Yotam Ottolenghi is the owner of four very famous to-go food shops in London and writes a weekly vegetarian column for The Guardian. This cookbook is a collection of over 12o of his wonderful recipes. His flavors come from around the globe: recipes with mediterranean, chinese and middle eastern flavor profiles. As you might suspect, this makes it pretty difficult to use fresh local ingredients for these recipes if you are cooking in New England in early April. Maybe I should go back to California, hmmm.
For me, there is so much to be learned from the complex combinations of flavors that he creates in these vegetarian dishes. Last night I made the Very Full Tart and a fennel, beet and asparagus salad.
Very Full Tart
A fantastic Mediterranean feast full to the brim with roasted vegetables.
Serves 4 to 6
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
about 6 TBS olive oil
1 medium eggplant, cut into a 2 inch dice
1 small zucchini, cut into a 1 inch dice
2 bay leaves
11 oz pie crust dough
8 thyme sprigs, leaves picked
1/4 cup ricotta
4 1/2 oz feta
7 cherry tomatoes halved
2 medium eggs
1 cup heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 450 F. Use a small serrated knife to cut around the stem of the peppers and lift it out along with the seeds. Place the two peppers in a small baking dish and drizzle with a little oil and put on the top shelf of the oven.
Mix the eggplant in a bowl with 4 TBS of the olive oil and some salt and pepper. Spread in a large baking pan and place in the oven on the shelf below the peppers.
After 12 minutes, add the sweet potato dice to the eggplant and stir gently. Return to the oven and roast for another 12 minutes. Add the zucchini, stir and roast for another 10 minutes. At this point, the peppers should be brown and vegetables roasted. Remove all from the oven and reduce the heat to 325 F. Cover the peppers with foil and cool, then peel and tear roughly into strips.
Heat 2 TBS of olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Saute the onions and bay leaves and some salt for 25 minutes, until they turn brown, soft and sweet. Remove from the heat, discard the bay leaves and set aside.
Lightly grease a 9 inch loose-bottomed tart pan. Roll out the pie crust dough to a circle about 1/8 inch thick and large enough to line the pan plus extra to hang over the rim. Line the dough with a large sheet of parchment paper and fill it with pie weights or dried beans. Bake the crust for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the paper with the weights, then bake for 10 to 15 minutes more, or until it turns golden brown. Remove and allow to cool a little.
Scatter the cooked onion over the bottom of the crust and top with the roasted vegetables, arranging them evenly. Scatter one half of the thyme leaves over. Next, dot the veg with small chunks of both cheeses and then with the tomato halves, cut side up.
Whisk the eggs and cream in a small bowl with some salt and pepper. Carefully pour this mixture into the tart. The cheese and tomato layer should remain exposed. Scatter the remaining thyme leaves on top and bake in the oven for 35 to 45 minutes or until the filling sets and turns golden. Remove and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before removing from the tart pan.
The asparagus at the grocery store is starting to look promising. It’s from California, but I am going to practice with it so I am ready when we have locally grown asparagus. I am going to give you the recipe below as it was written by Yotam Ottolenghi. I couldn’t find verjus, so I made a champagne vinagrette with a little mustard and lemon juice and it was great.
Asparagus, fennel and beets with verjus
4 mini beets (about 1/4 pound)
1 1/3 cup verjus
1/4 grapeseed oil
salt and pepper
1/2 large fennel bulb, halved
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 TBS dill leaves to garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Trim most of the stalk from the beets, leaving a little of the top of each beet for the look. Put them into an ovenproof dish, cover it with foil and bake it for about 45 minutes**, or until the beets are cooked through. Remove from the oven and leave to cool before cutting into halves or quaters (you may want to peel them if the skin is tough.***
Pour the verjus into a small saucepan, bring to a light simmer and leave it to reduce to about 3 TBS. Transfer to a mixing bowl, and allow to cool down, then whisk the grapeseed oil and salt and pepper to taste. Put aside.
If using normal asparagus****, cut the spears on a sharp angle into long and very thin slices, or use a potato peeler to make shavings. Place the fennel cut side down onto a mandolin and shave into paper thin slices. The slices will have a hand shape.
To assemble, arrange the vegetables on small serving plates. Scatter with pine nuts and drizzle over the dressing. Garnish with dill and serve.
**If there is one thing I learned at Chez Panisse, it is how to roast a beet. We rinsed the beets with water leaving a small amount of water in the pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Cover tightly with foil and roast until tender (about 45 minutes to an hour).
***Only allow the beets to cool enough that you will not need to be hospitalized with third degree burns before peeling by rubbing with a dish towel. They are easier to peel when they are still quite warm. I let them sit in a little vinaigrette as soon as I had peeled and sliced them.
****The asparagus that I used were pencil thin, so I blanched them for about a minute in salted water and then cooled them off quickly under cold water.
Hope you enjoy these recipes,