“Simple” is not the usual description of an Ottolenghi recipe. Yotam Ottolenghi, the Israeli-English chef and restaurateur, is known for his rich palette of ingredients, drawing on a wide variety of flavorings, often with of Middle Eastern origin. But his new collection is simple:
Short on time
Ingredients: 10 or fewer
Easier than you think
In his lively and informative introduction, Ottolenghi defines these terms in the context of the book, acknowledging that everybody has a different idea of what simple cooking is. To help cooks make their decision — do you like make-ahead dishes or short on time dishes? — each recipe is tagged by one or more of the simple initials.
But this helpful feature is not the most important aspect of Simple. The dishes are planned for busy cooks who don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen yet want to sit down to a flavorful and satisfying meal, and Ottolenghi surely succeeds on this measure. Take his variation on shakshuka, Braised Eggs with Leek and Zaatar, flavored with cumin seeds, preserved lemons, and feta. A zesty brunch or light supper, it’s quick and easy to prepare, but — more important — delicious. Or spice up a simple roast with Harissa and Confit Garlic Roasted Potatoes. Confit? Don’t be put off by the language, Ottolenghi warns; it’s just slow-cooked garlic that can be prepared two days in advance. And for dessert try Hazelnut, Peach, and Raspberry Cake, a lovely joining of fresh seasonal fruits.
Ottolenghi challenges the home cook to experiment with new ingredients and flavor combinations, with an emphasis on his standards — abundance, freshness, and surprise. Surprise is perhaps the key ingredient. Carrot Salad with Yogurt and Cinnamon, Baked Mint Rice with Pomegranate and Olive Salsa, Garry’s Stir-fried Cabbage with Garlic and Chile. Ottolenghi encourages cooks to stretch their repertories and their palates. His pasta and rice dishes give those traditional comfort foods a new twist with somewhat unexpected but easy to find ingredients.
Handsomely illustrated with tempting full-color photographs, Simple covers the entire range of foods. The vegetable and grain sections are substantial, many dishes have no meat or fish, and a good number of them are vegan. Kosher cooks will have to be selective but may enjoy the Middle Eastern/Israeli edge in many dishes. To help cooks take advantage of these flavors, there is a list of ten “Ottolenghi” ingredients that he champions; they may take a little bit of shopping, but he prizes them for the boldness they bring to the table and urges cooks to give them a try. Simple is the Ottolenghi cookbook that lets the everyday cook into his adventurous world of flavors. Suggested meals, index.
Honey and yogurt set cheesecake
No oven, no bain-marie, no cracks — this is the simplest of cheesecakes! You can make this up to 2 days ahead, topping with the honey and thyme just before serving if you like. It will keep in the fridge but the base will soften with time.
2 cups plus 2 tbsp/500g Greek-style yogurt
About 12 (7 oz/200g) Hobnobs (or other oat-flour cookie)
¼ cup/60g unsalted butter, melted
1½ tbsp thyme leaves
14 oz/400g cream cheese, at room temperature
¼ cup plus 1 tbsp/40g confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 lemon, finely zested to get 1 tsp
5¼ oz/150g white chocolate, broken into ½ – ¾-inch/ 1 – 2cm pieces
3 tbsp/60g honey
1. Line a 9-inch/23cm springform cake pan with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Line a sieve with a clean kitchen towel and set above a bowl. Spoon in the yogurt, then draw up the sides of the kitchen towel. Squeeze the yogurt into a ball, pressing out as much liquid as you can. You want to end up with about 12∕3 cups/340g of thickened yogurt. Set aside until required. Discard the liquid.
3. Place the Hobnobs in a clean plastic bag and crush them finely with a rolling pin. Mix with the butter and 1 tbsp of the thyme and spoon into the cake pan, pressing it down to form an even layer. Set aside in the fridge.
4. Whisk together the cream cheese, strained yogurt, confectioners’ sugar, and lemon zest until smooth and combined; this can be done in a stand mixer or using a handheld mixer.
5. Next melt the chocolate. This needs to be done in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (taking care that the base of the bowl is not touching the water). Stir the chocolate frequently for 2 – 3 minutes, taking care not to get any moisture into the chocolate as this will cause it to seize. Spoon the melted chocolate into the cream cheese mixture and whisk until combined.
6. Spread the cream cheese mixture over the cookie base evenly, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until set.
7. When ready to serve, warm the honey in a small saucepan with the remaining 1½ tsp of thyme leaves until thin and runny. Remove from the heat and drizzle over the cheesecake.
8. Release the cheesecake from the pan, divide into 8 slices, and serve.
“Reprinted with permission from Ottolenghi Simple: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi, copyright © 2018. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.”