30 May 2011


In 2006, The Guardian asked Yotam Ottolenghi to write a weekly column on vegetables. “The New Vegetarian” proved to be a runaway hit with readers and it spawned Ottolenghi second cookbook, the vegetarian That led to a vegetarian Plenty. It is often noted that Plenty spent a great deal of time on the England’s best-seller lists jostling with some girl with a dragon tattoo! Who knew veggies could be so scintillating.

If there is any irony to this accomplishment, it is that Ottolenghi is not a vegetarian, himself. In fact, he caused quite the stir when he boldly announced, “You can be vegetarian and eat fish.” This sent the died-in-the-wool (or should I say, the-vegetable-dyed-in-the-hemp) vegetarians into a frenzy and her later tweeted, “To all, fish eaters are NOT vegetarians!”

I feel if you are going to be a vegetarian, you should be a vegetarian that eats meat, but I digress.

Recently, Yotam Ottolenghi paid a visit to Martha Stewart, who was gaga over Plenty. He made the following tart:

Caramelized Garlic Tart

375g all-butter puff pastry
3 medium heads of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
220ml water
¾ tablespoon caster sugar
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon chopped thyme, plus a few whole sprigs to finish
120g soft, creamy goat’s cheese
120g hard, mature goat’s cheese
2 free-range eggs
100ml double cream
100ml crème fraîche
salt and black pepper

1. Roll out the puff pastry into a circle that will line the bottom and sides of a 28cm, loose-bottomed tart tin, plus a little extra to hang over the edges of the tin. Line the tin with the pastry. Place a large circle of crumpled greaseproof paper on the bottom and fill up with baking beans. Leave the tin to rest in the fridge for about 20 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Place the tart case in the oven and bake blind for 20 minutes. Remove the beans and paper, then bake for a further 5-10 minutes, or until the pastry is golden. Set aside. Leave the oven on.

3. While the tart case is baking, put the garlic cloves in a small saucepan and cover them with plenty of water. Bring to a simmer and blanch the cloves for 3 minutes, then drain well.

4. Dry the saucepan, return the garlic cloves to it and add the olive oil. Fry the garlic on a high heat for 2 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and water and bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 10 minutes.

5. Add the sugar, rosemary, chopped thyme and ¼ teaspoon salt to the garlic in the pan. Continue simmering over a medium heat for 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated and the garlic cloves are coated in a dark caramel syrup. Set aside.

6. To assemble the tart, crumble both types of goat’s cheese into pieces and scatter them over the bottom of the pastry case. Spoon the garlic cloves and their syrup evenly over the cheese – the deliciously caramelised garlic will try to stick together in clumps.

7. In a jug, whisk together the eggs, creams, ½ teaspoon salt and some black pepper. Pour this mixture over the tart filling to fill the gaps, making sure that you can still see the garlic and cheese peeping through.

8. Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C/Gas Mark 3 and put the tart in the oven. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the tart filling has set and the top is golden brown. In my oven, this took almost an hour in total. If the tart’s golden and cooked on top but still wobbly, remove it from the oven and don’t worry – it will set as it cools. Leave the tart to cool a little.

9. When you’re ready to serve, remove the tart from its tin, trimming and tidying the pastry edge if needed, lay a few sprigs of thyme on top and serve warm (but not burning hot) with a crisp salad.

On Martha, he used American measurements, but my copy is from England so you have to ask Martha for conversions.

Or, you could pick up your own copy, which is what we would suggest. Ottolenghi has a nifty blog and he talks about his trip to New York, so, do check it out.

28 May 2011

Ottolenghi: The Cookbook

We have been spending a lot of cookbook time recently with Yotam Ottolenghi. Ottolenghi is an Israeli-born English chef. He has a a series of restaurants in England and this cookbook was all the rage. The cooking is not defined by a particular region though the influences are very Mediterranean and Middle Eastern. There is a lot of emphasis on vegetables and grains. He loves bold, bright flavors and cares about the ingredients. Of a philosophy of food Ottolenghi says:

"We take our food extremely seriously. We make everything – be it marshmallows, an elaborate upside down pear cake or a French bean salad - right from scratch. We don’t buy anything other than raw ingredients, and we only produce things that we would want to eat ourselves. We don’t use colouring or preservatives, we don’t freeze and we don’t refrigerate for long periods. We buy mostly local produce (that is, British and European), very often organic, and we cook to feed and to share, applying the same instincts as a home cook. But we are also perfectionists; testing and re-testing each dish until we get it just right; creating and maintaining beautiful and serene dining environments."

In 2002 he oped Ottolenghi, which was like a small deli and today there are 2 restaurants and three carry-outs. One of our favorites is a sweet potato gratin, so we are always on the lookout for chefs who make our humble favorite in new ways. This is a very interesting twist on our fave. the potatoes are rather thick and the skin is kept on. They are baked in a standing position for about an hour, then the cream is added for another half hour.

Sweet Potato Gratin

6 medium sweet potatoes
2 1/2 cloves garlic
250 ml heavy cream
5 tablespoon fresh sage
2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas mark 6. Wash the sweet potatoes (do not peel them) and cut them into discs 5mm thick.

In a bowl, mix together the sweet potatoes, sage, garlic, salt and pepper. Arrange the slices of sweet potato in a deep, medium sized oven-proof dish by taking tight packs of them and standing them upright, next to each other. They should fit 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 foil, place in the oven and roast for 45 minutes. Remove the 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.

This is a great way to solve that problem of getting the potatoes fully cooked. By standing them up, the potatoes have a nice visual look, too.

We liked this cookbook so much, that we could not wait for his next book to arrive...

18 May 2011

Fannie's Last Supper

I admit I am not a great fan of Chris Kimball. He boarders on the obsessively geeky and I find him a bit dry and didactic. That being said, all his obsessiveness has come up with some pretty cool ideas. I never make pumpkin cheesecake without first draining the canned pumpkin on paper towel and I would have never thought of that if not for Mr. Kimball.

When I saw that he had written a book about re-creating a menu from an old cookbook, well I had to read it. I love nothing better than gleaning elaborate menus form period publications and bringing them to fruition. If ever there was a place for Chris Kimball's fussiness, it is in re-creating a meal from Fannie Farmer's 1896 Cookbook.

Don't be discouraged by some of the lukewarm reviews of this book. Many people were initially critical of Kimball for tweaking the recipes. That is what Kimball does. He is Mr. Tweaker. There is no way that you can give Chris Kimball a recipe and not have him screw with it all day long and into the next.

Everything that Kimball changed was changed for a reason that he explained. The book is fun history of cooking, Boston, manners and Victorians. And for all the things he could have easily cut corners on, like using prepared gelatin, he went the distance like making his own gelatin from calves feet. Along with a rather funny explanation of how he went about finding calves feet. Here is his recipe if you are so inclined.

Homemade Gelatin From Calves Feet

This was a much less smelly and also an easier proposition than we had thought originally. Yes, you do need to purchase split calves' feet, but the good news is that this gelatin base can be used to thicken a great many jellies or puddings. We decided to use this gelatin in our lemon jelly but used regular powdered gelatin in the other two jelly molds. We did detect a slight aftertaste to the calves' foot gelatin, and did not want the flavor of the spatlese or rhubarb jellies to be affected.

4 calves' feet, split in two
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice, from 2 lemons
1 cup white wine

1. Soak split calves' feet in cold water for 1 hour; drain. Transfer soaked feet to 17-quart stockpot, cover with water and bring to boil for 10 minutes; drain. Return feet to stockpot, and add sugar, lemon juice, wine and 6 quarts of water to cover. Bring to boil, and reduce heat to maintain gentle simmer; simmer for 4 hours. Remove and discard feet; skim fat; strain liquid through fine mesh strainer. Let cool to room temperature. Transfer to refrigerator; chill overnight.

2. When it firms up, remove any fat from the top, wash the surface with warm water to remove all traces of grease. Lift out jelly, without disturbing sediment at the bottom. Use per recipe for Lemon Jelly Mold.

Yields about 3 quarts

Kimball even went so far as to procure and assemble an authentic Victorian cast iron stove into his Boston brownstone. It sounds exactly like a gigantic fire waiting to happen. In the end the whole thing was filmed for PBS. I never saw the documentary, but the book was delightful. I admit I read the selections on finding and refurbishing the stove first.

This book is a delight for those of you who are interested in the Victorian era and really I don't hold it against him that decided to make a zippier desert. Really! I am sure Fannie would have been proud.

Check out more recipes and info at Fannie's Last Supper.
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