Cook the Book

Cook the Book: 'Ottolenghi'

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It should come as little surprise that here at Serious Eats, we're big fans of Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. Jerusalem was one of our favorite cookbooks last year, and Plenty has made the rounds in our kitchen, as well. So when we found out that the pair was re-releasing their debut cookbook, Ottolenghi, for a U.S. edition, we were more than thrilled. It gave us a whole new reason to explore the flavors that first brought Ottolenghi and Tamimi their much-deserved fame.

If you're unfamiliar with the book, and game to draw comparisons, Ottolenghi is more Plenty than Jerusalem—it presents a fusion of styles, flavors, and techniques. There'll be a recipe for kofte baked in tahini on one page, followed by sweet beef and pork pie on the next. There is a similar focus, as well, on creative vegetable- and grain-centric side dishes, but Ottolenghi doesn't exclude meat. As could be expected from a cafe cookbook, Ottolenghi is about 50% baking recipes, some savory, some sweet. The pastries have less of a Middle Eastern influence, but the pair's love of lemon, parsley, and garlic shines even here. Many ideas overlap between the three books; you can see the evolution of the chefs through the way they present items like roasted butternut squash and charred eggplant.

The recipes themselves could have been more tightly edited. While all of the UK-US conversions were nice to have, it seemed like some of the cooking times and proportions were a bit off. It's hard to say if these errors stemmed from the original book, or if they were a symptom of the re-release.

That said, these problems can all be fixed with small tweaks, and the Ottolenghi magic still shines through. Cooking from this book means that you will find yourself mixing ingredients, techniques, and flavors you'd probably otherwise never think of. Mushrooms and cinnamon, cucumbers and poppy seeds, lentils and sour cherries—these unique fusions exemplify the vibrancy of the Ottolenghi kitchen, and can breathe new life into simple, weekday cooking.

We'll get to try a week's worth of Ottolenghi specialities, from a couscous and oven-dried tomato salad to gorgeous sweet potato galettes. Plus, we'll also have seafood salad with lime and fennel, stuffed portobello mushrooms, and honey-slicked roast chicken with saffron and hazelnuts.

Win 'Ottolenghi'

Thanks to our friends at Ten Speed Press, we have five (5) copies of Ottolenghi to give away this week. All you need to do for a chance to win is tell us about your most inventive side dish in the comments section below.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, KQED's Bay Area Bites, and Berkeleyside NOSH. Follow her @KateHWiliams.

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