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"Plenty: Vibrant Recipes From London's Ottolenghi" by Yotam Ottolenghi


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Is anyone else working their way through the wonderful cookbook "Plenty" by Yoatam Ottolenghi? I bought it after visiting a couple of his restaurants during a trip to London some time back. Basically, it is a compendium of all the great vegetarian recipes he has published in the Guardian over the years. The measures, etc. are in U.K. measurements, but I make easy work of them with my OXO kitchen scale. Also, some of the ingredients are called by their British names, but that is something you get used to quickly -- i.e. capsicum = peppers, aubergine = eggplant, rocket = arugula, courgette = zucchini.

Each chapter is divied up by type of veggie, and the photos are amazing. I am not a vegetarian, but these recipes have made me eat meat much, much less meat because they are so satisfying.

So far we have made:
Quiona salad with favas, radishes - WONDERFUL!
Stuffed onions - onions simmered in broth, separated into "petals" and stuffed with breadcrumbs and feta (among other things) -- interesting, good, but not great.
Vegetable Paella - OK, I lived in Spain and love a good paella. The idea of a vegetable only paella was somewhat horrifying to me. But, man, it was GOOD! Perhaps one of the best things I have eaten in the last 6 months.
Castelluccio lentils with oven dried tomatoes and gorgonzola -- Also amazing, nice summer main course, hearty but not greasy.
Soba noodles with eggplant and mango -- One of the most refreshing things I have ever eaten.

I can't wait to keep cooking 2-3 dishes from this book each week.

Which leads to this post -- anyone else have this book and cooking from it? Suggestions on what I should make next (everything in the books looks great, so it's hard to choose!) Anyone want to trade cooking experiences from "Plenty" on this topic??

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lperry - not to feed the addiction, but I love using it during farmer's market season. If I find the one main ingredient at the market I love coming home and flipping through the book to decide what I want to make!

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lperry - not to feed the addiction, but I love using it during farmer's market season. If I find the one main ingredient at the market I love coming home and flipping through the book to decide what I want to make!

An update: I've gone back and made the lentils with Gorganzola and the paella several more times. Yum. I also tried out a new recipe for roasted eggplant with buttermilk sauce and pomegranate seeds (which apparently is on the cover of the US version -- I have the UK version). It was easy, and, again, great. Eggplant roasted with olive oil and thyme, covered with a buttermilk/greek yoghurt sauce, sprinkled with pomegranate.

Reminded me of great eggplant I had at some ottoman restaurants in Istabul. Definitely a keeper...

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Is anyone else working their way through the wonderful cookbook "Plenty" by Yoatam Ottolenghi?

I just got it - thanks for your recommendation! It sure looks like a wonderful book. The only thing I've cooked so far is the stuffed tomatoes, which were very good.

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Planning on making the cherry-tomato & mostly potato tart w aged goat cheese and lemon thyme (instead of oregano) in next couple of days. Probably the soba noodle salad w eggplant and mango, or maybe the cover-photo dish without buttermilk since I picked up pomegranate seeds and my shellac-coated organic mango remains hard as a rock.

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Planning on making the cherry-tomato & mostly potato tart w aged goat cheese and lemon thyme (instead of oregano) in next couple of days. Probably the soba noodle salad w eggplant and mango, or maybe the cover-photo dish without buttermilk since I picked up pomegranate seeds and my shellac-coated organic mango remains hard as a rock.

Where did you find the pomegranate seeds?

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Trader Joe's.

I got mine pre-washed and separated in the prepared fruit section of the P st Whole Foods -- near where the over-priced cut up pineapple and carrots are.

Have to return mine from TJ (pre-washed, etc.) since they're already moldy w sell-by date of Sept. 12. At WFM in Silver Spring just a few days ago, I saw small, whole pomegranates from California for around $3 each.

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Well, I made the Surprise Tatin for a late lunch/early dinner, plated on a dressed bed of red-leaf lettuce and thin cucumber moons.

The idea that we eat w our eyes was clearly the reason I selected the recipe. Results were as pretty as or prettier than the photo (you'll find one in the link and an impressive number in a Google Image search) since I included potatoes that were pink all the way through and slow-roasted Sungold tomatoes. I can also see the moment of inspiration:

"Fancy a tarte tatin with 'pommes de terre' instead of 'pommes'--lovely, what, for tea?"

Nonetheless, despite the aged goat cheese and lots of lemon thyme (vs. oregano), 'twas a bit flat. The caramel's a fun touch w all the other caramelization, so rather than a custard in the spirit of a Spanish tortilla, a parsley sauce might brighten the dish up, though I can't see making it again except as part of a buffet spread, maybe, when there's protein to go with. Toast w scrambled eggs and hash browns, yes, but pastry w potatoes is just an interesting concept.

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Rieux, thank you so much for recommending Plenty. I've really enjoyed using it so far.

What have you made besides the stuffed tomatoes?

**********

CJS: Thanks for the rec. That's one of the few "alternative protein" dishes in a cookbook that I like because it's written by an omnivore.

******************

ETA: See Dinner thread re ratatouille and lima bean recipes, both great.

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Just got this book, inspired by the discussion here. Looks great. One immediate question, for anyone who's done the black pepper tofu: Surely "11 tbsp butter" is a typo and should be "1," right?, in a Chinese-ish tofu recipe to serve 4? I know I should trust my instincts, but then again maybe 11 tablespoons of butter plus hot pepper would be a revelation for me ...

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Just got this book, inspired by the discussion here. Looks great. One immediate question, for anyone who's done the black pepper tofu: Surely "11 tbsp butter" is a typo and should be "1," right?, in a Chinese-ish tofu recipe to serve 4? I know I should trust my instincts, but then again maybe 11 tablespoons of butter plus hot pepper would be a revelation for me ...

Yep, it actually is 11. Maybe not something to eat every night, but the unlikely combination of butter and soy sauce really is a revelation. I believe I only used about a stick, though, which seemed to be enough.

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I made the "Sweet Corn Polenta" (which is made from fresh corn, not from meal) with its eggplant sauce, and the Saffron Cauliflower. Both were very good, as modified a bit. (Make fun of me if you will, but I didn't feel like using $$$ of saffron for a simple Sunday supper, even if it was in the name of the dish, so I didn't. I know it would have made the dish a little yellower and a little better.)

My qualm with the book so far - see my earlier question about the tofu dish, and my experience last night cooking the polenta/eggplant sauce - is that a good many of these recipes rely on large quantities of fat, for a particular sort of "goodness." (I realize that's very common among restaurant chefs.) My objection isn't moral or health-based, but just a personal preference about how things taste and feel to me (and to most of my family/guests). In most cases, I think, it will be possible just to use less fat and come out with something more to my taste.

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^Doesn't bother me so much since it seems pretty simple to modify recipes that require too much [mostly dairy] fat. For example, that fresh corn polenta doesn't need all the feta. While tempted to make it, too, I'd add just a little grated Parmesan and maybe an inch of the chevre I've got in the freezer. Same with the cup of neutral oil required for frying the eggplant in the soba noodle salad. I just reduced it, though I fried the eggplant as instructed instead of my usual preference for baking slices.

Mostly impressed w recipes since the intersection of Middle Eastern and European cultures that informs the book means there's plenty of novelty. My only gripe thus far is blandness or rather, a very light hand in use of flavors that aren't inherent to the vegetables and/or principal ingredients. For example, the eggplant cubes tossed w soba noodles are simply fried in a neutral oil. An entire eggplant prepared like this for half a recipe (two generous portions for lunch) isn't all that exciting. The dressing requires only half a hot red chile pepper--or a quarter for half the recipe. A crushed clove of garlic won't impart much flavor seeping in 1/2 cup of cooling vinegar and even when it's minced instead and added to the pan while finishing the eggplant... For this particular dish, I recommend plum vs. rice vinegar and bolder flavors allowed to soak into the eggplant while it's still hot.

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^Doesn't bother me so much since it seems pretty simple to modify recipes that require too much [mostly dairy] fat. For example, that fresh corn polenta doesn't need all the feta. While tempted to make it, too, I'd add just a little grated Parmesan and maybe an inch of the chevre I've got in the freezer. Same with the cup of neutral oil required for frying the eggplant in the soba noodle salad. I just reduced it, though I fried the eggplant as instructed instead of my usual preference for baking slices.

Mostly impressed w recipes since the intersection of Middle Eastern and European cultures that informs the book means there's plenty of novelty. My only gripe thus far is blandness or rather, a very light hand in use of flavors that aren't inherent to the vegetables and/or principal ingredients. For example, the eggplant cubes tossed w soba noodles are simply fried in a neutral oil. An entire eggplant prepared like this for half a recipe (two generous portions for lunch) isn't all that exciting. The dressing requires only half a hot red chile pepper--or a quarter for half the recipe. A crushed clove of garlic won't impart much flavor seeping in 1/2 cup of cooling vinegar and even when it's minced instead and added to the pan while finishing the eggplant... For this particular dish, I recommend plum vs. rice vinegar and bolder flavors allowed to soak into the eggplant while it's still hot.

Anna, I made that eggplant/soba dish too, and I made similar additions. I used rice vinegar mixed with a little apple cider vinegar, and shot the eggplant with a few dribs of thai chili oil. It made a difference in the flavor level.

Sadly, I have been traveling a lot lately and have not had time to cook, but I am looking forward to some fall recipes on my return!

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Last night I made the Ratattouille. It took me longer than I thought it would, but that was my fault -- I should have added the time it takes to cut all those veggies to the cooking time in my head.

I skipped the zuchinni because I forgot to buy it. Still, this was really lovely -- deep in flavor, hearty, healthy, and soul-satisfying for fall. The addition of the butternut squash to the traditional ratattouille adds a nice nutty flavor. This was an easy (once the veggies were cut) meal, and one I would make again.

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The mushroom ragout with duck eggs was nice but nothing special (and nothing I couldn't have come up with on my own), but then I made the two potato vindaloo. The directions for cooking the potatoes seemed a bit wacky (20 minutes for waxy potatoes, then add sweet potatoes and cook another 40 minutes), so I just went with instinct and they turned out fine. The dish had a nice deep spicy flavor, but seemed to be lacking something, so I put in a good couple squeezes of lemon juice, then after plating a drizzle of yogurt and some toasted slivered almonds, too, just because. This is a dish I'll make again.

Next on the list is the broccoli and tofu. Anyone know what "sweet chili sauce" would be?

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It seems I can't quite follow a recipe in Plenty without tweaking it. I made the spicy Moroccan carrot salad recently, but roasted the carrots and incorporated them into some cooked farro with lots of lemon and parsley for a light one-dish meal. They were great. I'm still really enjoying this book.

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My +1 and I are trying to eat less meat, so I'd really be interested in getting this book, but one question, based on the dishes mentioned - are there a lot of eggplant-containing recipes in it? I ask because we are two of the apparently miniscule population of eggplant-haters. And I mean hate; even if it's chopped up and hidden in tomato sauce and other vegetables, we can tell it's in there...

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My +1 and I are trying to eat less meat, so I'd really be interested in getting this book, but one question, based on the dishes mentioned - are there a lot of eggplant-containing recipes in it? I ask because we are two of the apparently miniscule population of eggplant-haters. And I mean hate; even if it's chopped up and hidden in tomato sauce and other vegetables, we can tell it's in there...

The index contains 10 recipes under "eggplant.". But there are plenty of recipes without.

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(let us know how the broccoli and tofu turns out!)

It turned out very well - much tastier than the name would suggest - even though I didn't have sweet chili sauce and substituted a Chinese chili sauce instead. But I agree with others who say these dishes are a tad underseasoned, especially with something as bland as tofu. As with the mushroom ragout, this dish lacked dimensionality and I ended up adding a good couple of squeezes of lemon juice to perk it up a bit.

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let us know how the broccoli and tofu turns out!)
It turned out very well - much tastier than the name would suggest - even though I didn't have sweet chili sauce and substituted a Chinese chili sauce instead.

What happened to the Brussels sprouts? B)

Just got the book yesterday - and whaddaya know - there's a recipe that calls for Castelluccio lentils... I may have to renew my efforts to track them down (at a reasonable price), though Puy are listed as a substitute.

I'm looking forward to trying out lots of these recipes - and can see spending hours looking through the book. It's full of gorgeous food porn!

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What happened to the Brussels sprouts? B)

Just got the book yesterday - and whaddaya know - there's a recipe that calls for Castelluccio lentils... I may have to renew my efforts to track them down (at a reasonable price), though Puy are listed as a substitute.

I'm looking forward to trying out lots of these recipes - and can see spending hours looking through the book. It's full of gorgeous food porn!

The Castelluccio lentil recipe is fantastic. I had to sub Puy, but this is a go-to easy dinner/take to work lunch for me. The quality of the Gorgonzola you use is really important in this dish...

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Rieux, please tell me about your success with the vegetable paella. I made it for dinner last night. It tasted delicious, but the rice was undercooked on top and overcooked on bottom. I suspect a surface area:mass problem, as I made only a half-recipe but cooked it in a large pan.

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Rieux, please tell me about your success with the vegetable paella. I made it for dinner last night. It tasted delicious, but the rice was undercooked on top and overcooked on bottom. I suspect a surface area:mass problem, as I made only a half-recipe but cooked it in a large pan.

I think it is a surface area:mass problem. I have always made full batches, in my 11.5 inch le creuset braiser and have had no issues. I also use arborio rice, as I can never find paella rice (even at Rodman's, World Market, or at my various neighborhood bodegas in Mount Pleasant). What rice did you use?

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I think it is a surface area:mass problem. I have always made full batches, in my 11.5 inch le creuset braiser and have had no issues. I also use arborio rice, as I can never find paella rice (even at Rodman's, World Market, or at my various neighborhood bodegas in Mount Pleasant). What rice did you use?

If you can make a trip to Bethesda, A&H Seafood sells various grades of rice from Spain, including Bomba.

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I think it is a surface area:mass problem. I have always made full batches, in my 11.5 inch le creuset braiser and have had no issues. I also use arborio rice, as I can never find paella rice (even at Rodman's, World Market, or at my various neighborhood bodegas in Mount Pleasant). What rice did you use?

Arborio. And that's the same size/shape pan I used, so now I know.

I really like the fact that I can use most of these recipes as templates, working with what I have on hand or using different seasonings just for a change of pace. (eg in the paella, peas instead of fava beans)

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Tried a new one last night -- the parsnips and sweet potatoes with dijon caper sauce. I improvised and added some carrots and brussels sprouts. This was delicious.

I ate it as a main course over some quinoa, but it would also make a great side.

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My qualm with the book so far - see my earlier question about the tofu dish, and my experience last night cooking the polenta/eggplant sauce - is that a good many of these recipes rely on large quantities of fat, for a particular sort of "goodness." (I realize that's very common among restaurant chefs.) My objection isn't moral or health-based, but just a personal preference about how things taste and feel to me (and to most of my family/guests). In most cases, I think, it will be possible just to use less fat and come out with something more to my taste.

I should have paid more attention to this "qualm." For purely health reasons, we started eating vegetarian at home a couple of years ago. Actually, we started on the Vegan, no fat, Ornish diet. Man, what a bore that is! So, I have been collecting (mostly) useless vegetarian cookbooks, trying to find something that makes food actually taste good. I had high hopes for this one and immediately sat down to go through it when it arrived from Amazon. I have to say that I am truly appalled at the amount of fat (in the form of butter, oil and cheese) that is in most of these recipes. What is the point of taking perfectly good vegetables and making them as unhealthful as take-out from Popeyes? And, before anybody asks, I found out almost immediately that we could not live without grated Parmesan, and seafood got added back in short order. But, Lordy, these recipes are going to have to be altered a great deal.

(Also, while doing some research on paellas awhile back, I found that Goya's Medium Grain rice is a perfectly adequate substitute for the more expensive Spanish rices for paella. Just so you know.)

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Tried a new one last night -- the parsnips and sweet potatoes with dijon caper sauce. I improvised and added some carrots and brussels sprouts. This was delicious.

I ate it as a main course over some quinoa, but it would also make a great side.

After all of the positive buzz about this book on this site, I finally bought the book. Beautiful photos! Anyway, I also made the 'Parsnips and Sweet Potatoes with Caper Vinaigrette' recipe last week. I made it as written, although you could easily substitute many different root vegetables. I did cut back by 1/2 on the amount of oil used in tossing with the cut vegetables. Also, while I did add the vinaigrette, in the future, I would probably skip it and just add the capers on their own. I can say that, as written, the recipe is delicious!

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Made 'The Ultimate Winter Couscous' (pg 262) a few nights ago for dinner. It calls for roasting carrots, parsnips and shallots and mixing them with cooked couscous. It was fantastic! Also very pretty and colorful. I'm normally not a big fan of couscous, but this was a good use of it. Like many of the recipes in this book, it had a LONG list of ingredients, but many of them were spices which, if you cook a lot, you probably already have on hand. (Cinnamon sticks, star anise, bay leaves, ginger, turmeric, hot paprika, chile flakes, saffron). As you might imagine, it was very aromatic and flavorful. Also, as with many of the recipes in this book, the fat content is fairly high -- for example, it calls for adding 3 TBS of butter to the cooked couscous. I think you could easily decrease that or even eliminate the butter. The only 2 changes I made were to sub dried cranberries for the dried apricots and, because I did not have preserved lemon, I simply squeezed the juice from 1/2 a lemon over the finished product. I'd make this again.

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It turned out very well - much tastier than the name would suggest - even though I didn't have sweet chili sauce and substituted a Chinese chili sauce instead. But I agree with others who say these dishes are a tad underseasoned, especially with something as bland as tofu. As with the mushroom ragout, this dish lacked dimensionality and I ended up adding a good couple of squeezes of lemon juice to perk it up a bit.

I tried out the Brussels sprouts and tofu recipe last night. I subbed hot sesame sauce, which added some nice heat, and a squeeze of lime juice at the end. It was a nice quick dish to put together. I agree with all the comments about the amount of fat/oil/butter called for in the recipes. I think the sprouts could have been tossed with a smaller amount of oil and roasted (stove-top or in the oven), with similar - or better - results.

The couscous^ sounds great!

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there's a recipe that calls for Castelluccio lentils... I may have to renew my efforts to track them down (at a reasonable price), though Puy are listed as a substitute.

You can get these Umbrian lentils for $6.99 at: http://www.agferrari...keyword=lentils

Also for $10 at http://www.gustiamo....odotto?id=25895

Also at good ol' Amazon.com, but they're much more $$$.

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I continue to use this book for inspiration; can't seem to resist tinkering with the recipes. Last night I made the sweet potato wedges, but because of what was on hand, the lemongrass/lime/ginger/creme fraiche sauce became lemon zest/lemon juice/ginger/yogurt/pomegranate molasses sauce. I also used a version of the Moroccan carrots in a salad with ryeberries, sultanas, onion, and garlic, on a bed of collards (cut into very thin ribbons and cooked until not quite tender).

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Tonight, for dinner I made the green pancakes with lime butter and they were a big hit. I don't think it is essential to hew exactly to his recipes, because they sound very improvisational to begin with. I added chopped shallot to the lime butter. Didn't have any scallions, so used chopped shallots in the pancake batter, and added a heaping spoon of leftover polenta that was in the fridge. At the last minute, I thought that some crumbled feta would be good, so added some, like you'd put some chocolate chips on pancakes in the pan before you turn them. J. ate his with a bit of creme fraiche in addition to the lime-cilantro butter, which was nice, but I decided against the extra calories. Really tasty.

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I got the book a couple of weeks ago and made two of the recipes last night, including the green pancakes Zora mentioned. They came out really well, I was going to scale back the amount of lime butter so I didn't have it leftover for ages, but I forgot and made the whole recipe. It was great with the pancakes, though. Now I'll get to test out his suggestion that the lime butter is good on baked sweet potatoes...and find a bunch of other things to use it for too :P .

The other recipe I made was the caramelized fennel with goat cheese. I managed to cut a little too much off the root end on two of the bulbs and ended up with some pieces falling apart as I cooked them. Overall, this was pretty good, despite that mishap. I loved the flavor of the candied fennel seeds in the mix. I only used goat cheese to taste (or more, to appearance, since it gets dotted on at the end) rather than the amount called for, which seemed like too much. (Having browsed through the book, I agree with the comments above about the amount of fat called for in the recipes being somewhat excessive.)

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I made the tofu and brussels sprouts tonight for dinner for me and my husband (silentbob). Like many have mentioned, the quantity of oil the recipe called for seemed very high. I probably used about half the oil called for, if not a little less. I also substituted spicy garlic chile sauce for sweet chile sauce, since I didn't have that. I liked the addition of heat, but in retrospect, I would have increased the maple syrup or perhaps added a bit of sugar to retain the sweetness the recipe was going for. I think the proportion of tofu to brussels sprouts could have been increased. I also thought the shiitakes would be better sliced (rather than halved or quartered) and cooked a bit longer than the recipe called for, and I liked how silky that made them. Left out the cilantro since I am not a huge fan, but I did enjoy the toasted sesame seeds.

Overall, it was a tasty, quick, pretty healthy recipe that took great advantage of one of my favorite winter vegetables. I look forward to trying some of the other recipes! (Has anyone made the mee goreng? We have a lot of tofu to use and I thought that recipe looked good and fairly simple.)

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