Lauren and I are both enamored with Yotam Ottolenghi. A chef that has revolutionized the way vegetables are cooked and presented. His recipes are inspired by his Middle Eastern heritage and incorporates many spices and ingredients found in that part of the world. He has become a prolific cookbook author since his first publication of Plenty in 2011. He has subsequently published a cookbook every year, Jerusalem in 2012, Ottolenghi in 2013 and this year Plenty More. Lauren and I recently went to a presentation that Chef Ottolenghi was giving promoting his new book and he talked about how his life has changed in the last five years. His namesake restaurants in London, Ottolenghi,which are in a couple of locations, is still popular and primarily run by his business partner, Sami Tamimi so that he can concentrate his efforts on creating and testing recipes. We got our Plenty More books signed by him and our picture taken with him. He was friendly, engaging and quite gracious furthering our good feelings about this groundbreaking chef.
After his presentation, Lauren had the idea of cooking a Ottolenghi meal for our families. So we chose multiple dishes from the first Plenty cookbook. Although Lauren had cooked several dishes from his books previously, it was the first time for me. I chose Mushroom Lasagna, primarily because I wanted to compare his recipe to the one I always use from Ina Garten. Ottolenghi’s recipe for this dish was much more prep work and had many more ingredients than Ina’s. Although very good, the consensus was that it was a little dry and not nearly as good as Ina’s recipe for Mushroom Lasagna.
I also chose a dish called Tomato Party, which was a combination of cooked tomatoes, herbs, fresh uncooked tomatoes and two kinds of couscous. It was very good but had too much grain to tomatoes, so next time I cook this dish I will cut the grain ingredients by half.
Not all the dishes were stellar but there were a couple that really stood out like the salad, tomato and couscous, the poached vegetables with caper aioli and the clafouti. The vegetable feast laid out on the table was truly beautiful and our families said they didn’t even really miss the meat. For Lauren and I it was a great way to celebrate a chef we really admire and cook several dishes that he created at once.