Monday, November 10, 2014

Sleep apnea is a new low for us

Last night, we celebrated my father's birthday and I took the opportunity to delve deeper into Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty More than the tastes of my nuclear family will generally allow. 

The menu: 

yogurt and kaffir lime leaf spread with pita toasts (Plenty More)  
spiced lamb shanks (last week’s New York Times
roasted red onions with walnut salsa and goat cheese (Plenty More
saffron, date, and almond rice (Plenty More)
pear and chocolate pudding (Laurie Colwin)

Fairly good meal. 


The yogurt and kaffir lime leaf spread was essentially tzatziki, the bland yogurt-cucumber dip you’ve probably eaten before in Greek restaurants, but jazzed up here with minced kaffir lime leaf. Tasted only mildly exotic. The recipe calls for a tiny amount of melted butter to enrich and mellow the yogurt, but knowing what I do about Ottolenghi’s palate, I added more butter than called for. You should too. We liked this, though there was a suspicious amount left over. Recipe here

The superrich spiced lamb shanks used up all the saffron in the house. Expensive. That was strike one. Strike two: 24 hours later I'm still full. Not entirely fair, given the other heavy dishes on the menu, but I blame the lamb.

The roasted red onions were dressed while still hot with a salsa of olive oil, vinegar and walnuts, then served on arugula with chunks of goat cheese. About that salsa: punishingly sour. Three tablespoons vinegar to one tablespoon oil? I sloshed in extra oil until the salsa didn’t make me pucker. Doctored with additional fat, we liked these onions immensely. Recipe here. (But remember about the extra oil.) 

The saffron, date and almond rice was, as the name suggests, a pot of rice (basmati) studded with crunchy fried almonds and chopped dates. As the name doesn't suggest, you can make this without the saffron. I'd used all our saffron in the lamb and was resentful. I resent saffron! It wasn't worth $8 or $15 or $20 to me to render some already delicious rice marginally more fragrant and delicious. You may feel differently. 

I first made chocolate pear pudding in March 1996, according to my note in the margin of Laurie Colwin's More Home Cooking. Isabel wasn't even born yet. Last night I mindlessly stuck little candles in the pudding while it was still warm and they were almost all melted by the time my father blew them out. Not the ideal birthday cake, but a truly wonderful dessert. You should try it. Recipe here

Anyway, a sweet family party. We discussed Isabel’s college applications, the catcall video, sleep apnea, my sister’s smashing new GAP cords, and whether anyone at the table could do a handstand push-up. That last sentence sounds like a grim joke and I've tried to remember some zany or profound topic we covered to make this dinner sound less boring, but I can’t. Nothing.

In truth, it wasn't boring. In truth, it was lovely.


  1. The dinner doesn't sound boring but PLENTY MORE kind of does. Am I the only one who thinks that? I recently took it off my birthday/Christmas wish list.

  2. You are not the only one who thinks so. I was wondering yesterday how much more Plenty More cooking will constitute due diligence.

  3. This sounds like a lovely family meal, not boring at all. I love that free form conversation that occurs when everyone is relaxed and comfortable. Plenty More doesn't sound like my kind of cookbook either. However the rice sounds very good. I have been looking for some new cords, so could you give me just a little more information about your sister's smashing cords? Why were they smashing?

    1. They were this pretty pale burgundy color -- I can't describe it, exactly. And the line was very slim. Not tight, just very slim and smooth along the leg, no bunching at the lower calf. I don't know how they fit in the waist or hips because she was wearing a long sweater, but from the mid-thigh to the ankle, they were perfection. I'm going to try some on this week, if I can get to the GAP, because the price is right.

  4. I just haven't been impressed with any of the Ottolenghi books. The recipes are over complicated, and all too often the flavors aren't balanced. Why he has caught on so much is a mystery to me, since there are so many other excellent Middle Eastern cookbook authors. Claudia Roden's books are always reliable, Nawal Nasrallah's Delights from the Garden of Eden (2nd ed.) is a gem and the recipes work, and Greg Malouf has several good books. By the way, I buy saffron at Indian grocery stores. The quality is excellent, and the price is a small fraction of what it is elsewhere. It keeps for several years if kept tightly sealed in a glass jar and out of the light.

    1. I will remember to buy saffron next time I'm in an Indian grocery store.
      I've been thinking a lot this morning about Ottolenghi and have theories about why he's so appealing, because he is. I feel it when I open the books. They're just so warm and sunny and enticing, the vegetables all looked so sensual and relaxed. I know there are some great recipes in there. My sister has favorites from Jerusalem, but my experience has been very checkered.

    2. I buy saffron at Trader Joe's.

  5. It was not "fairly good". It was wonderful!

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