This is a sequel to the last post, curried butternut squash soup, as well as the 98 posts preceding it. Butternut squash from the Fitzgerald’s farm is going to be the main ingredient and the farm-to-table theme carries on. Importantly and incidentally, this is the 100th post since I started this food blog over a year ago, an occasion worthy of a special celebration. I had the faintest idea what and why I wanted to blog. There is more clarity, finally, one year into the journey.
Lucky for me, my dear friend R invited me to a food talk at New York 92nd St Y yesterday. The guest speaker was none other than the acclaimed chef and food writer I greatly admire, Yotam Ottolenghi. He and Ramael Scully, the head chef at one of Ottolenghi’s restaurants in London, NOPI, were on tour to launch their latest cookbook, NOPI.
I was thrilled to attend Ottolenghi’s talk, covering the genesis of his culinary career, how he has influenced the food world and his collection of recipes. He started by answering the question who taught him how to cook. He credited his style of cooking and his palate to his parents, both are keen and adventurous cooks.
Obviously he loves to eat, especially vegetables. Me too, Yotam! However, he can’t possibly be a big eater judging his trim waistline and quick steps. Not an extra ounce of fat on him. Working in the test kitchen and tasting a lot of dishes is part of his job. I’d like to believe he must be eating all the right stuff. The right stuff being a variety of vegetables, but without being a vegetarian. Some of his recipes include meat, fish and dairy. Just the way I like to eat.
I am all for eating more fresh vegetables and without sacrificing big flavors. The first time I read Plenty More, I was hooked by the vibrant color, texture and flavor of Ottolenghi’s dishes. 24 out of the 100 posts I’ve written on this blog are his recipes. A few of them are on my list of all-time favorites. I guess I am considered one of his big fans.
Ottolenghi said he worried not being able to develop new recipes, for the Guardian’s food column, in the beginning of his career. With growing confidence, his skill and repertoire continue to expand. The latest incarnation is NOPI. He and Scully are drawing inspiration and innovation from Asia. Star anise and ginger are likely to show up in more places in the new cookbook. I am ready for it!
Butternut spuash was mentioned here and there. His toddler son used to eat it too, until there was a change of appetite.
I found the recipe for roast butternut squash with red onion, tahini and za’atar on his website. I want to make the dish, since there is an open jar of tahini in the refrigerator. But I was out of za’atar. I bought some from Whole Foods to make the dish. (Too powdery and not as bright as I’d like.) I wish Ottenlenghi would offer a recipe for a homemade version of za’atar.
My travel to Turkey and the Spice Market in Istanbul a few years ago had stimulated my senses; I’ve been intrigued by Middle Eastern flavors. Cooking along and guided by Ottolenghi’s recipes has helped me to develop a more diverse palate. A long list of unfamiliar herbs and spices no longer deters me to try making the dish. There is no going back.
There was a question asked about what Ottolenghi would like to eat for his last meal. For Scully, it is mom’s curry. For Ottolenghi, it’s a rice dish with lentil, fried onions and lots of spices.
|Roast Butternut Squash with Tahini|
|Apricot Walnut Lavender Cake|
I have two of my own, both are Ottolenghi’s recipes, if I have to answer the same question. Should there be no tomorrow, I would indulge myself with abandon over his stirring, delectable and sweet/savory treats: apricot, walnut and lavender cake, and squash quince and Stilton quiche. But that is subject to change after I try his new dishes from NOPI. Top on the list is the beet and honey cheesecake.
|Squash Quince and Stilton Quiche|
Tidbits: Do you know that Ottolenghi began his career as a chef in the pastry department of the Capital Restaurant in Knightsbridge, moving on to become head pastry chef at Baker and Spice? No wonder his dessert recipes are out of the world. I bet he can write a sweet/savory cookbook with the same healthful, fruity, vegetable-forward style as his other cookbooks. That’d be huge success considering the long lines every morning for cronuts outside of Dominique Ansel Bakery on Spring and Thompson St.