Let's start with the recipes in Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty that I have no interest in. This will prove that I have a critical eye and don't always give a ringing endorsement to everything in my possession. Of course, this criticism has never actually been leveled at me, but given my generally paranoid personality I'd like to prepare a preemptive defense.
Resolved: I will not make the following four dishes.
Cabbage and kohlrabi salad
Okra with tomato, lemon and cilantro
Scrambled smoky duck eggs on sourdough
I think that's pretty much it. The remaining recipes in this stunning 287 page book I will probably make, eat, and hyperventilate about at some point, which is why I plunked down $35 (full price!) at an actual, physical bookstore just over a month ago. Locals who have never been to Books Inc. on Castro Street in Mountain View should really get some shabu-shabu and then walk over to show this indie bookshop some love. If you invite me to join you, I probably will. Let's shabu!
Also, did I mention that Plenty has a pillow-top cover, like a mattress? I would totally fall asleep on it should aliens invade the Earth and steal my bedding.
Several recipes speak to me in seductive, come-hither tones, including the Very Full Tart (with red and yellow peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, feta, and ricotta), the Artichoke Gratin, the Cardamom Rice with Poached Eggs and Yogurt, and the Figs with Basil, Goat Cheese, and Pomegranate Vinaigrette. Add to that list about 50 more.
I recently commandeered the book's Green Couscous to make this huge salad, which I brought to a pool party at my friend Becky's. The dish is quite substantial, plus I tripled it, so it fed about 60 million people. The spray of summer vegetables elicited oohs and ahhs, and since I used whole wheat couscous, I also earned a perfect 10 on the whole grain richter scale. Take that, Nadia Comăneci.
But the real reason you should give this book a look is the lusciousness of the photographs and the sheer splendiferousness of the recipes. This is a book I am very thankful came out a year before my own. I hope it will prime the pump so that when RIPE hits, people are all, YES! WE LOVE VEGETARIAN COOKBOOKS WRITTEN BY PEOPLE WHO ALSO LOVE SHABU-SHABU!
Not that I know whether Yotam Ottolenghi even eats shabu-shabu. But if he does, and he invites me to join him, I probably will.
Recipe for Big Couscous Potluck Salad with corn, feta, and herbs
This salad would make an ideal contribution to a Labor Day potluck. Go ahead and swap in any vegetables that are abundant near you. The herb paste makes it green, and beautiful, and special.
Inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty (Chronicle Books, 2011)
Serves 12 (may be halved)
6 ears corn, husks and silks stripped and discarded
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed
3 cups whole wheat couscous
2-1/4 cups boiling water (I use a tea kettle)
1/3 cup (loosely packed) flat-leaf parsley
1 small bunch cilantro, leaves and upper (tender) stems only
1 cup (loosely packed) mint leaves
1/2 cup (loosely packed) basil leaves
2/3 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
4 to 8 small ripe orange, red, or yellow tomatoes, quartered
4 to 6 ounces crumbled feta
Prepare an ice bath and set aside.
Bring a tea kettle and a large pot of water to a boil. Boil the corn in the pot until tender, about 4 minutes (more or less), assuming it's very fresh. Work in two batches, if necessary. Remove the corn with tongs and set aside to cool. Before dumping the water, drop in the green beans and boil for 2 to 3 minutes, until al dente. Drain the beans and transfer to the ice bath. Drain again and pat dry.
Set the couscous in a large serving bowl. Pour 2-1/4 cups boiling water from the tea kettle over the couscous, cover, and set aside for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
Meanwhile, make the herb paste. Drop all the herbs into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Drizzle in the olive oil and whirl until blended and emulsified. Scrape over the couscous and fork through. Cut the corn kernels from the cobs. Fork half of the corn through the couscous. Taste, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Transfer to your widest, largest serving bowl.
Sprinkle the remaining corn on top. Mound the tomatoes and green beans in the center of the bowl. Sprinkle the entire lot with the feta. Just before serving, drizzle generously with additional olive oil. Serve at room temperature.