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Chris Hennes

Cooking with Ottolenghi's "Plenty"

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58 minutes ago, Chris Hennes said:

Green couscous (p. 255)

 

DSC_2097-Edit.jpg.119626b38492017869c3ad

 

This was a very good salad that was prevented from being great by a single missing ingredient. I don't know what it is, but it's missing! :) The flavors worked well together, and it was an interesting combination of tastes and textures, but it needed one more. Something to pop -- probably an acid, but maybe a dried fruit. Maybe adding more feta would have done the trick, or something like pomegranate seeds or tiny tomatoes. I'm not sure, to be honest. It was certainly easy to make, so I'll probably play around with it a bit and post again.

Maybe barberries?

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1 hour ago, Chris Hennes said:

 

Green couscous (p. 255)

 

This was a very good salad that was prevented from being great by a single missing ingredient. I don't know what it is, but it's missing

 

 

Capers?

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5 hours ago, Anna N said:

I have the book and it calls for 1 tablespoon of baking powder to 3/4 cup  self raising flour. 

Thanks, I checked my recipe and it also says 1 T baking powder, so clearly my brain isn't working very well. I believe what I did was use 2 tsps of baking powder instead of 1 T. I suspect that if I actually put in 2 T of baking powder I would have tasted it!

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On 3/24/2016 at 9:10 PM, liuzhou said:

 

Capers?

I tried capers in the leftovers for lunch today since they were an easy option, but I think I need something more distinct. The capers sort of got lost. I might try pomegranate seeds next time.

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For today's lunch, I made the pasta and fried zucchini salad:

IMG_2675.thumb.jpg.e87c8671b646ba1a5d37b

 

I had small zucchini to use up so I sliced them lengthwise rather than in cross section. There's also a handful of sugar snap peas in there that weren't part of the recipe.  Instead of fresh mozzarella, I used homemade ricotta that I had on hand.  After frying the zucchini and making them all nice and golden and crispy, I hated to douse them with the red wine vinegar, but it does rather transform them and makes the dish special.  

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The ultimate winter couscous (p. 262)

 

DSC_2119.jpg.1f7c940cb04507a0190ad6c9fc0

 

First suggested by @rarerollingobject in this post, I made this for dinner on this decidedly not winter day, and it was still delicious. I'll be honest, I'm a sucker for roasted parsnips, so it was probably a forgone conclusion that I was going to like this dish, but I thought that all the flavors and textures came together nicely. It would be a great dish to serve guests -- the flavors were complex enough to satisfy food-lovers, but not so exotic that your less-adventurous friends will be freaked out.

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Looks great, @Chris Hennes. It is, in fact, one of my standby dishes to serve to guests because a) everyone loves it and b) so much of it can be prepared in advance, especially if I have to come home from work and make dinner for people; I just chop all the vegetables up the night before and leave them in a roasting tin, with the spices in one corner and the salt in the other, and cover and chuck the whole thing in the fridge. Then when I get home, I pull out the whole roasting tin, douse in some olive oil, mix it around, and bang it in the oven.

 

I usually chop all the garnishes in advance too, and have the dry couscous standing by in a bowl with a lid, ready to just tip some boiling water and salt into.

 

I try to keep this vegetarian, but if any of my guests are truly meat-tooth types, I will also usually have marinated some lamb cutlets in ras el-hanout spices and olive oil and whack them under the broiler for the last few minutes, since the oven's so hot anyway, or cook them plain and then douse them in pomegranate molasses.

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Saffron cauliflower (p. 106)

Green lentils, asparagus and watercress (p. 220)

 

DSC_2135.jpg

 

For some inexplicable reason the photo of the cauliflower dish in the book is of the raw ingredients rather than the finished dish, which I think makes it look sort of boring and insipid. Well, it's neither! It's a fairly classic flavor profile, with green olives and golden raisins providing sharp flavor bursts to a deliciously saffron-infused roasted cauliflower. It's also one of the easier dishes in the book to make, and really only requires one dish (though he calls for two, one to toss the ingredients together and one to bake them in).

 

I served it alongside this warm lentil and asparagus salad. The dressing is a simple but delicious blend of watercress, parsley, olive oil, and red wine vinegar, and he has you serve it with bits of pecorino romano cheese. I went with slices, though he calls for chunks. Probably either would work. It actually calls for plain green lentils, rather than Puy or Castelluccio, so it cooks quickly as well.

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Itamar's bulgur pilaf (p. 242)

 

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In the description of this dish, Ottolenghi calls this "full of little surprises." Emphasis on full. There are 2 tablespoons of whole coriander to 2 cups of bulgur. In every bite you are hit with coriander, with the occasional respite of the 2 teaspoons of pink peppercorns. I like coriander and all, but this was a bit much for me. I'd be inclined to even things out and go with two teaspoons each of pink peppercorns and coriander. In its current incarnation basically none of the other flavors mattered, because the coriander was so dominant. If his other recipes were studies in carefully-achieved balance, this was a study in why balance matters, and what happens when it goes wrong.

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Surprise tatin (p. 22)

Asparagus mimosa (p. 182)

 

The tatin is pretty involved, requiring separate cooking of tomatoes (slow-roasted in the oven), potatoes (boiled), onions (sauteed), and a quick caramel prepared. Not to mention that the recipe calls for puff pastry. I suppose store-bought is what he meant, but I am not really a fan, so I made my own. The tomatoes are roasted for 45 minutes, and the potatoes boiled and onions sauteed in that time:

DSC_2149.jpg DSC_2151.jpg

 

You then make a dark caramel and spread it in the bottom of a pan (it doesn't spread very evenly but it doesn't actually matter:

DSC_2153.jpg

 

Sprinkled with oregano, topped with potatoes, then tomatoes:

DSC_2155.jpg DSC_2158.jpg

 

Onions, then an aged goat cheese:

DSC_2159.jpg DSC_2163.jpg

 

Puff pastry, then bake:

DSC_2166.jpg DSC_2168.jpg

 

It comes out of the pan looking great:

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Served with asparagus mimosa:

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These were both delicious. My wife commented that the tatin was good, but might not be worth the effort, but I enjoy making puff pastry so I think it evened out. This wasn't the best dish in the book just in terms of pure interest, but it was quite good, and it looks very impressive when whole. I'd like to use a stronger cheese next time, and maybe sub out half the potatoes with parsnips. The asparagus is classic, of course, and pretty hard to go wrong. If you can get nice fat spears, this is a great way to serve them.

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I was just reviewing the recipe I am using for dinner tomorrow night, the Puy lentil galettes (p. 208), and he calls for 1 1/4" thick puff pastry cut into 3" circles. That strikes me as insanely thick! Has anyone tried that recipe? Is that thickness really correct?

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...and, I'm going to answer my own question. Whoever translated this from metric to imperial misread the original recipe, presumably thinking that the 3mm called for was really 3cm!! 3mm, or about an eighth of an inch, is a far more reasonable thickness. There is a lot of this going on in the US edition of this book. I wish they had at least left the metric measurements in for reference so we could more easily catch these errors. It reminds me of Peterson's Sauces, in which every single tablespoon of everything is automatically 15g, no matter what the substance. Heaven help anyone trying to use the metric version of his recipes.

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Puy lentil galettes (p. 208)

 

DSC_2195.jpg

 

This dish was the real reason I made homemade puff pastry yesterday -- the recipe calls for "best-quality puff pastry," which I definitely figure means homemade. I used the original recipe from the Guardian for the ingredient proportions here to avoid any other unexpected mishaps with the metric conversion (in particular, I had read somewhere that the US edition has too much yogurt in it). I also added a bit of extra lemon juice. The recipe calls for "juice of one lemon" so I figured that maybe my lemon was below average. Or maybe I just like things with a bit more acidity that he does.

 

Overall I liked the effect of the dish. I'd be inclined to give the spinach a bit of a chop next time, and I think you could halve the quantity of the entire salad if you only want four galettes worth. I have a lot of salad leftover right now.

 

I intended to serve this with his Char-grilled asparagus (p. 182) but I forgot to buy feta this weekend, so I made that recipe but then shredded some Pecorino on top instead. Not a great sub, actually, next week if the asparagus looks as good as it did this week I'll give this another shot.

 

DSC_2201.jpg

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Lentils with broiled eggplant (p. 116)

 

DSC_2203.jpg

 

Once again the key here is getting the various ratios correct: the lentils are really flavored only with red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper, so it's worth futzing with the quantities to get things to your taste. Invariably for me this means adding a bit more vinegar and a ton of black pepper. The texture of the still-firm carrots was a nice contrast to the eggplant and creme fraiche, and I particularly liked the use of the dill here. This recipe is much easier to make than many of his others, so if you are looking for something relatively quick for a weeknight dinner, I think it probably took me 45 minutes to an hour to make this, start to finish.

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Castelluccio lentils with tomatoes and Gorgonzola (p. 222)

 

DSC_2215.jpg

 

I actually used Puy instead of Castelluccio here, I just couldn't stomach paying $20/lb for lentils. Can anyone comment on whether there is enough difference between the two to make the Castelluccio worth trying?

 

That aside, I enjoyed this dish. I found the Gorgonzola bits to be a nice surprise whenever one appeared in a bite, though to be honest a slightly less aggressive cheese (or maybe just a less aggressive Gorgonzola) would probably have been better. There is plenty of flavor in the rest of the salad, but the Gorgonzola sort of stole the show when it made its appearance. Don't get me wrong, I love the stuff, but I think in this context something that plays nicer with the other flavors might be called for.

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On 4/7/2016 at 8:06 PM, Chris Hennes said:

That aside, I enjoyed this dish. I found the Gorgonzola bits to be a nice surprise whenever one appeared in a bite, though to be honest a slightly less aggressive cheese (or maybe just a less aggressive Gorgonzola) would probably have been better. There is plenty of flavor in the rest of the salad, but the Gorgonzola sort of stole the show when it made its appearance. Don't get me wrong, I love the stuff, but I think in this context something that plays nicer with the other flavors might be called for.

It would make a very different dish, but looking at the other ingredients, I wonder if perhaps feta might be a better match than the gorgonzola.

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I think that I like the idea of this dish. I might try to take a spin on it. It looks that your cheese chunks are quite large, maybe using finer crumbs will help the flavor meld better. Maybe using a more mellow gorgonzola dolce or a less assertive, more rounded roqfouet will work better? 


Edited by shain (log)

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On 4/8/2016 at 6:36 PM, shain said:

I think that I like the idea of this dish. I might try to take a spin on it. It looks that your cheese chunks are quite large, maybe using finer crumbs will help the flavor meld better. Maybe using a more mellow gorgonzola dolce or a less assertive, more rounded roqfouet will work better? 

 

I think all of those ideas are probably good, definitely go for it, and let us know what you thought.

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Spicy Moroccan carrot salad (p. 14)

Sweet potato cakes (p. 32)

 

DSC_2221.jpg

 

Ah, jalapenos. Some weeks they are pathetic. Other weeks... not so much. This week they are intensely spicy, which made the carrot salad, though delicious, a bit over the top. The recipe calls for "2 medium green chiles, finely chopped" which I, fool that I am, blindly followed because normally I like food on the spicier side. Ouch. Obvious moral to that story is don't be stupid, add half the called-for chile and taste-test before going whole hog. Other than that the taste was quite good, if not overly exciting. I've had variations on this salad before and this was one of the tastier, more successful of those I've made.

 

The sweet potato cakes were delicious. Nothing really unusual to them, the ingredient proportions just came together nicely to give a very good final product. They are pretty friendly, with only a little bit of heat, and enough sweetness to satisfy most palates, I think.

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Caramelized garlic tart (p. 38)

 

DSC_2233.jpg

 

This delicious tart used up the last of my homemade puff pastry from last week, and it was worth it. You begin by cooking the garlic with balsamic vinegar, sugar, rosemary, and thyme until the garlic is cooked and the sugar caramelizes. This is layered into a tart that's already been filled with a half pound of cheese (4 oz chevre and 4 oz goat gouda). There's just enough custard to hold things together. The result is an intensely cheesy tart with pops of caramelized garlic accented by a crisp, buttery crust. It's a bit involved in terms of steps, but the finished product is excellent.

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Ohhh, man, that looks awesome, but not like something you could eat a lot of or eat often. Would the flavors work on, say, the scale of a grilled cheese sandwich?

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2 hours ago, MelissaH said:

Would the flavors work on, say, the scale of a grilled cheese sandwich?

I've never tried to make a grilled cheese with chevre, but I supposed it would just wind up held together by the gouda. Other than that, I don't see why you couldn't make the garlic, chop it roughly, and scatter it on. I didn't find it to be all that heavy, it was fairly typical for a tart. It's pretty thin.

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Roasted parsnips and sweet potatoes with caper vinaigrette (p. 16)

 

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Fantastic, one of the best recipes in the book. It's another one of those dishes that you could easily serve less adventurous guests (just tell them it's "roasted vegetables") but that will still satisfy the food nerds at the table as well. The flavor balance is wonderful here, with the lightly roasted tomatoes complementing the caper vinaigrette exceptionally well to add an extra dimension to the roasted parsnips, sweet potatoes, and onions. There is nothing exotic here, but everything works together so well, giving a final dish that is much greater than the sum of its parts.

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Leek fritters (p. 36)

 

DSC_2258.jpg

 

These were good fritters, but all told not really worth the time. If they had taken 30 minutes to make I'd recommend them wholeheartedly, but they just weren't interesting enough to warrant the hour they took to prepare. On the plus side, the flavor was good, and the huge amount of baking powder and whipped egg white made for very light, fluffy fritters. On the minus, I thought the leek pieces were too large and could have benefitted from a much smaller cut. Overall good, but not great.

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