Tag Archives: cookbook

My Ottolenghi Obsession, Jerusalem and The Boss

On October 21 I saw Bruce Springsteen….. (Because the Night  video from that show)

Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi  (picture from the Ottolenghi site)

..and also attended The Cookbook Store’s event featuring Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi who were introducing their latest book, Jerusalem. The recipes all come from their shard home city, where they were born in the same year, Sami on the Arab east side and Yotam in the Jewish west.

I honestly don’t know which I was more excited about.  (I did not wear plaid to the cookbook event but I did wear plaid to the concert.  No bandana, I swear.)

If you read Cheese and Toast occasionally you may know that I am obsessed with their vegetarian cookbook Plenty.  Why?  Because the recipes look amazing, taste amazing and they always work.  Really.  I do have a bit of a track record of experimenting with new dishes for dinners I’m hosting.  Like clockwork, 45 minutes before guests arrive, unwashed hair and pajama pants on, I’m panicking in the kitchen with dramatic wails of “just call Pizza Pizza, it’s going to be a disaster!”

But to be honest, that was years ago before I figured out the folly of my ways.  So much better to make a simple roast chicken and caesar salad, be mellow and enjoy a glass of wine rather than clutching the Chianti bottle, face pressed against oven door hoping the souffle will rise.  This does not tend to set a relaxed tone for guests.

All of this to say, that I would make any recipe from the Ottolenghi series of cookbooks for the first time even for The Boss himself.  They’re foolproof in my experience.

For this reason, I was really interested to hear Yotam and Sami talk about their testing and recipe writing process surrounding their third book, Jerusalem.

Did I mention they were warm and charming?  Utterly even. I do not think anyone there would have disagreed.

ON TESTING RECIPES:

Sami and Yotam explained that their goal when writing the recipes was to “not think like chefs”.  They put a lot of effort into testing and their testers were home cooks.  The Jerusalem cookbook uses quite a few ingredients that might be tricky to find in a pinch  (But as they joked, “once you Ottolenghize your cupboard, you’re OK”) so they list substitutions 90 percent of the time for more difficult to find items.  And though they obviously take great care with combining ingredients and flavours it was a bit of a relief to hear “if you miss one ingredient, you’re OK”.

(this was an interesting contrast to the Thomas Keller event (for the Bouchon Bakery cookbook) where though all the recipes are carefully tested til perfect, Chef Keller said he doesn’t really aim for the “home cook” because he can’t define the term.  He knows home cooks that can barely boil water and some that are as good as himself…and then I am sure he winked right at ME in the 18th row. Oh stop.)

(from top) Cannelini Bean and Lamb soup, Hot Yogurt and Barley soup and Chickpea Soup with rosewater and ras el hanout (from Jerusalem)

ON FLAVOUR

They’re definitely not shy on flavour, referring to themselves as strong and gutsy with the belief that the food should taste as vibrant as it looks.

FAVOURITE DISHES

Sami confessed to eating store-bought tortelleni with Parmesan and pepper when lazy (what a relief!), Yotam said his most comforting food was lentils and rice with some yogurt and caramelized onion.

One of the beautiful market images from the book.

HOW THEY CHOSE THE RECIPES

They both agreed that though they tested and made many more recipes that were included in the final version of Jerusalem, they only put in anything they truly, truly loved and dropped anything else.   They also talked about the photo shoot for the book (as you can see from the soup pic the photos are stunning) explaining that they did not use a food stylist, preferring to have the food presented “as it fell on the plate” without too much intervention.   So they actually shot about 8-10 photos a day (which is apparently unheard of).

Spice Trader

WHERE TO GET INGREDIENTS

In Toronto helpful audience members recommended Spice Trader (877 Queen Street West) and Arz Fine Foods (1909 Lawrence Avenue East).  Both are worth a trip whether you need anything or not, so it will be a fun and delicious mission.

You can also order online at the Ottolenghi website to buy ingredients such as Palestinian za’atar.

As if I wouldn’t show off the signed book!

If you want to try a couple of recipes before purchasing this book, I’ve blogged about a few from PLENTY such as the vibrant Sweet Winter Slaw, Socca with Roasted tomato and onion and the Celeriac and Lentil Salad with Hazelnuts and Mint.

The Lentil Celeriac Salad..

Or just get the damn books.  Best excuse to visit The Cookbook Store three times in a row.

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Filed under Cookbooks, Magazines (+recipes from), Travel and Food, Uncategorized

You ain’t seen nothin’ yet Coleslaw

It’s a little bit coleslaw, a little bit art. Maybe it’s for dinner tonight?  This recipe is the Sweet Winter Slaw from the cookbook I am obsessed with, Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi.  I made this for the first time in Omaha when visiting family and then again on Saturday to go with the Black Pepper Tofu (from the same book) which is irrationally loveable.  If I figure out where I saved the photos from that preparation I will post them soon too.

But this salad is not only easy (the chopping takes a bit of time but you can do it in advance) but the combo of papaya, mango, mint, cilantro and red cabbage (plus the candied macadamia nuts) is pretty stellar.  Your guest’s taste buds will be at your mercy–you can serve charred, dried out chicken breast right after and people will still walk away thinking you are a genius.

When we made this in Omaha we forgot to get macadamia nuts so we used pecans. The nuts are candied and then roughly chopped before being tossed in with the other ingredients.  You can use peanuts as well.

The smell of cilantro as you chop it will energize your work as you rush towards dinner hour ( especially if you’re like me and are always one side dish behind in prep because you’ve  decided to take extra time arranging the glasses on the dining room table “just so”.)

If you make this in advance, I think you can cut everything a few hours ahead except for the mint and cilantro.  If you add the herbs  an hour before serving (don’t toss yet, just add on top of the salad and put a damp paper towel on top of the ingredients) I think everything will still be fresh and fine.  Realistically, chopping the herbs does not take a lot of time–but you may be space crunched as I am though so anything done if advance helps.

The dressing can be made the day before.  You may want to steal this dressing and us it on other greens or salads.  Its addictive flavour comes from maple syrup, lime juice, lemon grass, sesame oil and chile flakes in it.

Finally just before serving, toss everything together, pour on the dressing and serve.  This will actually still taste pretty good the next day (if you have leftovers) though the herbs and nuts will be a bit moist by that time.  When I made it this weekend I reserved some of the salad without dressing for the next day, figuring I could always toss some more if we ran out.

And here it is going on the plate:

This image is from our Omaha dinner, we served it with this tomato and onion Socca.   In the book there’s  recommendation to serve this with roast chicken.  Perfection I think!

Sweet Winter Slaw  (adapted from Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi)

Serves 6

Dressing

6 1/2 tbsp fresh-squeezed lime juice (3-4 limes)

1 lemongrass stalk, chopped into small pieces  (you can substitute with zest of lemon)

3 tbsp maple syrup

2 tbsp toasted sesame oil

1 tsp soy sauce

1/4 tsp chile flakes

4 tbsp light olive oil/sunflower oil

Candied Nuts

1 1/4 cup macadamia nuts

2 tsp butter

2 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp chile flakes

Slaw

7 inner leaves of Savoy Cabbage, finely shredded ( I used 1 quarter of a green cabbage, could not get savoy)

1/2 small red cabbage, finely shredded

1 ripe mango, cut into thin strips  (How to peel and slice a mango)

1 papaya, cut into strips

1 fresh red chile, seeded and finely sliced

1/4 cup mint, leaves roughly chopped

1 1/2 cups cilantro, leaves roughly chopped (How to Chop herbs)

Method

For the dressing: Place all the ingredients except the oil into a small saucepan and reduce over high heat for 5-10 minutes until syrupy and thick. Remove from heat and once cooled strain into a bowl and add the oil.  Set aside.

(* ok, I am laughing at how I did not read this instruction and just mixed this all as if making a regular vinaigrette (no heating in pan).  I think it will be better reduced but it still worked great!  So one more time–ALWAYS READ THE RECIPE ALL THE WAY THROUGH)

For the candied nuts:

Place the nuts in a medium pan over medium heat  and roast until lightly browned.  Watch these and shake the pan occasionally so they don’t burn.

Add the butter and when melted add the sugar, salt and chile flakes.  Stir constantly so the sugar doesn’t burn and when caramelized (the sugar will be melted and gooey) remove from the heat and pour onto parchment to cool.  Chop roughly once solid.  Set aside.

Assembly:

Put the cabbage and the rest of the salad ingredients into a bowl (including the nuts).  Add your dressing and toss.  Give it a taste to see if it needs anymore seasoning and serve it up!


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Filed under All Recipes, Cookbooks, Magazines (+recipes from), Uncategorized

I will not shut-up about you Socca (aka chickpea flour pissaladière) with crème fraîche

Click on this for deliciousness in detail.

Today I am the drunk person that will not shut-up. This is the first recipe I ever made from Plenty (the vegetable cookbook from London’s Ottolenghi) when I bought it and it led to a love affair (whirlwind even) that has not ended.    And may yet seem endless to you my bloggies, as I have a few more recipes coming and feel gushy about all of them.  I may soon be the Julie and Julia version of Plenty except with a really awkward title.  (Plenty of Cheese?  Sue and Ottolenghi?) The recipes work exactly as promised, with clear defined directions and honestly, turn out just like the picture in the book.  See for yourself:

The book image for your "compare and contrast" pleasure.

Despite the fancy photo shoot, what you see is what you get.  Beautiful dish in cookbook becomes beautiful dish on your dinner table.  In order to save some obnoxious gushing for future posts, let me show how this recipe comes together.

Take 2 cups of cherry tomatoes, slice in half, and toss with some olive oil and salt and pepper.  You’re going to roast these, cut side up, at 275°F for about 25 minutes.  You don;t want them to dry out completely.

Then chop a couple of sprigs of rosemary (the recipe calls for thyme but we had none on hand) and toss with about 2 lbs of thinly sliced white onions adding some olive oil, slat and pepper.

Put this in a large pan and cook n high for about a minute, then reduce the heat to low and cook for about 25 minutes (I think we did 40 minutes last time though) until he onion is light brown and sweet.

At the end mix in 1/2 teaspoon of white wine vinegar.

When the tomatoes are done you need to bump up your oven temperature to 325F.  And now to make the Socca batter with your chickpea flour.

Combine 1 3/4 cups chickpea flour, 2 cups water, 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil and 3/4 teaspoon salt plus a grind of pepper in a bowl and whisk by hand until smooth and well combined.

Ina  separate bowl you need to whisk two egg whites to soft peaks and then gently fold them into the batter.   Now line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside to put your pancakes on as you make them.

In the cookbook one is to use a small 6″ pan to fry the pancakes but I just used a regular non-stick frying pan, keeping the pancakes about 6 ” in diameter.  Put a teeny bit of olive oil in the pan, then you want to pour the batter about 1/4 ” thick and then just wait for the bubble to start appearing on the top.  Give it a flip and cook for about another minute and pop onto the parchment lined cookie sheet.  Make the rest of the pancakes (4-6 total) and then put them all in the oven for 5 minutes.

Top the pancakes generously with the caramelized onion and then add the tomatoes. You can warm this in the oven for a few minutes before serving.

The crème fraîche can be served on the side but we just popped it on top. And I would say–make extra onions.  I always seem to want more.

We served this with a Thai-style salad from the same cookbook, which also kicked ass, and I will post that recipe down the road.

You know how I felt about this?  Kind of like The Cure Song Just Like Heaven.  That was a good song.  Especially after a few Keg sized Iced Teas on a first date. But as they say on the Riverbank, that’s another story.

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Filed under All Recipes, Cookbooks, Magazines (+recipes from)

Foodie meet Library

Momofuko has been well worn

I would rather tell you how many shoes I have in my closet than how many cookbooks I own.  And actually, it’s not about how many I own, but how many I use regularly.

And when I say use, I obviously mean for recipes (my current 4-5 favourites rotate in and out of the kitchen) but also the books that I love to look at, that remind me of somewhere I travelled or just tell a good story or the books that I WILL use when I finally get around to doing some pit cooking in my backyard.

Pit Cooking (www.primitiveways.com)

But, if you love and use cookbooks you also know that, like an uncomfortable shoe, there are disappointments.  Recipes that never work or are too vague, purchases that were spontaneous “yes! I WILL be an expert confectioner!” and the trendy stuff  (how many Jamie Oliver cookbooks does one house need?).

I also do not mean to imply you have to cook out of a cookbook to enjoy it.  Not at all.  But, at least for myself, now that I know what I like I have a better idea what is a worthwhile investment of money and shelf space. And it forces me to look and flip through and appreciate the book right away as I will have to return it sooner or later.

THUS I INTRODUCE FELLOW COOKBOOK ADDICTS TO THE LIBRARY.

I myself forgot about the library for many years.  With amazon and ebooks downloading in a flash, it seemed troublesome to go somewhere to physically check out a book.  In fact, it did not even occur to me that the library had modernized since I was 12 and is now (gasp) on-line.

I got myself a card and now I just log on, put a hold on the cookbooks or books I want and I am sent an alert when it arrives at the branch of my choice.

Sometimes it takes a day or two and sometimes a few weeks (but how exciting when the email arrives saying Happy Day! The Art of Living According to Joe Beef is mine!! ).

Test Drive Potential Cookbooks

Now with cookbooks I borrow them.  I read them and maybe try a recipe or two.  And generally have a clear sense of whether I need this particular book at my fingertips at a moment’s notice.

And I feel a little more satisfied when finally making a purchase.  Yes, I took the book for a test drive.  It performed as I’d hoped.

And while you’re at the great place called The Library you can also get books such as this:

Or, something beautiful and simple such as this:

And all in all, the place just smells like books and pages and everything is organized and you can hide in a corner where no one knows you reading the latest issue of The New Yorker.

Or just looking in fashion magazines for shoes to buy.

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Filed under Blogs with cooking tips, Cookbooks, Magazines (+recipes from), Ruminations on the Edible