Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty More: Just as good the second time

in Nonfiction by

Plenty More is here, and there is plenty to love in it.  Few cookbooks have been so ardently anticipated as this follow-up volume to Yotam Ottolenghi’s 2011 sensation, Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi (Chronicle). To cut to the chase, the new volume, this one subtitled Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London’s Ottolenghi and published by Ten Speed Press, is as beautiful and inspired as Ottolenghi’s fans imagined it would be.

But that’s hardly a surprise from the Israeli-born, London-based restaurateur. Since Plenty, he has issued two other much-praised cookbooks. In 2012, the extraordinary Jerusalem: A Cookbook, co-authored with partner Sami Tamimi, explored the food—Jewish, Arab, and everything else—of the city where both Ottolenghi, a Jew, and Tamimi, an Arab, were born. The following year, in Ottolenghi, he shared recipes, not necessarily vegetarian, from his four namesake eateries.

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Now comes Plenty More, in which Ottolenghi returns to vegetable cookery, and delivers his trademark formula: recipes so intriguing that they make you want to run directly to the market and then to the kitchen; photography so vivid that the tiniest droplets of moisture and the smallest veins on a lettuce leaf glimmer like a jewelry store window; savory spice mixtures and flavor combinations that emphasize the chef’s Middle Eastern/ Mediterranean roots, with forays into Asian and Central Asian cuisines for variety; and fresh, original treatments of vegetables and grains that elevate even humble beans into meals satisfying enough to make carnivores reconsider. Think Tomato and Pomegranate Salad or Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pomelo and Star Anise. In Ottolenghi’s kitchen, familiar ingredients emerge with entirely new personalities.

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The ingredient lists can be longish, and some call for items that you won’t find at the supermarket, yet the book ever feels precious; after all, these days exotic ingredients are just a click away, and even better, Ottolenghi’s conversational headnotes reassuringly define unfamiliar foods and suggest sources and alternatives for the harder-to-get ingredients. Surprisingly, the long lists of ingredients are compressed into relatively few steps, which are straightforward and pretty doable for the home cook.

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The structure of the book, too, bespeaks a chef who does his own thing. Unlike the majority of cookbooks, which are divided by courses (soup, salad, appetizers, etc.) the book is divided into chapters based on cooking techniques (“Tossed,” “Steamed,” “Blanched,” etc.)

If you want a glimpse into the mind—and palate—of one of the most inventive chefs working today, have a look at this book. Leave the foams and molecules to others; real food, spicy and robust, is what you’ll find in Plenty More. But from Ottolenghi, we expect no less.

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Roasted Brussels sprouts and shallots are mixed with marinated pomelo for a flavorful fall side dish. [Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin]

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pomelo and Star Anise

Why anyone ever thought that boiling Brussels sprouts was a good idea when there is the option of roasting them is one of life’s great mysteries. For those who have tried the oven version, there is no turning back. All sprout-doubters, I urge you to give them one more chance: like the Brussels, you’ll never be bitter again. If you can’t get pomelo—use grapefruit segments but not as much lemon juice. Don’t throw out the leftover sugar syrup: you can add it to fruit salads.

Serves 4

½ cup/100 g superfine sugar

2 cinnamon sticks

5 star anise pods

3 tbsp lemon juice

1 pomelo (2 lb/900 g in total; 10½ oz/300 g after peeling and segmenting)

1 1/3 lb/600 g Brussels sprouts, trimmed

9 oz/250 g shallots, peeled

5 tbsp/75 ml olive oil

2/3 cup/10 g cilantro leaves

salt and black pepper

Place the sugar, 7 tbsp. water, the cinnamon, and star anise in a small saucepan and bring to a light simmer. Cook for 1 minute, stirring until the sugar dissolves, then remove from the heat, add 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice, and set aside to cool.

Peel the thick skin off the pomelo and discard. Divide into segments, release the flesh from the membrane, then break the flesh into bite-size pieces and put in a shallow bowl, taking care to remove all the bitter white membrane. Once the syrup has cooled a little, pour it over the pomelo. Leave to marinate for at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 425ºF/220ºC. Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil, add the sprouts and shallots, and blanch for 2 minutes. Drain, refresh under cold water, and pat dry. Cut the sprouts in two, lengthwise, and halve or quarter the shallots (so that they are similar in size to the sprouts). Place everything in a bowl with 3 tablespoons of the oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and some black pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the sprouts are golden brown but still retain a bite. Set aside to cool.

Before assembling the salad, remove and discard the cinnamon and star anise from the bowl. Drain the pomelo, reserving the juices. Just before serving, put the shallots, sprouts, pomelo and cilantro in a large bowl. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, the remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of the pomelo marinade juices, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Gently mix then check the seasoning—you might need to add another tablespoon of the marinade—and serve.

Karen Berman is a writer and editor who specializes in food and lifestyle topics. Her books include Friday Night Bites: Kick Off the Weekend with Recipes and Crafts for the Whole Family and Easy-Peasy Recipes: Snacks and Treats to Make and Eat. She has worked as an editor on some 35 cookbooks and written more articles than she can count. She holds a certificate in cuisine from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, and her culinary travels have taken her as far as the Thai House Cooking School in Thonburri, Thailand. Among her current titles are senior content editor of TheWeiserKitchen.com and managing editor of NYFoodstory: The Journal of the Culinary Historians of New York. She is mom to daughter Jessica, her best food critic.

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