorns). And the eggplant croquettes with tarragon aioli (Ottolenghi lived briefly in Amsterdam).

Plus the "multi-vegetable" paella (fennel, broad beans, artichokes, tomatoes, Kalamata olives), paper-thin Swiss chard omelets (really more like crepes) folded and stuffed with crème fraîche, sautéed potatoes and fresh herbs, and handmade lemon and goat cheese ravioli. Ottolenghi clearly loves food -- all styles. But judging by the abundance of handmade pasta, pestos and pecorino in this book, his soft spot is Italian.

Sure, this is a British cookbook, so the recipe ingredients are listed in grams and milliliters, not cups and ounces. That's easily resolved with a kitchen scale, or the friends you've enlisted to help make those sweet potato cakes with coriander cream (these are year-round recipes, not just warm weather seasonals). But you may not want to invite friends over. This is your love story.

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