Last Monday many of D.C.’s top foodie writers met at Jose Andres’ Zatinya for a chance to discuss Ottolenghi, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s third cookbook to hit U.S. kitchens. This being one of my first events of the kind, I felt a little out of sorts with my accomplished company. I soon came to realize through introductions that everyone was warm and inviting, much like the array of Ottolenghi dishes brought before us. The crowd favorite? Cauliflower and cumin fritters with a lime yogurt. In later discussion with Sami Tamimi, I learned this was one of the many wonderful dishes his mother prepared for him growing up in Jerusalem.
Ottolenghi and Tamimi, owners of 3 deli’s and a restaurant in London have amassed an impressive following in the states over the past few years with their Judeo-Arab inspired recipes found in their titles Jerusalem and Plenty, two widely acclaimed cookbooks of 2011 and 2012.
Ottolenghi happens to be the first book the pair had written and released together dating back to 2008, but it has been until now that the book is making it’s first appearance in the U.S. Standard measurements and all!
Praised for its simplicity, Ottolenghi’s recipes are broken into three sections – vegetables, meats and pastries. Easy to navigate, the recipes are beautifully arranged alongside large colorful photos and accompanied with a snippet of advice and/or a thoughtful personal anecdote.
As a at-home-chef I would rate my abilities at a skilled beginner level, but when I cracked open Ottolenghi one evening last week I was surprised at how easily I understood the recipes. Ottolenghi prides itself on being a curation of dishes full of fresh and vibrant ingredients. So to do it justice I decided to first prepare a recipe I felt was great for fall, Danielle’s sweet potato gratin.
6 medium sweet potatoes
5 tbsp coarsely chopped sage, plus extra for garnish
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tsp coarse sea salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup heavy cream
2) In a bowl mix together the sweet potatoes, sage, garlic, salt and pepper. Arrange the slices of sweet potato in a deep medium-size oven proof dish by taking tight packs of them and standing them up next to one another. They should fir together quite tightly so you get parallel lines of sweet potato slices (skins showing) along the length or width of the dish. Throw any remaining bits of garlic or sage from the bowl over the potatoes. Cover the dish with aluminum foil, place in the oven, and roast for 45 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and pour the cream evenly over the potatoes. Roast, uncovered for a further 25 minutes. The cream should have thickened by now. Stick a sharp knife in different places in the dish to make sure the potatoes are cooked. They should be totally soft.
3) Serve immediately, garnished with sage.
*Note you can also use thyme in place of the sage, or use both. Serves 4-6.
Total time to prepare: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 65 minutes
The sweet potatoes turned out wonderfully. They were rich and savory and perfectly paired with the roasted chicken I purchased from Whole Foods on my way home that night. With the holidays in tow I plan to cook my way through the rest of Ottolenghi. Next up – the cauliflower cumin fritters and the champagne chocolates.
Upon asked when they would be bringing one of their popular deli’s and wonderful treats to the U.S., Tamimi smiled coyly and replied that no plans are in the works.
Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi