Last Friday, the king and queen of the today’s food world came for lunch. It was Yotam Ottolenghi and Heidi Swanson’s joint book signing—the first in our new office!—and there was no way to play it cool.
Heidi swaggered in in an all-black ensemble with a smile that glowed (and not just because of her neon pink lipstick). Yotam entered with the chef of his restaurant Nopi, Ramael Scully—and, had he been the pope, might have received the same welcome. They’re celebrities in many of our editors’ eyes—but for reasons more heartfelt than lipstick and cologne.
Yotam Ottolenghi in many ways is responsible for bringing vegetable cookery and Middle Eastern cooking mainstream—with Plenty and Jerusalem respectively. “He showed how adaptable, flexible, and completely wonderful and exciting they are,” Riddley explained. Sam said Yotam’s cookbooks made her feel like she could cook sophisticated food, and Super Natural Every Day and Jerusalem were the only cookbooks I brought with me when I moved east. Sarah admires both of their abilities to establish books that are so uniquely theirs; you can pick out a Yotam recipe anywhere—same with Heidi. Plus, she added:
“Each of them has such a knack for what is instinctually appealing and delicious. Also I want to be their friend.”
Their recipes are also admirable because, as we learned last week, you can cook them for 100 people in a home kitchen and not give up. (The key? Lots of helping hands.) Our test kitchen chef Josh Cohen planned a menu with recipes from Near and Far and Nopi that was cohesive and elegant: “Their approaches to food are very similar—take quality ingredients, make them taste like themselves,” he explained. I suppose there’s another reason why these people have changed the way we cook.
Here’s the menu we dearly enjoyed at the event and how Josh got it all done:
Mixed Cauliflowers with Golden Raisins, Ricotta, and Capers from Nopi
Cauliflower can be cut down quickly (as opposed to, say, shelling beans). We used a mix of classic white, orange, purple, and Romanesco cauliflower.
Tartine Aux Endives from Near & Far
Josh always likes to serve come sort of crostini at a party—it’s popular, easy to eat, and scales up easily.
Lamb Meatballs with Warm Yogurt and Swiss Chard from Nopi
“Seasoning one pound or nine pounds of meat is basically the same. You just have to find someone patient enough to roll out 250 balls.”
Farro Salad from Near & Far
This farro salad studded with green olives, walnuts, chives, and raisins could sit around for awhile, its strong flavors only getting stronger and therefore better.
Spiced Buttermilk Cod with Urad Dal from Nopi
The cod could be marinated the day before and then just finished in the broiler the day of. And the dal had a striking color—lightly red from tomatoes—but with a rainbow of flavor: chiles, ginger, curry leaves, and yellow mustard seeds. I’d bet you’ll find more than one editor making this dal for lunch; it was a real standout.
Strong Ginger Snaps from Near & Far
These cookies could be made the day before (likely more if pressed)—and while there is molasses, you wouldn’t know it: They are pure ginger in flavor.
Almond Cake with Amaro Glaze from Near & Far
Similar to the ginger snaps, the cake was made in advance—and perfumes exclusively of almond paste.
Second image by Liz Andrew; Near and Far image by Rocky Luten; Nopi image courtesy of Ten Speed Press; all others by the editors.
Tell us in the comments: How have Yotam and Heidi changed the way you cook?