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Yotam Ottolenghi Dishes on Veggies

(Reuters) — Israeli-born chef Yotam Ottolenghi serves up tips to jazz up vegetarian dishes in his newest, best-selling cookbook, “Plenty More.”

In the book, his fourth, Ottolenghi focuses on techniques like braising and roasting to extract flavors. He also showcases spices and condiments from Asia, Middle East and North Africa.

The 46-year-old chef and certified Pilates instructor, who lives in London and owns four restaurants, spoke to Reuters about the book, cooking techniques, and how to get children to eat more vegetables.

Where did you find the inspirations for “Plenty More”?

Ottolenghi: What inspires me week to week can vary in all directions: something I have tasted and want to experiment with myself, something I’ve read about which piques my interest or something a chef in the Ottolenghi delis or restaurants has brought to the menu which I want to share with the home cook.

Other times I will just see something in the grocers which I haven’t used for a while and that will spark an urge to bring it to the test kitchen and have a play.

What are some under-used cooking techniques to bring out the flavors in vegetables?

Ottolenghi: Some vegetables which people tend to boil really would benefit from roasting instead. Brussels sprouts, for example, can change from something a bit bitter, when boiled, to being a vegetable which is beautifully sweet and caramelized when they are roasted in a hot oven having been tossed in olive oil.

On the other hand, the delicacy and lightness of vegetables which tend to get roasted, slices of eggplant, for example, can benefit from steaming, which result in something very different from the ‘meaty’ slices of the vegetable you get from roasting.

What are some of ingredients you have featured in the book which have become your favorites?

Ottolenghi: I adore miso, tamarind paste made from a block of tamarind pulp and tahini paste. Kashk, a dried fermented yogurt, and the crunchy Cretan Dakos rusks, oven-dried crispbreads, are also favorites.

What are your tips to encourage children to eat more vegetables?

Ottolenghi: Eating your greens should be something to enjoy, rather than endure, so making them taste delicious is a good place to start. Laughter is also useful. If shaping the carrot and peas into a face on the plate works, with crazy broccoli hair, then that’s all good.

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