Vegetarian


 

 

 

 

 

from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, Jerusalem, p. 109.

I dreaded looking at the date of my last post. July, 2012. And now I see that the last recipe I posted was also a one by Ottolenghi. I suppose he’s been a lot on my mind.

I have to confess that I went a while without cooking much. Now that the weather has cooled and I’m often writing at my table, it’s nice to have a task to turn away to when I need perspective. Happily, Ottolenghi’s terrific new cookbook has given me lots of opportunities to step away.

Of the three cookbooks he has produced this one is the best, in my opinion. From the standpoint of shelf appeal, it has far more recipes that look interesting than ones that don’t. And now that I’ve tried eight of them, I can vouch for more of them than I could in his other books. Some of the recipes in his previous books erupted like brain farts. But when they worked, they were the creative outbursts of a genius mind. This time, Ottolenghi got his cookbook mojo together.

To give you an idea of how appealing the book is, here are the recipes I’ve made — then I’ll describe making the risotto.

  • Roasted butternut squash & red onion with tahini & za’atar
  • Roasted cauliflower & hazelnut salad [with celery and pomegranate seeds, flavored with cinnamon and allspice]
  • Shakshuka [a tomato-red pepper sauce with the flavors of cumin and an egg poached in it at the last minute]
  • Swiss chard with tahini, yogurt & buttered pine nuts
  • Wheat berries & swiss chard with pomegranate molasses
  • Chicken with caramelized onion & cardamom rice
  • Lamb meatballs with barberries, shallots, yogurt & herbs
  • Saffron chicken & herb salad (which doesn’t begin to do justice to this salad made sliced fennel, cilantro, mint, basil, with an orange-honey-saffron vinaigrette reduction)

The only recipe that failed to meet my expectations was the one with wheat berries. It took forever for them to soften — and I made sure to buy the ones described as soft. A friend of mine had no better luck when she tried the recipe. Otherwise, I enjoyed the others. Ottolenghi is unusual in his ability to consistently and successfully surprise home cooks. Sometimes the surprise comes in the combination of flavors. At other moments it’s the addition of one seemingly banal element that transforms the dish. Sauteing pine nuts in butter is an example of the latter kind of surprise. Buttered pine nuts is his main party trick in this volume. Try it. The following risotto falls into the category of Surprise Caused by Combination of Flavors: feta, caraway, and smoked paprika.

To sum up, Jerusalem is well worth a pilgrimage to your nearest independent bookseller. I haven’t cooked so much from one book since… when? Ruth Reichl’s Gourmet Cookbook? Naomi Duguid’s Beyond the Great Wall? Anything by Marcella Hazan? A cookbook writer for the ages.

So, to begin…

1 cup / 200g pearl barley

2 Tb / 30g unsalted butter

6 Tb / 90ml olive oil

2 small celery stalks, cut into 1/4-inch dice

2 small shallots, cut into 1/4-inch dice

4 garlic cloves, cut into 1/16-inch / 2mm dice

Shadowcook: Really, Yotam? It wouldn’t have been sufficient to say “finely diced”?

4 thyme sprigs

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

Shadowcook: I used pimetón. It added a lovely aftertaste of smoke — until, that is, the caraway kicked in.

1 bay leaf

4 strips lemon peel

1/4 tsp chile flakes

Shadowcook: I experimented with Aleppo pepper, but now I think red pepper flakes would have given it a firmer boost.

one 14-oz / 400g can chopped tomatoes

scant 3 cups / 700ml vegetable stock

Shadowcook: I used chicken broth.

1 1/4 cups / 300ml passata (sieved crushed tomatoes)

Shadowcook: Seemed unnecessary, so I left it out and I’m glad I did. The ratio of liquid to grain worked quite well without it.

1 Tb caraway seeds

Shadowcook: Too much. I would cut this amount in half next time. The caraway overwhelms the paprika, lemon peel, and chile flakes.

10 1/2 oz / 300g feta cheese, broken into roughly 3/4-inch / 2cm pieces

1 Tb fresh oregano leaves

Rinse the pearl barley well under cold water and leave to drain.

Melt the butter and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a very large frying pan and cook the celery, shallots, and garlic over gentle heat for 5 minutes, until soft. Add the barley, thyme, paprika, bay leaf, lemon peel, chile flakes, tomatoes, stock, passata, and salt. Stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a very gentle simmer and cook for 45 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure the risotto does not catch on the bottom of the pan. When ready, the barley should be tender and most of the liquid absorbed.

Meanwhile, toast the caraway seeds in a dry pan for a couple of minutes. Then lightly crush them so that some whole seeds remain. Add them to the feta with the remaining 4 tablespoons / 60ml olive oil and gently mix to combine.

Once the risotto is ready, check the seasoning and then divide it among four shallow bowls. Top each with marinated feta, including the oil, and a sprinkling of oregano leaves.

from Riverford Farm: Recipes for Everyday and Sunday, p.

A box of vegetables from Riverford Farm in Devon arrives every week at my home-away-from home in London. In the US, we would call RF a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) company, in other words, a service that delivers organic produce to the homes of subscribers. The smaller scale of the United Kingdom allows Riverford to scale its operations closer to a nationwide enterprise than CSAs can do in the States. At least, people in southwestern, northern and midlands England are within a Riverford Farm’s range (as far as I can tell, only Kent in England is out of luck). The box that arrives with seasonal produce also includes attractively-printed, hole-punched recipes that subscribers can compile over time. After I tried a number of them when I had a chance to cook for myself in London, I knew I wanted their collection of recipes when it came out. The recipes are not particularly fussy, on the homey side, and substantial.

Imagine my pleasure when a copy of the newly published book arrived as a birthday gift not long ago. I dove right into the contents. Numerous dishes jumped right into my line of sight: Cabbage, Bacon, and Potatoes; Sausage Stew with Celeriac and Kale; Roast Saffron Potatoes with Almonds and Bay; Lamb Cooked in Milk and Fennel; Spaghetti with Fresh Tomatoes and Almond Pesto.

One drawback to the book, which is common among cookbook writers who stress seasonal ingredients in their cooking is that Riverford Farm has organized their recipes according to month. Nigel Slater’s wonderful Kitchen Diaries is similarly organized. There is no question that I tend to look through cookbooks in line with the season, but more often the gardener in me wants to thumb a book according to what I have on hand to eat from my garden. After all, seasonal produce here in northern California doesn’t match seasonal produce elsewhere in the U.S. much less in the UK. It seems short-sighted to assume one climate among a cookbook’s readership. But that’s a small cavil.

This recipe for spiced cauliflower was the first recipe I made from the book. Lately, all I desire for dinner is one simple dish and a glass or two of wine. The spices in this recipe gave me an opportunity to use another birthday gift, a brilliantly designed spice grinder that has quickly become an essential tool in my kitchen. The flavor of freshly ground spices surpasses spices already ground when you buy them. I’d never seen a spice mill like this one before a friend gave it to me. It’s made by Kuhn Rikon and available at Sur La Table for about $20. I’ve used it for all sorts of spices. My cooking friends don’t know yet that this Rachet Mill, as it’s called, is in their future. I like supporting companies that offer competition to Williams-Sonoma. Sur La Table may have stores all over the west coast, but I understand it still struggle for survival.

If I had had the energy to make basmati rice to eat with the cauliflower, I would have done so.

Serves 4-6

Shadowcook: HA! Sorry, I can down an entire medium-sized cauliflower. You can, too, no doubt.

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

15g (1/2 oz) unsalted butter

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Shadowcook: If you buy one of the rachet mills I provided a link to above, then use whole seeds and grind right into the butter in the pan.

Pinch of turmeric

1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, crushed

2cm (1/2 sq inch) piece fresh ginger, finely chopped

1 cauliflower, cut into florets

1 teaspoon caster (superfine, baker’s) sugar

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves

Heat the oil and butter in a pan large enough to hold the cauliflower in one layer. Add the spices, onion, garlic, and ginger to the pan. When the mustard seeds start to pop quickly add the cauliflower, stirring vigorously. Add the sugar, season well, cover and reduce the heat. Leave for 10 minutes on a gentle simmer. Cover, and check the cauliflower is tender. Stir again, cover, and remove from the heat and leave to finish cooking for 10 minutes in its own steam.

Shadowcook: Don’t overdo the sugar. And you’ll be surprised at the liquid generated by the ingredients. Just watch to make sure the spices don’t burn.

from Saveur, #110.

In most respects, I’m not squeamish. It’s true I might duck the opportunity to witness the slaughtering of an animal, but I’d be there soon after to watch the butchering. But ever since I read years ago a study of the contents of your typical can of tomato paste, I have reluctantly used it. “Fly larvae” is all I’ll say. Hence, the appeal of this recipe in Saveur a while back. Seemed very straightforward. And so it is.

The Amish Paste plum tomato plants in my garden are performing wonderfully. What a tomato! Where has it been all my life? Forget San Marzano, Roma, and the others. This baby beats them all for meat and flavor.

The one drawback of this recipe is the ratio of tomato to paste. It takes one pound of good, meaty tomatoes to render two tablespoons of paste. If you have a bumper crop of tomatoes, I figure it’s worth it. At the end of the long, slow bake, the paste tastes like candy. It was tempting to stand at the counter and eat it with a spoon, the paste was so sweet and tasty. But I didn’t and you shouldn’t. Do what I did and freeze it in 2-tablespoon amounts.

First of all, you have to make it…

5 pounds ripe plum tomatoes

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

A food mill

1. Heat oven to 300. Roughly chop tomatoes. Heat 1/4 cup of oil in a 12″ skillet over high heat. Add tomatoes and season lightly with salt; bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, until very soft, about 8 minutes.

Shadowcook: If you don’t have a food mill, you’re only choice is to blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds and removing the skins before you chop them. Then you can put them through the food processor in batches after  this step. But it’s good to have a food mill.

2. Pass the tomatoes through the finest plate of a food mill, pushing as much of the pulp through the sieve as possible, leaving the seeds behind.

3. Rub a rimmed 13″ X 18″ baking sheet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil; spread tomato puree evenly over sheet. Bake, using a spatula to turn the purée over on itself occasionally, until most of the water evaporates and the surface darkens, about 3 hours. Reduce heat to 250, cook until thick and brick colored, 20-25 minutes.

Shadowcook: The tomatoes became scorched in spots for reasons that were not clear to me. I recommend keeping an eye on the tomatoes and turning the pan around in the oven once or twice over the 3 hours. Actually, I liked the flavor of the char in the paste at the end. I let it roast for only 2 1/2 hours before turning it down. The paste was very caramelized by that point. The aluminum foil I lined the pan with was not just useless but also a pain in the ass to remove afterward.

4. Store sealed in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one month, or freeze, wrapped well in plastic wrap, for up to 6 months.

Shadowcook: As you can see, I measured out 2 tablespoons on sheets of plastic wrap, folded them into packets and then put them all in one small ziplock plastic bag.

from Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travel in the Other China, p. 86.

I have owned this fabulous cookbook less than a week and already several pages, including this one, is bespattered and wrinkled.  As I went through the book page by page in the bookstore, I stopped counting when I reached the tenth recipe I knew I would make if I owned it. That’s my minimum. (On the same visit to the bookstore, I had the same experience with David Chang’s Momofuku, but that’s another post.) The day I brought the book home I made two salads, this Mongolian one and the Cucumbers in Black Rice Vinegar from Xinjiang (I have NO idea where that is). I have the summer ahead of me to delve more deeply. In the meantime, this is a salad that will suit the summer heat.

I learned one great trick from this recipe:

  • Pouring boiling water over the shredded cabbage in a bowl, waiting a minute or two, and then draining it keeps the color of the cabbage bright and the leaves still a little crunchy.

The recipe needs practically no emending:

1 small or 1/2 medium-large red onion (1/4 pound)

2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

2 cups shredded Napa cabbage, sliced crosswise into thin slivers

2 teaspoons roasted sesame oil, or to taste

Shadowcook: Frankly, since most of us chop up a whole head of cabbage, I’d make it 1 tablespoon

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1 tablespoon rice vinegar, or to taste

About 1/2 cup coriander (cilantro) leaves.

Slice the onion lengthwise into quarters, then very thinly slice each quarter lengthwise. You should have about 1 cup. place in a sieve, add 1 teaspoon of the salt, and toss well. Set over a bowl and let stand for 10 minutes to drain.

Meanwhile, place the cabbage in a bowl and pour over boiling water to cover (about 4 cups). Let stand for a minute or two, then drain in a colander. Place back in the bowl and set aside.

Rinse the onion with cold water, then squeeze dry and add to the cabbage. Set aside.

Heat the 2 teaspoons sesame oil in a small wok for small skillet over medium heat. Add the ginger and cook for about 1 minute, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Add the vinegar, and once it bubbles, pour the mixture over the salad. Toss to blend, then add the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and toss again. The salad can be served immediately or left to stand for up to an hour so flavors can blend.

Just before serving, taste and add a little more sesame oil if you want to bring that flavor forward, as well as more salt if you wish. Add the coriander leaves and toss.

 

You can find the original recipe here. Suggestions for a vegetarian version appear at the end of this post.

I swore off buying new appliances, sold quite a few of them at a driveway sale last summer, and scaled back on my cooking once I embarked on another long course of Weight Watchers. My appliance abstinence lasted all of two months. Last week, I bought a small Cuisinart three-quart slow cooker. It’s a perfect size for this single-eater household.

A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times published this recipe. It calls for skipping the pre-soaking part of bean cooking. I liked that idea, especially since lately I switched to using Rancho Gordo’s heirloom dried beans, which are much fresher than most store-bought kind. Not only did I not pre-soak the Rancho Gordo beans, but the stew  finished in under 8 hours on the Low setting. The amount of water needed will vary according to the freshness of the beans and your preference for soupy stews or stewy soups. However, the recipe does not call for a slow-cooker, so I’ve had to adapt it. Perhaps it works best on a weekend morning, when you can do the prep cooking without rushing. A vegetarian adaptation appears at the end.

The result is a rich, smoky, and flavorful pot of beans and sausage:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more for serving

1 pound fresh sweet Italian sausages, sliced 3/4-inch thick

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon cumin

2 medium carrots, finely diced

2 celery stalks, finely diced

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 pound Great Northern beans, rinsed and picked through

Shadowcook: Or canellini or mayacoba bean. In any case, a white bean that holds its shape.

2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste

Shadowcook: Interesting that whoever thought this up has you put kosher salt into the pot with the beans at the beginning of their cooking. Most cooks claim salt retards absorption of water in a hard bean. I suspect the older the bean, the more likely that’s true. But if you’re using recently dried beans, salt may not impede the softening process as much. I followed the directions and the beans cooked quickly.

2 thyme sprigs

1 large rosemary sprig

1 bay leaf

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, more for serving

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, more to taste

1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown until through, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel.

Shadowcook: Don’t crowd the sausage rounds. Insufficient space around anything that is sauteeing creates steam. Food needs room to brown and fry properly.

2. Add the tomato paste and cumin to the pot. Cook, stirring, until dark golden, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Cook, stirring until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the beans, 8 cups water, salt, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer gently until the beans are tender, about 2 hours, adding more water if needed to make sure the beans remain submerged.

Shadowcook: For the slow cooker, after you have cooked the tomato paste, cumin, carrots, celery, onion, and garlic, transfer it all to a slow cooker. Make bring you all the oil and bits with the vegetables to the ceramic pot. Then add the beans and herbs to the pot. Pour in 6-7 cups of water. The rule of thumb in converting recipes to slow-cookers is to reduce the liquid by half. I began this stew with 4 cups and within 4 hours (the beans still hard) I had to add another 3 cups. Set the temperature to Low for 10 hours. Walk away, but come back in four or five hours to check the beans.

3. When the beans are tender, return the sausage to the pot. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Ladle into warm bowls and serve drizzled with additional vinegar and olive oil.

Shadowcook: For a vegetarian version, substitute a bunch of chopped Swiss chard leaves and 2 chopped leeks for the sausage. Sauté the chopped chard and leeks in olive oil, add the remaining ingredients to the sauteed leaves, and proceed with the recipe.

For another meat version, consider adding a ham hock to the beans and water, after you’ve sauteed the vegetables in olive oil.

It will comes as news to most people that the grain called quinoa is 100% protein. At least, that’s what Weight Watchers claims. Now that I’ve finally got the hang of making dry, fluffy quinoa, thanks to a friend who makes it all the time, I’m making it more often than before. The trick, I learned, is NOT to rinse it (contra WW) and to use an amount of water just under double the amount of quinoa. This recipe — the source of which I have lost but it’s from either the New York Times or the Guardian — falls into the category of Grub for its heft and into that of Salad for its forgiving caloric nature. The dressing is what really makes it.

I’ve adapted the recipe for two people on a Weight Watchers diet. It’s still really good.

Serves 4

Calories per serving: 150

Weight Watchers points per serving: 3

1 cup uncooked quinoa

4 green onions, chopped

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained [OR, preferably, Rancho Gordo’s black beans, cooked]

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoon fresh lime juice

2 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 teaspoon honey

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce

1 small garlic, finely chopped

Place the quinoa and 2 cups water in a medium saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.

Shadowcook: I started with 1 3/4 cups water and kept an eye on it.

Lower heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Stir in the green onions, black beans, and cilantro. Puree the remaining ingredients together in a food processor; pour over quinoa and stir to coat with dressing.

Shadowcook: Chop the green onions in chunks. The crunch makes the salad even more satisfying.

Shadowcook: I wouldn’t pour the entire amount of dressing. Try half of it and then taste. Add more if the flavor doesn’t stand out. You don’t want it to get soggy.

Adjust seasoning with salt and additional lime juice if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Shadowcook: I’ve thrown in a chopped hard-boiled egg and some blanched, chopped spinach. What else? Nuts?

From The Observer/Guardian, September 10, 2010.

It’s a good day when a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe fits within my Weight Watchers diet. Ottolenghi comes up with ideas that work better on paper than in the pan. This one is a keeper. In this spice fantasy of his, he takes summer (corn) and winter (squash) on a vacation to Southeast Asia. The directions are straightforward. The ingredients are not as outré as you might first think. Yotam offers good substitutions, if you can’t come up with lime leaves, like I can.

A bit of chopping but otherwise easy…

Serves 6

Amount per serving: 1 and a half cups

Weight Watchers points per serving: 5

Calories per serving: 350

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 shallots (100g), peeled and chopped

5 garlic cloves, chopped

3 celery sticks, cut into 1 cm [1/4 inch] dice

1 teaspoon ground cumin

3/4 teaspoon ground coriander

400g [14 oz] peeled pumpkin or butternut squash, cut into 1 cm [1/4 inch] dice

2 bay leaves

3 lime leaves, or a few shaved strips of lime zest

1 liter [4.2 cups] water

1 chipotle chilli, soaks in boiling water for 15 minutes

Shadowcook: Or, if you can’t find dried chipotles, buy a can of chipotles in adobo sauce, rinse off the sauce, and chop. The more seeds you remove, the less heat you’ll taste in the soup.

4 sweetcorn cobs, kernels shaved off

160g [about half a cup] soured cream [that’s sour cream]

3 limes, halved

1 handful torn coriander [cilantro] leaves

Salt

Heat the oil in a medium pot, add the shallots, garlic, celery, ground cumin, ground coriander and a little salt, and sauté on low heat for 12 minutes, to soften the vegetables.

Add the pumpkin (or squash), bay leaves, lime leaves (or zest), and water. Squeeze the water of out of the chipotle chilli, remove and discard the seeds, chop roughly and add to the pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the pumpkin is soft. Add the corn and cook for five minutes.

Use a slotted spoon to lift out about half of the vegetables, and removed and discard the bay and lime leaves. Blitz the remaining soup until smooth, then return to the vegetables to the pot and bring to a light simmer. Add a little water if you find it too thick. Stir in half the soured cream and taste for seasoning.

Shadowcook: I used my blender. A food processor works just as well.

Divide the soup into six bowls, squeeze the juice of half a lime into each portion, drop about a tablespoonful of soured cream in the middle and scatter over the torn coriander leaves.

Shadowcook: Or, for all you singletons, freeze in 4 or 5 small containers all but a cup and a half. A bowl of this soup in winter will remind you of August.

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