Wednesday, January 25, 2012


There is going to be plenty of drooling from me over PLENTY: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London's Ottolenghi (2011; $35.00; ISBN: 978-1-4521-0124-8). Yotam Ottolenghi's thrilling valentine to veggies belonged on my year-end best cookbooks of the year survey. I just didn't pay enough attention in time to include it. My bad. Ottolenghi runs four eponymous "haute couture-to-go food shops in London's" poshest neighborhoods. His is also a popular vegetable columnist for the Guardian.  PLENTY's innovative recipes, functional format and vivid color photographs have earned the book lots of accolades and plenty of buzz. At least I didn't get in the book's way!

Green pancakes with lime butter

On just about every page you turn to, the eye is seduced by one tantalizing vegetable recipe after another.  This is definitely not your mother's organic veggie cookbook.  Let's start drooling with the cover image.  Eggplant with buttermilk sauce seems simple enough.  The halved eggplants are baked with some olive oil. Then the tops are slathered with a tangy sauce of buttermilk, Greek yogurt, salt and olive oil and then adorned with tart, jewel-like pomegranate.  Zing. The Arabic fattoush salad (one of my favorites) is deconstructed for a Quinoa and grilled sourdough salad.  Ottolenghi uses sourdough bread instead of pitas. and while it is bulked it up with quinoa, the grain is still delicate. I drool some more. With spinach, cumin and finely sliced green chilies and onions Green pancakes with lime butter, would perk up any brunch.  I love edamame and keep bags of it in my freezer for when I need it for...Warm glass noodles and edamame. Plenty of great Asian flavors are here. Another stunning and creative combination is Fried lima beans with feta, sorrel and sumac. Or Roasted parsnips and sweet potatoes with caper vinaigrette. PLENTY is organized by categories, such as root vegetables, mushrooms, zucchini and other squashes, grains, and pasta, polenta and couscous.

Surprise Tatin

Warm glass noodles and edamame

I can't help myself. I just saw the Surprise tatin photo again. Caramelized potatoes take on more color from low-roasted cherry tomatoes, a little goat cheese, oregano, sugar, and puffed pastry.  I can't wait to make this. Another eye-catcher is a savory Mushroom ragout with poached duck egg. Often a recipe is as simple as it is beautiful, such as Crusted pumpkin wedges with sour cream. Bread crumbs and Parmesan give this dish its crunch. I'll stop now. For really delicious vegetables dishes, I've always turned to Lidia Bastianich, Deborah Madison, or Jamie Oliver, but Yotam Ottolenghi brings a terrific eye to a culinary category of infinite variety and flavors and turns it inside out.  There is a lot of very exciting food in this beautiful book.

Yotam Ottolenghi


Filling a tart with potatoes is a real treat for potato lovers.  Serve it with a green salad and you don't need much else. You can use commercial sun-dried tomatoes in oil to save yourself making the oven-dried tomatoes. 

Serves 4
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling over the tomatoes and for the pan
salt and black pepper
1 lb new potatoes (skins on)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 tbsp sugar
2 tsp butter
3 oregano sprigs
5 oz aged goat cheese, sliced
1 puff pastry sheet, rolled thinly

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.  Halve the tomatoes and place them skin side-down on the baking sheet. Drizzle over some olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place in the oven to dry for 45 minutes. 

Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in boiling, salted water for 25 minutes. Drain and let cool. Trim off a bit of the top and the bottom of each potato, then cut into 1-inch thick discs. 

Saute the onion with the oil and some salt for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown. 

Once you've prepared all the vegetables, brush a 9-inch cake pan with oil and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. In a small pan cook the sugar and butter on a high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, to get a semi-dark caramel. Pour the caramel carefully into the cake pan and tilt it to spread the caramel evenly over the bottom. Pick the oregano leaves, tear and scatter on the caramel. 

Lay the potato slices close together, cut-side down on the bottom of the pan. Gently press onion and tomatoes into the gaps and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Spread the slices of goat cheese evenly over the potatoes. Cut a puff pastry disc that is 1 inch larger in diameter  than the pan. Lay the pastry lid over the tart filling and gently tuck the edges down around the potatoes inside the pan. (At this stage you can chill the tart for up to 24 hours.)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake the tart for 25 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F and continue baking for 15 minutes, or until the pastry is thoroughly cooked.  Remove from the oven and let settle for 2 minutes only. Hold an inverted plate firmly on top of the pan an carefully but briskly turn them over together, then lift off the pan. Serve the tart hot or warm.