Vegetarian Delight with Ottolenghi
In the midst of the dog days of summer, slaving away in a hot kitchen—roasting or baking meats and preparing other rich dishes—just doesn’t appeal to the home chef. For vegetable and general summer cooking inspiration, who better to turn to than Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, the famed London duo behind the burgeoning Ottolenghi restaurant empire in England’s capital and the authors of several cookbooks, including Jerusalem and the upcoming Plenty More (due out in October; both books published by Ten Speed).
These two recipes—Fennel, Cherry Tomato and Crumble Gratin and Radish and Fava Bean Salad—come from the recent American reissue of the pair’s first tome, simply called Ottolenghi: The Cookbook. The chefs’ focus here on light dishes infused with herbs, olive oil and other layers of flavor—and no doubt largely inspired by their Israeli childhoods steeped in Mediterranean cooking—translate seamlessly to delicious summer cooking. Enjoy, and stay cool. Oh, and because I couldn’t resist a little something chocolate-y, try Ottolenghi’s Macadamia and White Chocolate Brownies, they are delicious.
Fennel, Cherry Tomato and Crumble Gratin
2 1/4 pounds fennel bulbs (approximately 4-5 bulbs)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon thyme leaves, plus a few whole sprigs
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
scant 1 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
10 1/2 ounces cherry tomatoes on the vine
1 teaspoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
crumble (recipe below)
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Trim off the fennel stalks and cut each bulb in half lengthwise. Cut each half into slices 2/3-inch thick. Place in a large bowl with the olive oil, thyme leaves, garlic, salt and pepper and toss together. Transfer to an ovenproof dish and pour the cream over the fennel. Mix 1/3 of crumble recipe with the grated Parmesan and scatter evenly on top.
2. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and arrange the tomatoes on top. You can leave some on the vine and scatter some loose. Scatter a few thyme sprigs on top. Return to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes. By now the fennel should feel soft when poked with a knife and the gratin should have a nice golden color. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for a few minutes. Sprinkle the chopped parsley over the top and serve hot or warm.
Crumble—Makes about 1 pound 5 ounces
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup superfine sugar
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1. Put the flour, sugar and butter in a bowl and mix with your hands or an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment to work it to a uniform bread crumb consistency. Make sure there are no lumps of butter left. If using a mixer, watch it carefully. Within a few seconds, a crumble can turn into a cookie dough. (If this unpleasant scenario happens, roll it out thinly, cut out cookies, bake them, and dip half of each cookie in melted chocolate.)
2. Transfer the crumbs to a plastic container. It will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days or for ages in the freezer.
Radish and Fava Bean Salad
1 pound shelled fava beans, fresh or frozen
12 ounces small radishes
1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1 ounce preserved lemon, finely chopped (available at gourmet stores and online retailers like Amazon.com)
juice of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
scant 1 cup Green Tahini Sauce (recipe below)
4 thick rounds of pita bread
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Place the fava beans in a pan of boiling water and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes, depending on size. Drain with a large colander and rinse in plenty of cold water to refresh them. Remove the beans from their skins by gently squeezing each one with your fingers.
2. Cut the radishes into 6 wedges each and mix with the fava beans, onion, cilantro, preserved lemon, lemon juice, parley, olive oil and cumin. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. To serve, pile a mound of salad in one corner of each serving plate, pour the Green Tahini Sauce into a small bowl and stand it next to the salad. Set a pita next to them.
Green Tahini Sauce—Makes 1 1/3 cups
2/3 cup tahini paste
2/3 cup water
5 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Process all the ingredients in a food processor or blender (except the parsley) until smooth. Add more water if needed. Add the parsley and turn the machine on again for a second or two. Taste for seasoning.
Macadamia and White Chocolate Brownies
Makes 8 to 10
1 1/2 cups macadamia nuts
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus melted butter for greasing
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 1/2 ounces dark chocolate, broken into pieces
1 cup plus 2 1/2 tablespoons superfine sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons instant coffee
7 ounces white chocolate, broken into pieces (or use white chocolate chips)
1. Brush an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan with melted butter and line with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 325. Sift together the flour and salt. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes, then remove from the oven.
2. Put the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl and place over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the water does not touch the base of the bowl. Leave to melt, stirring from time to time. As soon as the butter and chocolate have melted, remove the bowl from above the water. This is important! You need to avoid getting the mixture very hot.
3. In a large bowl, lightly whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla and instant coffee. Work them just until combined, a few seconds only, as there is no need to incorporate any air into the eggs. Fold in the melted chocolate mixture and then the sifted flour. Fold in the white chocolate and half the nuts. Pour the mixture into the lined pan and top with the remaining nuts.
4. Place pan on the center rack of the oven and bake for roughly 25 minutes, then start checking for doneness. When you stick a skewer inside your cooked brownies it must come out covered with lots of gooey crumbs, not with dry crumbs, but it mustn’t be the type of wet mix you start off with. It should be thicker and sticky to the touch, with a tendency to set once it has cooled a bit. The brownie should also have risen slightly in the oven and its surface should be totally dry.
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