Just in time for Spring produce I discovered the most amazing cookbook that is exclusively about vegetables. I had never heard of Ottolenghi, the specialty food stores and restaurant in London, until I recently sat down with Peggy Dark from The Kitchen in Pasadena. She is the caterer for Robinson Gardens "into the garden Tour" each year. I always meet with her prior to our big event to plan the menu. She had an older cookbook, "Ottolenghi: The Cookbook" that we flipped through and chose one of its dishes for our event. Then at my local book store I stumbled upon the newest cookbook "Plenty, Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London's Ottolenghi" and bought it and have been immersed in this ode to vegetables. I can't wait to cook so many of these gorgeous recipes.
Potato, onion, and cherry tomato tatin
I have never seen so many luscious and mouth-watering vegetable recipes in one book. Each chapter is divided by ingredients. This is the concept of the book. As Yotam Ottlolenghi says in the introduction, "At the center of every dish, at the beginning of the thought process, is an ingredient, one ingredient -- not just any ingredient but one of my favorite ingredients. I tend to set off with this central element and then try to elaborate on it, enhance it, bring it out in a new way, while still keeping it in the center, at the heart of the final dish." Hence the chapters "Roots," "Mushrooms," "Peppers," "Green Things," "Grains," and "Pasta, Polenta, Couscous."
Roasted butternut squash with sweet spices, lime and green chile
The recipes reflect the backgrounds of Ottolenghi and his partner Sami Tamimi. They were brought up in Israel and Palestine and were exposed to the multitudes of vegetables, pulses and grains that are celebrated in the region's different cuisines. Ottolenghi writes, "The food I had growing up was a huge mixture of diverse culinary cultures -- European at home and Middle Eastern all around -- with an abundance of easily sourced fresh ingredients."
Roasted parsnips and sweet potatoes with caper vinaigrette
He writes about the current trend of cutting back on meat consumption and increasing vegetables and grains, without becoming a vegetarian in the strictest sense. He definitely touched a nerve with me as I have been trying to do the same thing. He calls this pragmatic vegetarianism, a cutting back on meats or fish for health and environmental reasons.
Mushroom and herb polenta
I will definitely be cooking a lot from this book, mostly because I have never seen vegetable dishes look as enticing and delicious as those that fill the pages of "Plenty." And with spring produce now becoming available, my trips to the farmers markets will be focused on the recipes from this book. I am so inspired!