Read up on some of 2014’s most-loved cookbooks, tested and reviewed by the one and only Food52 community.
Until recently, I was not a believer in cookbooks. I thought it was silly to pay for a book when I could scour the internet for free recipes instead. But now I'm a changed person. It started when I bought Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook, Jerusalem. I now own all four of his books.
Plenty More builds on the vibrant vegetable recipes in its prequel, Plenty. I've heard Ottolenghi speak, and I've read a few articles he's written for his column on vegetarian recipes in The Guardian. He isn’t vegetarian, but he feels strongly that a vegetable-heavy diet should not be limiting; he calls this the "Vegi-Renaissance."
Unlike in Jerusalem, the recipes in Plenty More don’t follow a specific ethnic cuisine. Instead, they draw from many flavors and a variety of interesting ingredients. I like that the recipes are inspired by the flavors of Asia, India, and the Middle-East, but don’t commit specifically to any one of them. Ottolenghi is incredibly creative in substituting traditional ingredients with less expected ones. Who else would have thought of courgette baba ganoush or Steamed Eggplant with Sesame and Green Onion? The layout of the book is quite intriguing, as well -- chapters are categorized by cooking method: tossed, steamed, blanched, braised, grilled, roasted, and baked.
One of my favorite dishes in the book is Lentils with Hardboiled Egg -- it's also one of the simplest, displaying a fantastic balance of flavors and textures. The bite of fresh red onion and herby coriander contrasts beautifully with the heartiness of the lentils and their warm, earthy spices. The recipe is brightened with just enough acid to play against the spice and tahini; and I say this as someone who loves to exclaim, “There isn’t enough acid,” in critique of any dish I eat. Ottolenghi suggests that you can have this meal for breakfast or dinner, and I couldn’t agree more.
Next I tried a Sprouting Broccoli and Edamame Salad with Curry Leaves and Coconut. I must have made this recipe 3 times to ensure consistency. Perhaps it has to do with my husband’s aversion to curry leaves, but it wasn't our favorite, as curry leaves have a very distinct taste. The first time I made the recipe, I used desiccated coconut; the second time, I shaved fresh pieces of coconut into the dish. Still, it lacked the depth of flavor that we hoped for.
More: Want to know more? Read our interview with Yotam Ottolenghi.
Ottolenghi's Mixed Vegetables and Yoghurt with Green Chili Oil is similar to recipes from his previous books, in that it's full of flavor and a real crowd pleaser. The combination of yogurt and roasted vegetables is fantastic, and I love the extra heat that the green chili it adds to the recipe.
I also attempted the Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pomelo and Star Anise recipe a few times, once with ruby red grapefruit, which has a slightly more pronounced flavor compared to the pomelo. This recipe wasn’t a favorite of ours. I was drawn to the sweet and spicy Asian influence of the ingredients, but it didn't wow us, and the bitterness of the Brussels sprouts against fresh citrus and sweet syrup was slightly odd.
Once I got started with Plenty More, it was difficult to stop. I tested a variety of other recipes from the Alphonso Mango and Curried Chickpea Salad to the Crushed Puy Lentils with Tahini and Cumin. Each recipe is served with a rich explanation of the dish and accompanying visually stunning photographs. It is simply a beautiful book.
First and last photos by Mark Weinberg; others by Bobbi Lin