Simply Great

As a real cook I don’t often use recipes. By now I have built up a collective knowledge of culinary information that I just cook. Throwing different things together and tasting is my modus operandi. Baking is a different story. I have learned that to be a successful baker I need to use a recipe and measure.

Although I may not cook from recipes I do appreciate reading them. Sometimes I read something so complicated that interested me that I actually follow the recipe. There are certain food writers who are better at writing recipes than others. Ina Garten is always reliable to write a good recipe, but most of what she writes about or cooks I already know.

A few years ago Russ gave me a cookbook called Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi, an Israeli chef living and working in London. It quickly became my favorite cookbook when I wanted to make something new and exotic. His middle eastern flare was a refreshing take on vegetables, as the book was all about vegetables. The recipes were often complicated and included many hard to source ingredients, yet I still persisted in cooking his dishes.

Over the years Russ would give me all his cook books and I often would just read them for inspiration as they all were equally educational. This Christmas Russ gave me his latest book Ottolenghi Simple. At first it seemed like a step backwards, like learning the Hebrew alphabet after you already were fluent in Hebrew.

Tonight we had our friends Dave and Cynthia for dinner as their kitchen is being remodeled. I decided to look for dinner ideas in the Simple Book. Although the recipes are quicker than those in previous books, they are no less delicious. I did use them as a starting point from which I tweaked and added my own twists. So Lamb meatballs with pistachios, feta and arugula, green lentils with roast eggplant and cherry tomatoes, and beets with preserved lemons and red onions made a tasty dinner that hardly took me anytime to prep.

If you have never tried anything from Ottolenghi start with Simple. It won’t disappoint you and most certainly will introduce you to a whole new flavor palate. If you like it move quickly to Plenty More, still my favorite cookbook of all time.

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