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Archive for March, 2012

Caramelized hazelnuts for my "Sweet Winter Slaw"

This past weekend, we held our 3rd potluck for our book club.  This time we selected the cookbook  – Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes From London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi.

Quinoa salad with lime prepared by Angela

I received a copy of this cookbook for my birthday last year and it has easily become one of my go-to cookbooks.  I’ve made a number of dishes out of it and when company is coming it is the first cookbook I pull off my shelves to plan with.  The quality the recipes produce are consistently delicious and pretty.

The day of the potluck all the dishes were amazing.  While there were minor complaints about the clarity of the cookbook there were no disasters and very few people needed to adjust their recipes.  My friend Sarah who hosted, set up her dining room so it was like a big buffet table and her home was a welcoming place to share a meal.  The group not only talked about food, but also about family, travel, and summer plans.  We also discussed the new gourmet doughnut shop, Suzy Q, that just opened in Hintonburg.  The feeling of community is one of the great things about being together and sharing a meal like this.

How did the cookbook fare in our conversation?  Overall, everyone seemed to like this cookbook.  Some people even mentioned buying a copy if they didn’t already have one.   Below I break down some of my likes and dislikes:

Stuffed peppers prepared by Anna (from Ottolenghi's recipes on the Guardian's website)

What I liked about this cookbook:

  • Great flavour combinations – if I was cooking for someone who was not a vegetarian I could use pretty much any recipe in this cookbook to impress them.  Also, as someone who has been cooking vegetarian for many years I’ve seen a lot of standard flavour combinations:  white beans and kale, mozzarella and tomato, etc).  Ottolenghi adds something strange to these standard flavours and the recipes end up working in his favour.
  • Home-cooked versions of the recipes actually look like the photos in the cookbook!
  • The recipes are organized by vegetable which is really handy if you do your shopping at a farmers market and pick up random beautiful vegetables intending to improve with them!

Roasted cauliflower gigli with pine nuts and currants prepared by Katrina

What I disliked:

  • This cookbook is written for someone who really knows their way around a kitchen.  While the instructions are well written they could be a little more detailed. A novice cook might become overwhelmed or worse yet start a kitchen fire with Ottolenghi’s instructions on how to caramelize.  Ottolenghi admits in one of his headnotes that he forgot an important step in one of his recipes that appeared in the Guardian. He forgot to write that you need to stab an eggplant with a fork before roasting it to let the steam out. He received many complaints from people who had eggplants explode in their oven!  That being said, with the recipes I’ve made so far out of the cookbook I’ve been okay.
  • My friend, Angela said this cookbook should be called “Plenty of Time” because the recipes take a long time to prepare.  Also, the recipes do not include an estimated time to prepare which is pretty standard in a lot of cookbooks now.  It’s true without a sous-chef the recipes will take some time to prepare but it just means I wouldn’t use this cookbook for a weeknight.
  • Many of the recipes will not make a whole meal and there are not a lot of menu suggestions.  So, you need plan your menu wisely.

Highly recommended to buy!

Surprise tatin prepared by Cara

Title: Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes From London’s Ottolenghi

Authors: Yotam Ottolenghi

Publisher: Chronicle Books; Reprint edition (Mar 9 2011)

ISBN: 9781452101248

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