I [heart] Ottolenghi

I cannot remember if I have mentioned it or not, but I am newly enamored with a celebrity chef.

Generally, I don't jump on the bandwagon for a chef too easily. I always find some one thing or other that gives me pause for the praise. You know, the constant use of one ingredient or seasoning that makes everything taste the same... Or they sauce everything so that you can't even see what you are eating... Or, worst of all, the food is bland.

But not with Yotam Ottolenghi - I have yet to find a single flaw with his style, use of seasonings, myriad textures or unusual ingredient combinations.

I first discovered him one sleepless night in December. As is often the case when I can't sleep, I get out my iPad and start trolling my favorite blog sites for new and interesting recipes. One of them, a cookbook site, had a little feature on Yotam Ottolenghi's newest book, Plenty. The cover photo alone was stunning and pulled me right in... beautifully roasted eggplants smothered in a yogurt cream strewn with za'atar and pomegranate seeds. Oh, my....

Even without seeing a single recipe within, the review told me all I need to know. This is a book of vegetarian food that would make a carnivore forget that steak even existed. Not that I am ever impetuous, but I had to have the book. Right then. Immediately!

There was no way I could wait for it to come in the the mail, or for morning light to get me and my credit card to Barnes and Borders. (You know - Barnes and Borders.... next to Pier, Crate and Barn in every mall in America?) No, I bought it online for my iBooks app so I could read it all night long. And I did.

I have now made several recipes in the book and each one has been a winner. Soon after getting the online book, Ottolenghi was featured in an article called the "The New Veg" in the January 2012 issue of Bon Appétit (C'mon, BA - salmon in a vegetarian article?? Seriously?). Anyway, the recipes in the article are great (even the salmon), and we particularly enjoyed the quinoa and fennel salad.

By the way, Ottolenghi himself is not a vegetarian, which (to me) makes his cooking even more amazing. He doesn't feel he needs any meat, chicken or fish to make these veggies shine.

On top of creating wonderful taste sensations, his works are beautiful. The photos of these dishes are works of art unto themselves. Whoever said, "We eat with our eyes," was right. The cookbook (or the online version, anyway) doesn't say who took the photos. Whoever s/he is, I am fully impressed - there is pure genius at work here. When I shoot photos for the blog, I aspire to presenting something palatable. But you have to see his versions after you have seen my attempt. You will be amazed.

If you ever get to London, you have the opportunity to visit his four restaurants, all of which get terrific reviews. Oh, how I would love to have this man cook for me! But, for now, I will cook for me (and Mark) and will use his recipes. And, should he ever come to Tucson, he is welcome to pop in and we can cook together!

~ David

Surprise Tatin

1 1/2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 pound baby potatoes, skins on
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon butter
3 oregano sprigs
5 ounces hard goat's cheese, sliced
1 sheet puff pastry

Preheat the oven to 275°F. Halve the tomatoes and place them cut-side up on a baking-sheet. Drizzle over some olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in the oven to roast for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 25 minutes. Drain and let cool. Trim a bit off the top and bottom of each potato, then cut into 3/8-inch thick discs.

Sauté the onion in 2 tablespoons olive oil and some salt for 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

Once you've prepared all the vegetables, liberally brush a 9-inch cake pan with oil and line the bottom with a circle of baking-parchment.

In a small pan cook the sugar and butter on a high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, to get a semi-dark caramel. Pour the caramel carefully into the cake tin and tilt it to spread the caramel evenly over the bottom. This must be done quickly, as the caramel will set and won't spread.

Pick the oregano leaves, tear and scatter on the caramel. Lay the potato slices close together on the bottom of the pan. Evenly distribute the tomato halves over the potatoes and then the onions over the tomatoes. Spread the slices of goat's cheese evenly over the vegetables.

Cut a round of pastry that is 1 inch larger in diameter than the cake pan. Lay the pastry lid over the tart filling and gently tuck the edges down around the potatoes inside the tin.  (At this stage you can chill the tart for up to 24 hours.)

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bake the tart for 25 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350°F and continue baking for 20 minutes, or until the pastry is thoroughly cooked.

Remove from the oven and let sit for two minutes only. Hold an inverted plate firmly on top of the tin and carefully but briskly turn them over together, then lift off the tin. (See last "Note" below.) Serve the tart hot or warm.

• I used baby San Marzano tomatoes from the farmers market as they were only slightly larger than grape tomatoes, and had so much more flavor.
• I didn't have any hard goat's cheese so used soft chèvre that I had on hand
• I prefer regular pastry over puff pastry as it is kinder to the diner with the fork in hand... And it is also homemade - which I also prefer.
• In no way am I saying my changes improved on his tart - I simply used what I had on hand and there were no complaints at the table!
• Finally, I wish I could say mine came out as beautifully and as easily as his. I had to replace a few potatoes here and there that got stuck to the parchment which did NOT release from the pan! That is why I added the word "liberally" to the directions when talking about preparing the cake pan.


  1. this is amazing!!!!! I'm definitely going to make this, David!!! ♥

  2. You will love this! The way he combines the sweet and savory is amazing. And maybe I will get you and David over to dinner soon and I can make something like this for you!

  3. Wow-This looks amazing! And I just love saying his name! :-)

  4. I know - I wish I had a really cool name! How can you not [heart] someone named Yotam Ottolenghi?

  5. I love chefs who promote vegetarian meals even though they themselves are not veggie. Nigel Slater and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall are a couple of others who do this. I feel that they have a resepect for fresh, grown produce and therefore I can trust them. I have been meaning to go and get this book, I have no more excuses now! Your photos are so colourful and appetising!

  6. Wow, David! Looks amazing as usual. I've been wanting to experiment with puff pastries-- this looks like the perfect recipe to try!

  7. Anna - I will look forward to finding out more about Nigel and Hugh! And I agree on your assessment that they really appreciate things that are local and in season. Your compliments about my pics is high praise from a master such as yourself! Thanks so much!

    Tulika - this is a definitely good one to try - I know you will love it it has all your favorites in it!

  8. THAT is one of the most interesting recipes I've run across--and, of course, I should not be surprised to find it on YOUR blog! If it is anything like his Two-Potato Vindaloo, I know it will be marvelous! So glad you had a sleepless night...well, on this occasion I am glad but, of course, don't make it a habit even if wonderful chefs beckon!

  9. Susan, this is every bit as good as his two-potato vindaloo! Mark was skeptical about the caramel but, in the end, loved the slight sweetness that worked so well with the caramelized onions and roasted tomatoes!

  10. This is like my perfect recipe. Great combination of flavors! What is it about this guy and his cooking? I just bought Plenty and can pretty much spend the next months cooking my way through the entire book!

  11. Paula - I know! He is amazing - in fact, I am making his saffron pasta with spiced butter sauce tonight - with a few additions from when I made it first. Am adding apricots and cutting the butter! (Had toxic butter shock the first time!)

  12. By the way, I´m just discovering your blog and you´re doing something great here.. good writing and those pictures!

  13. Wow, David! I just "discovered" your blog & it's just gorgeous! I'm thinking of trying this with Mozzarella. Your photos are incredible, too.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  14. Thanks, Paula and Susan! Welcome to Cocoa & Lavender - I have been enjoying Paula's blog for some time now, and just spent some time on yours, Susan! Great stuff!! ~ David

  15. David, this looks wonderful! I feel like I've been missing out... I've never heard of Ottolenghi. Perhaps it's terrible that I've just read this post at 11pm at night. I think I'm going to be losing sleep reading his e-book within the next half an hour ;) Wonderful recipe. I love your step-by-step photographs. Such gorgeous colours and fresh ingredients. I've missed reading your blog! The past few weeks have been a little bit crazy so I have a lot to catch up on! Hope you and Mark have been well!

    1. Oh, Laura - have you got a treat in store for you! You are going to LOVE Ottolenghi! His new book Jerusalem is also amazing. Thanks so much fro catching up - it is so easy to get behind! (I know from personal experience!)


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