Ottolenghi Book Solves Holiday Menu Conundrum
Holiday menus at my house are a puzzle indeed. My sister and her husband don’t eat red meat or chicken. Our dear family friend Cecile is allergic to fish. Pasta doesn’t feel festive — and anyway, there’s always someone going gluten-free. All this means no brisket, roast chicken, baked salmon or Bolognese for us.
Just as I was beginning to consider my rather knotty Rosh Hashanah menu in earnest, an early copy of Yotam Ottolenghi’s new cookbook landed on my desk. It’s called “Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking From London’s Ottolenghi” (Ten Speed Press). Like so many of us, I was a fan of the original “Plenty” (Chronicle Books, 2010), and of the Israeli-born chef’s “Jerusalem” (Ten Speed Press, 2012), written with Sami Tamimi.
The new book has the riotously colorful, ridiculously tempting images we’ve come to expect — they were shot by Jonathan Lovekin — and the same sorts of exotic, multilayered, if generally uncomplicated, recipes, heady with spices, hearty with interesting grains and legumes, and bright with unexpected combinations of fruits, vegetables and herbs. Sourcing the more esoteric ingredients can be a bit of a challenge, but less these days, with so much available online from specialty shops such as Kalustyan’s.
Brussels sprout risotto would be our main course. It looked hearty and vibrant, incorporating shaved Brussels sprouts within creamy, lemony, cheese-rich rice and fried quartered ones on top. (This is a good dish to make with a helper, so one person can stir the risotto while the other does the shallow frying.)
Since figs are in season, I chose fig salad with toasted hazelnuts and roasted red onion on a lovely bed of radicchio and greens. The dressing was dusted with cinnamon, offering a warm, alluring note. When I spied honey-roasted carrots with tahini yogurt, I knew I’d found my side. Not only would we dip apple slices in honey before the meal and eat honey cake for dessert, but we’d even incorporate honey into dinner itself. Surely this would make for an extra-sweet year ahead.
When I cooked a pre-Rosh Hashanah run-through of the meal, the table was full of carnivores — and all male, except for me. Would they find the menu somehow unsatisfying? Would they miss the meat?
The middle schooler cleaned his plate almost before the rest of us were finished serving ourselves, then went back for more risotto. The teenager, not always so keen on salad, kept digging into the platter and couldn’t stop eating the glazed carrots, instructing the rest of us to make sure to get some of the tahini sauce with them.
At the end of the meal, I asked what everybody thought.
“Incroyable!” my husband, Mark, bellowed in his best French accent, which he breaks out for special occasions.
“Nice spices,” 11-year-old Teddy said. “I liked the spices.”
“Best Rosh Hashanah meal I’ve ever had,” Mark said. “The flavors are very earthy, which I associate with fall. The risotto had a flavor combination that I never would have expected, but it was awesome.”
“It brings sexy back to Rosh Hashanah,” concluded Rex, the high school senior.
So there you have it. No one missed the meat.
Liza Schoenfein is the new food editor of the Forward. Contact her at [email protected]