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May 2011 COTM, PLENTY: Capsicums, Brassicas, The Mighty Eggplant


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  1. This should be the COTM Chapter Reporting Thread for Capisicums, Brassicas, The Mighty Eggplant since there have been replies here and not in the duplicate thread...

    17 Replies
    1. re: Gio

      Shakshuka p.87

      This recipe starts off with a compelling story about a quaint alley in Jaffa - so inspiring that while I was cooking it I kept chanting, " Shakshuka! Shakshuka!"

      It was very tasty, but didn't live up to my expectations 100%, and here's why:

      - they aren't kidding when they say to use a very large pan: my 12" frying pan was about 50% insufficient - by the time you get all the onions and peppers in there, it's basically impossible to get a good brown, as they all start to steam. SUGGEST: halving the recipe or using two saute pans. Or buy a massive pan.
      - the plight of the spring tomato: this recipe is fairly dependent on tomatoes for flavour, so if you live somewhere intemperate like me, fresh tomatoes don't start to taste good until mid-summer. SUGGEST: consider using canned
      - the serving suggestions: they suggest dividing the recipe amongst four saute pans. Which as a home cook, I basically interpret to mean, "wash an additional four pans". Forget it. SUGGEST: Cook the eggs directly in the original mixture - I did it and it worked out fine.

      All in all, this was tasty, but if you can't get a good brown on the onions and peppers, it might fall a little short for you.

      1. re: Zollipop

        Shakshuka pg. 87

        Made this dish this morning for a late breakfast early brunch meal, and must say I loved it. Really loved it, and this despite my not being a big brunch or poached egg lover.

        Toast cumin seeds in a large pan (in my case an 8" cast iron frying pan, as I was making a 1/2 recipe), add sliced onions and olive oil (I used 3 TBSPs, a quarter of the oil called for in the original recipe, and the reduced amount was plenty), cook on high for five minutes--a bit too long my thinly sliced onions were getting VERY brown by the third minute--add sliced red & yellow bell peppers, chopped parsley & thyme, a bay leaf, sautee for an additional five or more minutes, add chopped tomatoes (although the recipe doesn't call for it, I skinned mine, and would again), saffron, and demerra sugar (I used 1tsp sugar, and could have used less, next time I'd add the tomatoes, taste and then decide on how much if any sugar to add), reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, adding water as needed (I needed none, my tomatoes had plenty of juice). At this point the recipe calls for separating the sauce into individual sized pans, but I skipped that, and poached my eggs directly in the sauce in the original pan. Top with cilantro and serve.

        I served it over some nice toasted bread, and yum, it was so good. Granted our tomatoes and bell peppers are at their peak right now, which I'm sure was important, but the saffron/cumin/red pepper/tomatoe combination is just divine

          1. re: qianning

            This dish is becoming something of an annual treat. We had it this morning for a lazy Sunday breakfast, and since last years picture miniaturized itself, I can't resist posting this one.

            1. re: qianning


              I just copied your notes and plan on making this my breakfast tomorrow! Thank you so much for the details.

              1. re: qianning

                I have been wanting to make this recipe for ages, and your photo just may have sealed that deal. Looks great!

                1. re: Allegra_K

                  it is really good when the tomatoes & peppers are at their best....around here that's now.

              2. re: qianning


                I think I'm in love. This is one of those "where have you been all my life?" dishes. I only loosely followed the recipe, made about a half-batch. Had some leftover grilled peppers and onions sitting around, so I tossed those into a pan along with all the seasonings called for. Dug some sweet heirloom tomatoes from summer's bounty out of my freezer. Those dissolved into a nice, thick sauce. I added demerara sugar as well, but needn't have done so with my choice of tomatoes.
                Served this with freshly baked pita....a perfect vehicle for sauce-scooping.
                This was truly a delight. *Drool*

                1. re: Allegra_K

                  You know, it amazes me how much our tastes are in sync.

                  1. re: qianning

                    Agreed! I often think of you as a kindred spirit of the food world.

                  2. re: Allegra_K

                    Thank you for bumping this thread back up by posting your review. I have a ludicrous abundance of peppers & heirloom tomatoes in my kitchen thanks to my CSA subscription (the farmer's had a terrible season in a lot of ways but his pepper plants have been thriving, much to our consternation as the bags of peppers piled up in our fridge).

                    I cooked the shakshuka up for lunch and my kids and I just now polished the whole lot off. This is truly wonderful stuff - the kind of food that makes you grab a bit of bread & carefully wipe the plate so you don't leave any of that flavour behind.

                    It's important to keep the heat as low as you possibly can when you are cooking the eggs (like others, I didn't bother with the separate pans & just cracked the eggs into the big pan of tomato mixture). I should have turned the heat lower - I ended up with the eggs a little too firmly cooked on the bottom and still a bit jiggly on top.

                    Anyone else feel like this dish could have benefited from the occasional punch of a finely chopped chipotle pepper, or maybe some little bits of a nice spicy smoked chorizo? I will be trying that next time.

                    1. re: geekmom

                      Absolutely! I think this is one of those dishes where there are a million different variations; in fact, in Jerusalem, Ottolenghi offers another version up that sounds just as fantastic as this one, and it involves harissa and I believe smoked paprika. That one is definitely on my 'to try' list.
                      So glad you liked this as well.

                      1. re: Allegra_K

                        Yes -- I picked up Jerusalem from the library last night and my daughter pounced on it & immediately noticed the variation on Shakshuka. I think I know what I'm going to do with that tube of harissa in the cupboard...

                        1. re: geekmom

                          This is officially Shakshuka Week in our house - I just made the variation from "Jerusalem" and the harissa definitely added some punch to it. I think I prefer the "Plenty" version so I'm going to try and figure out how to add a smoky/spicy/hot component to that recipe without overpowering the other flavours. Will report back here :-)

                          1. re: geekmom

                            Shakshuka season 2013 just officially opened in chez QN. Made the "standard" version from Plenty this morning, yum; now looking forward to trying other versions over the oh-too-short red pepper and tomato season.

            2. Purple Sprouting Broccoli w Rice Noodles - p. 98

              This recipe sounds wonderful and if someone is making it before I have a chance to get to it, could you please note the quantity/yield of the "Spice Paste".

              Ottolenghi notes that you can substitute commercial Thai curry paste for the Spice Paste he provides a recipe for but he doesn't specify a quantity. I'd like to make a note in my book for future reference.

              1. Multi-vegetable paella, p80

                This is a great main-course for vegetarians and carivores alike. It's not only delicious, it looks beautiful, with a rainbow of vegetables. Here's a copy of my review from the other thread, with a link to the recipe for those who don't have the book.


                A vegetarian friend came for lunch today , so I made this and it was pretty easy and delicious. I did have a problem with the rice though. I made it in a pretty large paella pan, which I think was too big for the amount of ingredients, so some of the rice was a little undercooked. Next time I'd use a large frying pan.

                I loved the combination of veggies though - fennel, peppers, broad beans, artichokes, cherry tomatoes. Yum. i forgot the olives though. No matter - my friend raved.

                4 Replies
                1. re: greedygirl

                  I made this a few months back, as well, and just loved it. Here's my review from the previous thread:

                  I made a few minor substitutions, based on what was on hand. Instead of a Spanish rice, I used carnaroli; instead of the red and yellow bell peppers, I used a jar of roasted piquillo peppers (great price on these at Trader Joe's); instead of broad beans, I used frozen shelled edamame; and instead of jarred grilled artichokes, I used a bag of frozen hearts. I made it in a 12-inch skillet. I added the edamame after sautéing the rice, as they were straight from the freezer, and added the peppers for the last 10 minutes along with the tomatoes and artichoke hearts. I didn't use the foil for the last 10 minutes, as I have a glass lid with a good fit for my skillet. The timing given worked perfectly for me.

                  This is both delicious and beautiful, and has lots of flavor from the saffron, smoked paprika, sherry, and kalamata olives, along with the vegetables (the piquillo peppers were very nice here). Very worthy of a special meal where you want a vegetarian main dish. He says it serves two generously, I say three. I served it with a little salad of field greens and navel orange, dressed with olive oil and sherry vinegar.

                  1. re: greedygirl

                    GG, the Gurdian page is not available:(

                    1. re: greedygirl

                      Multi-Vegetable Paella, Pg. 8

                      We made this paella last night but were not as enthusiastic as GG and Caitlin, sorry to say. Nothing went terribly wrong, in fact I had all the right ingredients as listed and the timing was perfect. I used aborio rice and increased the turmeric, smoked paprika and cayenne 1/4 tsp each. My paella pan is newish but seasoned properly so I don't know why we didn't like it. The taste was flat and blah. Pretty to look at though. There's quite a lot left so I'll let it sit in the fridge till tomorrow and see if that mellows the flavors out.

                    2. Eggplant with Buttermilk sauce, p110

                      I was very excited about trying some of the recipes in this lovely looking book, and am sorry to say that I have now made two duds, including the gorgeous eggplant cover recipe (on the 2011 US edition).

                      I followed the recipe closely. The eggplant needed twice as long to cook as suggested. Ultimately, it was attractive but kinda boring.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: sinjawns

                        So sorry to hear that sinjawns.

                        Before my book arrived, I'd only seen the cover of Plenty from a distance but I'd somehow imagined that eggplant to be topped w buffalo mozzarella or bocconcini so I was surprised to ultimately learn it was a yogurt/buttermilk topping instead.

                        Neither the eggplant or the yogurt are prepared with much seasoning so I'd hoped that the Za'atar would tie the dish together and elevate the flavours. It doesn't sound like that's the case though. That's too bad. Thanks for reporting! Would you let us know what the other 2 dishes were?

                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                          Apologies -- it was actually two duds from this book and one from the Guardian (I made the clarifying edit, above). I have just posted my second Plenty review, which was for the Black Pepper Tofu.

                          You're right, BC-- the seasoning is weak on the eggplant, and the za'atar didn't cut it. I tossed on some aleppo pepper at the end to lift it, but it still underwhelmed.

                          1. re: sinjawns

                            Thanks sinjawns, good to know! What a shame because I adore eggplant! I'll check out your tofu review. . . another one I've flagged because of that enticing photograph!

                        2. re: sinjawns

                          This recipe was a dud for me as well. First off, the recipe made way more buttermilk sauce than you need for the amount of eggplant. Second, the final dish just wasn't that good. Leftovers languished uneaten in the fridge.

                          1. re: MelMM

                            Thanks to everyone for "taking one for the team" on this one. I was all ready to make the beautiful Eggplant dish from the cover for a vegetarian dinner party before I wisely checked chowhound and saw the recipe was panned....

                          2. re: sinjawns

                            we made this dish - with smaller italian eggplants - last weekend for a party and most of my guests, especially the guest of honor LOVED it. sorry I dont have a pic to offer. the eggplant did take longer than indicated to cook to a golden and done color, and there WAS a lot of buttermilk sauce left over, but the combo of eggplant, the sauce, the pomegranate and especially the great flavor of the aleppo zaatar I used (from Kalustyan) really upped the interest quotient on this dish.
                            This zaatar has great spices in addition to the standard sumac/herb and sesame seed - if you want to amp up the flavor of the dish Id suggest using more salt, more sumac, and a little baharat or other mideast spice mix (with allspice/cinnamon/cumin)

                            ps the dish also kept well and the party guest of honor enjoyed it on the subsequent day.
                            the buttermilk sauce is also good on other dishes -

                            1. re: jen kalb

                              I made it and liked it too! To each their own I guess

                          3. Don't have the book here but the recipe for the eggplant topping for the fresh corn polenta is superb - I served it to Turkish guests last summer and it disappeared in no time flat. Simple but oh so good. Wasn't as keen on the fresh corn polenta (nor were the guests).

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: buttertart

                              Is there a link for an online version of the eggplant topped with fresh corn polenta? I'd love to try this recipe.

                              1. re: dkennedy

                                I don't have the book in front of me at the moment... but this looks like the recipe, DK:

                                1. re: Gio

                                  Yes, that's it. I found you had to reduce the water in the corn polenta or it took a very long time indeed to cook down.

                                  1. re: buttertart

                                    Thanks Gio and BT. I don't think I have the willpower to resist this book much longer.

                                    1. re: buttertart

                                      That's good to know before I go ahead as make it as written, BT. Thanks very much.

                                2. re: buttertart

                                  buttertart: I absolutely loved this recipe ( corn polenta with eggplant topping) when I made it last summer. Thanks for the reminder.

                                  1. re: oakjoan

                                    It's a good'un, all right. Late July into August...

                                3. Burnt aubergine with tahini, Plenty, page 122

                                  I love eggplant. I love eggplant dips. I eagerly made this dish for dinner to accompany my humanely raised VT lamb and a full meze plate.

                                  Though he recommends burning the eggplant on the stove top, I chose to use my infrared broiler since I know this works. After the poor eggplant has given all it had under the broiler, I pulled off the skin and deseeded it before chopping it. Add some tahini, water, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, garlic, parsley. I chose not to add cucumbers or tomatoes since they were elsewhere in the meal. Drizzled some fruity olive oil over the top.

                                  At dinner, I eagerly dipped in. I didn't like it, but waited to review until I tried it today giving the flavors enough time to blend. Nope. Still didn't like it.

                                  I think I may not like pomegranate molasses, and that was the predominant flavor. It overwhelmed the eggplant completely, so instead of a garnished eggplant dip, it instead tasted like bitter and sweet pomegranate.

                                  This is the first time these guys have let me down on eggplant. I will probably try the molasses one more time in something else just to confirm that it isn't to my taste.

                                  10 Replies
                                  1. re: smtucker

                                    smtucker, sorry to hear that wasn't to your taste. I had a similar experience w Orange blossom water (or some such thing!) during the Arabesque COTM. I made the mistake of not tasting it before adding it to my dish and the "floral" flavour just overpowered everything else for us. I poured the stuff down the drain the next day!! Maybe taste your molasses on its own and see what you think . . . maybe you could water it down a bit if it's too intense. I tried a couple of brands before I landed on one that works for us.

                                    I hope the rest of your meal was fabulous!

                                      1. re: buttertart

                                        I purchased Mymoune from Lebanon at my local Persian market and it has a rich, balanced flavour bt. Here's a pic:


                                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                          I think I've seen that brand at Kalustyan's here. I'll have a look for it, thanks, Bc!

                                          1. re: buttertart

                                            Let me know what you think bt. I hope you enjoy it.

                                    1. re: smtucker

                                      I didn't love this either - although it did grow on me and was much improved by the addition of greek yoghurt. My aubergine was obviously not big enough and didn't yield that much flesh when grilled (maybe 100g) so I halved all the other ingredients. I found it quite hard to get the balance of flavours right - I think in my case I am not that fond of tahini so I'd reduce that next time and add more pomegranate molasses. It needs quite a bit of salt as well. I found that a bit of yoghurt rounded and mellowed all the flavours - the picture looks like it's had yoghurt added to be honest because it's much paler than mine was. I guess I'm on the fence on this one - although I did polish off a bowl of it for lunch (with the cucumbers and tomatoes added)!

                                      1. re: smtucker

                                        made this one last night - I thought this was quite a good baba ganoush recipe. didnt feel the pomegranate molasses was too much at all - Strangely, my main beef was the color. This is one case where the cookbook photo stylist cheated. My tahina was hard so I whizzed it in the minichopper with the water - that DOES produce a white sauce, however once the eggplant and pomegranate molasses were stirred in it was beige, beige, beige. Didnt really feel like adding the chopped veg to the beige mass but I am sure it would be tasty..

                                        I recommend blending the tahina with water and lemon this way to emulsify the tahina - it produces a superior silky texture as well as the aforesaid whte color, which stirring or whisking will not give.

                                        1. re: smtucker

                                          Burnt aubergine with tahini, Plenty, page 122

                                          I'm so glad that I didn't take the time to read reports of this before making it. We loved this, so much that I regretted not burning a second eggplant that I had in the fridge. All through dinner, we both lamented the fact that we could have had double of this dip. I did make some very slight changes in tahini technique and I wonder if that may have made a difference.

                                          This recipe calls for 1 large eggplant. I had that but did wonder, how much is a large eggplant. It's my latest peeve is the lack of weight in cookbooks (so different from my position 5 years ago). Anyway, we had a bit of charcoal and I was serving this with lamb burgers so we decided to char this on the grill. I refuse to stand over a stove to flip an eggplant on the burner and I didn't want to broil this for an hour in the oven. And, the darn eggplant wouldn't fit in my toaster oven, so grill became an easy choice.

                                          Anyway, the tahini, my armenian friend's dad, years ago, gave me a great trick on how to work with tahini to maximize the flavor for it. For hummus, add lemon juice to the tahini until it stiffens up. then add more lemon juice and it will loosen up again. Add this to the chickpeas and it will come together beautifully. So, I did a variation. I first mixed the tahini with the lemon juice and whipped it with a fork until it stiffened a little. Then I added the pomegranate molasses to blend it in. Lastly, I added the water and the whole thing loosened up. I mixed this in with the chopped eggplant, garlic and parsley.

                                          I wonder if my eggplant was bigger because I found there wasn't enough pomegranate molasses or lemon juice. so I added a tad more so that it would be balanced against the smokiness of the eggplant.

                                          I did use cherry tomatoes (a bit more then a cup) and the sliced cucumber. And, this worked really well as a side dish to the lamb burgers.

                                          1. re: smtucker

                                            I ran into a few of the same problems people mentioned above. I couldn't get a large eggplant, so I burnt two medium eggplants on the range instead. Despite the smaller size, it took far longer than the suggested 15-20 minutes. They took on a nice smokey flavor.

                                            Even after mashing the eggplant, not much liquid drained away when I put it in a colander. Deseeding the eggplant would have been a lot quicker and made the dish less bitter.

                                            I liked the smokiness of the dish, but it definitely needed more salt. It also needed to be perked up with something tart or sour. Some crème fraîche sauce, from the fried leeks (p. 44), did the trick.

                                            BTW, I'm wondering if the people who thought the pom. molasses overwhelmed the dish accidentally added 2 tbs. instead of 2 tsp.

                                          2. Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango p.112

                                            If I had any of this stellar meal remaining, I would be typing as noodles dangled from my mouth. It was a knockout!!
                                            I cut this recipe in half, as it was just me 'n the offspring tonight, but I am regretting that move. (Although I probably would have polished the rest of it off anyways, so maybe it was a good decision after all.)
                                            Cold cooked soba noodles are dressed with a sweet, tangy, slightly spicy sauce made up of rice vinegar, sugar, garlic, chili, lime juice and zest. I tripled the chili. Cubed eggplant is fried in oil until brown and buttery, and is then supposed to be salted and drained. I imagine this is to rid the aubergine of any bitterness, but I used the long Asian variety, which seem to lack that astringent quality, making the extra step unnecessary. Cubed mangoes, sliced red onion, and the eggplant are added to the noodles, along with a hefty handful of chopped cilantro and basil. I used Thai basil, and the pungent licorice flavour went beautifully with the sweetness of the soft, fragrant mango. Loved everything about this dish. Upon getting to the bottom of the bowl, the noodles were long gone, and all that remained were the onions and the herbs. They were eaten anyways, and every bite was as treasured as the first . This is, hands down, the best thing I've made from this book so far. A must try!

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: Allegra_K

                                              Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango p.112

                                              At a recent dinner party, another hound raved about this dish. It jumped up into my mental notes since this isn't a dish that I would gravitate towards. I'm not that into fruit in my savory dishes. But, I LOVED this dish. It was delicious with so many flavors going on.

                                              When I first started eating the dish, I was like, enh, a lot of work and I'm not sure it was worth it. But, the more bites I took, the better the dish got. My taste buds just couldn't figure out which flavors to focus on.

                                              A couple of peeves though - the ingredients don't really fall in the same season together. right now, the champagne mangoes are almost done. But, the local eggplants and herbs aren't grown or in yet. For that matter, the farmers' markets here in NE are just starting. It kills me to buy fresh herbs when in a month, they'll be coming out of my eye balls. The other peeve is that the recipe is a bit vague in amounts, ie. 2 eggplants, or 1 large ripe mango. I used 4 smaller eggplants and 4 champagne mangoes. There may have been a bit too much eggplant but I prefer to have a lot of stuff with my noodles.

                                              Also, a few changes. The recipe calls for frying all the eggplant. I had some leftover oil from another fry experiment. I used my wok and had maybe 1/4 - 1/2 inch oil. After a couple of batches, the oil was just about gone. But, I added more eggplant and dry fried, chinese style. I fried about half the eggplant. Then, I steamed the rest and when I mixed the two, they incorporated beautifully. I also added half a poached chicken breast, for some protein and because I had it in the fridge.

                                              I probably had more stuff then I had noodles but it didn't seem too out of proportion. There was also plenty of dressing to go with all the ingredients.

                                              This is a must make, especially if you can find great mangoes in the summer.

                                              1. re: beetlebug

                                                Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango p.112

                                                I made this dish last night and loved it as much as the first time.

                                                Some more changes: instead of frying or steaming the eggplant, I cubed, salted, rinsed and drained the eggplant. Then I put tossed with olive oil and broiled them for about 10 minutes. This greatly shortened the prep since this dish has endless chopping of herbs and mangoes.

                                                Also, in the US version of the book, he doesn't quite give measurements on the eggplant or mangoes. This time around, I used 3 small/medium eggplants and 3 mangoes. There was still more stuff than noodles, but that's ok. We had leftovers so I tossed the noodles and stuff with lettuce and that worked well.

                                                Lastly, I added a half a sliced poached chicken breast to give us a bit of protein. The chicken just soaked up that dressing and it was a welcome addition.

                                              2. re: Allegra_K

                                                Soba Noddles with Eggplant and Mango. Made this over the weekend to go with a simple seared salmon. This is my first Ottolenghi recipe (been under a rock, I know) and I wanted to pick a winner for my firmly carnivorous family. This one is a winner!

                                                Despite somewhat woody and pale mango (the precut from TJ's) and the lack of fresh chile (just forgot to get it so added aleppo pepper instead) this still came out great. Loved the combo of meaty eggplant with the tangy dressing and the sweet mango. I cut back the amount of oil and sauteed the eggplant in a nonstick pan with good results.

                                                  1. re: nasilemak

                                                    What a stunning photograph nasilemak. Beautiful composition and lighting. You've made me crave this dish!!

                                                1. Aubergine Croquettes (Brit edition pg. 120)

                                                  Made these tonight to go with grilled lamb burgers. We really liked them. (Halved the recipe (for the three of us.) Used dried breadcrumbs in the mix, but panko for the crust. Freshly squeezed lemon was perfect; see no need for the aioli. When I make them again, I'll add some chopped chives or green onions. I used an ice cream scoop to form the patties, and that made the prep quite easy.

                                                  1. Brussels Sprouts and Tofu p.105

                                                    Brussels sprouts, tofu, and maple syrup? Truthfully, the only reason I made this dish was because it sounded so bizarre that I just had to give it a try. It was pretty darn good, and I would use brussels sprouts again in this manner.
                                                    Instead of using a frying pan, I went a step further in achieving the seared veg flavour by using a wok at the highest heat and stir frying instead. Glad I did that, as I really love that almost burned flavour that a wok imparts on a dish. After frying the brussels sprouts they are removed to a bowl and mushrooms, chili and green onion are given a brief fling in the wok. I used crimini mushrooms instead of shiitake, as I couldn't get to a store, but I really understand why the author calls for shiitakes. They would be the only fungus that have a texture meaty enough to stand up to the firmness of the brussels. The creminis were too spongy.
                                                    The only part of the recipe I wasn't thrilled with was the tofu. I'm not the world's biggest tofu fan yet, and the quick swim in the marinade wasn't enough to rid it of its insipid soy flavour. Perhaps making the slices thinner and/or smaller would cure that dilemma.
                                                    All in all, very tasty. I topped with chili-garlic sauce, and it was even better. The rice is a delicious base to soak up the leftover sauce.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Allegra_K

                                                      Brussels Sprouts and Tofu p105

                                                      This is the best tasting brussels sprouts I've ever tasted. Mr lilham isn't a sprouts fan but even he ate it all. I won't summarise the dish again. I used only 5-6 dried shiitake mushrooms, because mr lilham doesn't eat mushrooms, at all. I used the exact same brand of frim tofu as in the book, which is available in chinese supermarkets. They are different from the firm tofu in normal UK supermarkets. (Not sure if it's the same it in the US). I don't find the tofu has a insipid soy flavour, but then I'm a tofu fan. I did cut the tofu a lot smaller than Allegra_K, smaller than a sugar cube. I would also increase the amount of marinade when I make this again, because mr lilham is eating it without the mushrooms, his portion is a lot less saucy then mine. (Mushrooms are great flavour absorber). I might try adding an aubergine for him, but I think Allegra_K is probably right about the meaty texture of shiitakes.

                                                      This is a very very simple dish. It's made it to my rotation for simple weeknight dinners.

                                                    2. A couple of nights ago I made the Lentils with Grilled Aubergine (Plenty, p. 116). We both LOVED this dish. The crunchiness of the lentils mixed with the creaminess of the aubergine and the tang of the yoghurt is great.

                                                      I skimped on the roasting of the eggplants because I have (insert CURSES and #!*%$#*! here!). I just cut the aubergines in half (2 med. ones) and put them face down on a baking sheet in a very hot oven. The flesh is scooped out and drained through a sieve for 15 minutes. S&P and red wine vinegar are added (He calls for red wine, but I only had sherry)

                                                      While the aubergines are cooking, the lentils are cooked (Puy-type ones that hold their shape a bit) with chopped carrot, celery, a chopped onion, a bay leaf and thyme sprigs. This is simmered until the lentils are cooked. Ottolenghi says to discard the carrot, celery, etc., but I only discarded the bay leaf pieces. Vinegard, s&p are added to the lentils and they're covered and set aside.

                                                      2 chopped small carrots, 1 chopped celery stick are mixed with 12 halved cherry tomatoes (I had some wonderful Roma tomatoes and chopped them into chunks instead) are mixed with some olive oil, 1/3 tsp of brown sugar and salt and then roasted in the oven for about 20 minutes, spread out on a baking sheet.

                                                      The cooked carrots, tomatoes etc. are then added to the lentils along with some chopped parsley, cilantro and dill. Taste for salt, here and add if necessary.

                                                      The aubergine mixture is mounded on top of the lentils and a big glop of yoghurt (he calls for creme fraiche, but I didn't have any. I mixed a Tbsp of cream with my yoghurt.

                                                      This sounds complicated, but it doesn't take much work and it's completely worth it. Delish and noootrish! My husband and I gobbled it down. Next day I had some cold on slices of Levain toast. 4 thumbs up!

                                                      1. Very Full Tart p.84

                                                        Very full, indeed. Overflowing, even. The rustic tart delivered in a most satisfying and comforting way in this aptly-named dish.
                                                        This weeknight endeavor that I ventured into ended up taking far too much time for one evening, and I had to make something else for dinner lest we feed at midnight. There is a lot of prep work in this meal; roasting of veggies, making pie crust, caramelizing onions, pre-baking pie crust, and finally baking the tart itself. Added to the mix was the fact that I decided to make a paneer instead of using ricotta--well, you get the picture. Perhaps a more organized individual would have better luck with that aspect, but alas, I lack such favourable attributes. I ended up roasting the veggies and making the paneer, but put aside the rest of the items for the next day.
                                                        Into the baked tart shell go the roasted vegetables: red and yellow pepper, zucchini, eggplant, sweet potato. The golden brown, sweet caramelized onions are scattered in, along with picked thyme leaves. Cheese (feta and ricotta) is broken into chunks and dropped in among the colourful medley, and topped with eggs beaten with heavy cream (I used half and half). Halved cherry tomatoes are nestled in, cut side up, to add to the loveliness, and more thyme is sprinkled on top. The cooking time for me was about an hour, but that would be due to the temp of my veggies.
                                                        This was an explosion of familiar flavours in an unusual combination. I loved it even more the next day, cold. I will be making this again. I was unsure about the sweet potato in the mix at first. The texture and the flavour don't seem to meld with everything else, but the more I ate the tart, the more I enjoyed the tuber in the collection. Another win for Mr. Ottolenghi.

                                                        8 Replies
                                                        1. re: Allegra_K

                                                          Just beautiful, what a lovely job you did on this tart. I've been considering this dish for dinner one night this week, you've just sold me.

                                                          1. re: Allegra_K

                                                            I must make this, I absolutely adore the recipe name.

                                                            1. re: Allegra_K

                                                              Allegra, how do you make your paneer? I love fresh, home-made paneer and tried making it several time without success. The problem is that it tasts grainy and falls apart. What brand of milk do you use? I am in Ottawa, we should have the same brands available or not.

                                                              1. re: herby

                                                                I am not a paneer making pro by a long shot, but I don't usually have issues with it. I generally follow the recipe in "Vij's" cookbook, using vinegar as the souring agent. As for milk, I use whole milk, usually the brands from Costco (Dairy....Glen?Land?) and Lucerne from safeway. Do you find that the brands make a huge difference? ( I ask this only because whenever I make paneer, it is to go with a spice-laden curry, so perhaps I am missing the subtle differences between milk brands.) I have access to fresh unpasteurized milk, as well, but have never yet attempted to make cheese with it, though I suspect that would be the ultimate way to go.
                                                                As for pressing, I fill my large and heavy dutch oven with water and place that over top of the cheesecloth-lined curds for several hours (or even more!) and if I have time, place the block in the fridge overnight. It stays firm by that point.

                                                                1. re: Allegra_K

                                                                  That's a very good idea on the pressing for things needing intensive pressing. Thanks.

                                                              2. re: Allegra_K

                                                                Very Full Tart, p. 84

                                                                Or Overflowing Tart. I used a standard loose-bottomed tart pan in the specified diameter, which is about an inch deep. Clearly, Ottolenghi's pan is deeper, and from her photo it appears that Allegra used a deep pan. I will, too, next time as with the pan I used there was no way in creation I could fit all the ingredients he calls for within its confines.

                                                                I made a couple of ingredient substitutions. As a couple of people I would be serving it to won't touch eggplant with a pole, I skipped it and simply used more zucchini. I also used evaporated milk in place of cream. I roasted the vegetables and sautéed the onions the day before, and took them from the fridge when I started blind baking the pastry. I didn't use his instructions for doing that and instead did my own thing, but after some consideration I followed his direction to drape the edge of the pastry over the edge of the pan and break off the extra after the tart is fully baked. While this undoubtedly gives a rustic look (entirely appropriate for the recipe) I realized that it also serves the purpose of preventing the crust from shrinking during blind baking. Because my tart was too shallow to accommodate everything, I didn't use all the onions or roasted vegetables and I used the feta, but not the ricotta. I also only used 150ml of evaporated milk rather than 200.

                                                                I served this just barely warm, close to room temperature, and it was just delicious. I will definitely make it again, in a deeper pan (a springform would work well), and with eggplant, which I love.

                                                                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                  This tart keeps intending to make that tart and never gets around to it. Beautiful, Caitlin!

                                                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                    Very beautiful, indeed. I too keep intending to make this, but haven't gotten to it yet. I was planning on using a springform pan, as it looks like the tart in Allegra's photo is about that depth.

                                                                2. Smoky Frittata, page 96.

                                                                  I made this for brunch today. Cauliflower florets are blanched and then fried in a skillet until golden on one side. Then a mixture of eggs, crème fraîche, mustard, smoked paprika, chives, and cheeses are poured into the pan. The recipe calls for a mix of smoked scarmoza ("often called smoked mozzarella") and cheddar. Scarmoza was not available in my town, so I used a mix of smoked red cheddar and fresh mozzarella.

                                                                  This was a good frittata, but I would not be likely to serve it again for breakfast or brunch. But that is just me, as I don't really go for most of the brassicas in the morning. I'd love to try it with the scarmoza the recipe calls for, but I'd make it as a tapa, probably. Alternately, I'd make this for breakfast, using all the same ingredients but substituting potatoes for the cauliflower.

                                                                  I served this with Feta and Watermelon which I posted about earlier in the neglected little fruit section:

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: L.Nightshade

                                                                    This is delicious and hearty enough that you should start serving people small slices. The smoke flavor is pronounced but not overwhelming. It is reminiscent of quiche Lorraine -- This wins the "I can't believe it's not ham" award.

                                                                    The texture is a little weird. Because of how the eggs and cheese fold into the cauliflower the cross-section looks curdled and not appetizing.

                                                                    1. re: L.Nightshade

                                                                      I Just made this. I made a lot of substitutions so I am not sure how fair it is to review it. But I think the idea is great. Frittata with cauliflower, cheese, and smoked paprika. I liked it but maybe bc of the cheese I used (Edam and A little smoked cheddar) it was a little bland - I added a few drops of hot sauce and it was awesome. I am happy I made this.

                                                                    2. Cabbage and Kohlrabi Salad (US pg. 99)

                                                                      This was delicious and I loved it. Keep in mind though, I LOVE cabbage. But, this was a nice refreshing salad and the dill and kohlrabi just kicked it up a notch.

                                                                      So, you slice the kohlrabi into matchsticks and you slice the cabbage into cole slaw size strips. Add lots of dill, lemon zest lemon juice, olive oil and garlic. The recipe also has you add sour cherries, which I didn't have and I didn't miss. Let this sit for about 10 minutes. Lastly, add alfalfa sprouts, salt and pepper. Mix it up and remove it from the bowl so that the juices remain.

                                                                      I tasted the cabbage before the sprouts and thought it tasted great then. It was even better with the sprouts and salt.

                                                                      This is a keeper of a recipe. I suggest trying it even if you don't have kohlrabi. It was a great addition, but this is just a really nice cabbage slaw salad.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: beetlebug

                                                                        Thanks for pointing this out beetlebug, it looks and sounds fantastic. I have to admit, I don't recall ever using kohlrabi so I'll have to give this recipe a try. Lovely!!

                                                                      2. Stuffed cabbage, p. 95 (US edition)

                                                                        The first thing you should do is start boiling water for softening the cabbage leaves. Doing this saved me a good bit of time compared to when he instructs you to do this.

                                                                        Start the filling by sauteeing some vermicelli (not the rice kind) in butter, and then adding rice. Once that's cooled, you add it to chopped toasted pine nuts, chopped parsley & mint, parmesan, and ricotta.

                                                                        His instruction to separate the cabbage leaves is to cut vertically down the center. I find this to cleave too many of the good leaves in half. Instead, I chopped off the root/bottom and carefully nudged the leaves off, chopping more of the root as I got toward center leaves. I also used two cabbages instead of one to ensure that I got lots of good leaves. There's a ton of cabbage leftover, but it's perfect for coleslaw. In two batches, I boiled them according to his instructions, but I used a lid. I put the cooked leaved in cold water as soon as the toughest part of the stem was just soft enough to bend without snapping.

                                                                        Rolling was simple. I placed the filling in the center of each leaf, folded the four sides, and put them seam side down into an 11x13 pan. The filling was enough to roll 13 pieces of stuffed cabbage into the tightly packed pan. Wine & broth were added to the pan before baking. Cooking and cleanup took 2 hours 10 minutes start to finish.

                                                                        I used Bellweather Sheep Ricotta, which is pricey and a delicious dish just by itself. I balanced out the expense of the dish by using a special wine from my cellar... 2008 Sauvignon Blanc from Charles Shaw :-)

                                                                        This is a dish that will enter my rotation for vegetarian entrees and was a hit at a dinner party. The ricotta and pine nuts combination make it very reminiscent of a lasagna I make from the Ciao Italia cookbook, but the stuffed cabbage is lighter, almost fluffy, and much easier to make. I might put a dash of nutmeg in the next time I make it.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: hyperbowler

                                                                          Yes! This dish is wonderful, and thanks for an excellent write-up of it. I suggest using your leftover cabbage as an ingredient in the Sweet Winter Slaw (p 102, US ed.) which is also excellent. The spicy caramelized macadamias from that dish are currently sitting next to me and causing my keyboard to get sticky. Yum yum.

                                                                          1. re: geekmom

                                                                            Spicy caramelized macadamias? Be still my heart.

                                                                        2. Savoy cabbage and Parmesan rind soup, pg. 104

                                                                          Parmesan added to a pretty standard cabbage and potato soup, with a little bit of a kick.

                                                                          To make this soup, start by sautéing an onion in olive oil until soft, but not browned, then add garlic and caraway seeds and cook for another couple of minutes. Add a head of shredded Savoy cabbage (minus 4 leaves that you shred and set aside) and a peeled, diced potato. After another couple of minutes, add broth to cover the vegetables and a parmesan rind, bring to a boil, and simmer for ten minutes. After letting the soup cool a bit, remove the parmesan rind, and "blitz roughly" with an immersion blender. Taste for salt (mine needed a lot!).

                                                                          For the garnish/topping, sauté the reserved cabbage with 1/2 a green chile for just a few minutes. Serve the soup topped with grated parmesan and this cabbage/chile mixture.

                                                                          I often make a cabbage and potato soup with green cabbage that gets pureed completely. This version, adding the parmesan and green chile, was just as easy to make and a fun variation. I would make it again. I served it with cabbage rolls, for a very cabbage-y dinner!

                                                                          This seems to be the same recipe, with the addition of croutons:


                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: Abby0105

                                                                            Thanks for the write-up. I have been squirreling away parmesan rinds in my freezer for a few months now in the hope of making this soup. I'm glad that you enjoyed the result & that it was relatively easy -- which you can't say about all the recipes in this book (although for some it's definitely worth the time and effort).