That ingredient you buy every single time you go to the market? The dish you'd happily eat five days in a row, tweaking just slightly each time? It's not just you! Even Yotam Ottolenghi, one of the most-celebrated contemporary cookbook writers, has his fallbacks: Eggplant, butternut squash, and figs, burnt, roasted, and turned into salad.
These ingredients and their respective dishes appear time and time again over the course of his five books (which we mapped out for you earlier this week).
The consistency suggests that these ingredients and cooking techniques are some of Ottolenghi's standbys—his cache of reliable and versatile MVPs—and the variations (sometimes subtle!) show his changing fixations and the progression of the books over time. As Ottolenghi himself has said of roasted squash and eggplant, "any new player has to have very good credentials to gain the respect of the old-timers and get a look-in on the menu."
Take a look at how some of Ottolenghi's signature dishes have evolved over the course of his books (and try to figure out how the new kids have earned their cred):
Roasted becomes burnt becomes South Asian becomes smoked (and a single component of a very involved dish).
Roasted squash goes from accessory to centerpiece and back again.
Raw and simple becomes complicated, then takes on a cooked component, then gets caramelized (ahh!), and finally, ceases to exist.
What's your signature, ever-evolving dish? Tell us in the comments below!
Graphics by Tim McSweeney