If you don't know who am I talking about, Yotam Ottolenghi is one of those chefs.
If you’ve recently eaten a shakshuka, or yogurt and sumac with your turkey burger, it’s probably because of chef Ottolenghi.
In only a few years, the Israeli-raised, London-based chef has become a prominent figure in the culinary community.
His first cookbook, Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, was a bestseller. The following one, Plenty, almost instantly became a blockbuster when it was published in 2010. Jerusalem, published in 2012, is a richly evocative celebration of the culinary DNA of his homeland and one of my favorite cookbooks of all time.
With Plenty More - published last month - Ottolenghi focuses on vegetarian cooking, combining recipes from all over the world: exotic, innovative, irresistible, dazzling, and easy-to-make dishes. Vegetarian recipes ‘that even meat eaters want to eat’.
Ottolenghi's Plenty was great, but dare I say Plenty More may be even better? There, I've said it!
Plenty More's 120 vegetarian recipes look absolutely stunning, there’s not a single one I would not make.
They are organized according to cooking techniques (such as tossed, steamed, blanched, etc.) which - although a bit confusing at the beginning - provides a new perspective on how recipes could (and maybe should?) be organized.
There's something creatively energizing about following a recipe written by someone you genuinely admire.
When you start cooking, you already know that something amazing will come out of the pan. Towards the end of the process, when the whole kitchen smells amazing and you can’t wait to taste it, you start to get sad because you know it will be gone soon.
Except that you can make it again and again. Done it once -> done it a thousand times.
This Persian/Iranian pasta caught my attention the first time I leafed through Yotam Ottolenghi’s new cookbook.
It features an enticing sauce for pasta made with baked eggplant fragrant with cumin, onion, and garlic, topped with a rich sauce made with creme fraiche, Parmesan and Greek yogurt. A final touch of mint oil, chopped fresh mint and saffron water and you’ve got yourself a winner.
Trust me when I say that this recipe is a total revelation.
It’s something you’ve (probably) never tasted before. It’s rich and subtle and not too strong.
It pulls you out of your comfort zone and takes your taste buds on a journey of wonderment.
3 medium eggplants (about 2 ¾ lb/ 1.2 kg in total)
½ cup / 90 gr creme fraiche (or heavy cream)
½ cup / 40 gr grated Parmesan cheese
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
⅔ cup / 5.3 oz / 150 gr Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons dried mint
Pinch of saffron threads, soaked in 2 tablespoons of lukewarm water
Handful fresh mint leaves, chopped
Fine grain salt
Ground black pepper to taste
1 lb / 453 gr linguine, spaghetti or thin noodles (I used Ancient Harvest quinoa spaghetti)
Preheat the oven to 450º F (230ºC) and place a rack in the middle.
Pierce the eggplants in a few places with a sharp knife and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and roast in the oven for about 1 hour, until the flesh is soft.
Set aside and let cool for 15 minutes.
Cut in half, spoon out the eggplant flesh into a colander, and let drain.
In the meantime, place the creme fraiche and grated Parmesan cheese in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and whisk until smooth.
Add Greek yogurt, lower the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes stirring constantly (you don’t want the yogurt to separate). Set aside.
In a small bowl combine 1 tablespoon of olive oil with dried mint and set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cumin seeds and saute’ for 10 to 12 minutes until soft and golden, stirring every now and then.
Add eggplant flesh, crushed garlic, 1 teaspoon of salt and a pinch of of ground black pepper. Cook for 4 minutes, until heated through.
Add lemon juice, cook for 1 further minute and remove from the heat.
Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil and cook pasta “al dente” (it should retain a bite).
Drain, stir a bit of olive oil through the pasta, mix, and then divide among shallow bowls or plates.
Drizzle the mint oil over the top, followed by the eggplant mixtures. Top this with the creme fraiche-yogurt mixture, followed by the saffron water, chopped fresh mint, and a final drizzle of olive oil.
One serving of the sauce (just the sauce) yields 202 calories, 11 grams of fat, 19 grams of carbs, and 9 grams of protein.