|sludge with a generous dollop of kashk|
In about twenty minutes a Prune lamb shoulder comes out of the oven and I really want to say a few concluding word about Plenty More before galloping off with Gabrielle Hamilton.
I’ll get straight to the point: I have no idea why Yotam Ottolenghi is so phenomenally popular. He comes across as urbane and amiable. His dishes feature intriguing, seductive combinations of ingredients. The photographs are gorgeous. But the food I’ve cooked from Plenty More fails to live up to any of that. It's possible I picked the wrong Ottolenghi book to cook from, so help me out here, Ottolenghi fans. Which is his best book? What are the classic Ottolenghi dishes? I will happily cook them. I want to understand.
Unfortunately, I have to end the Plenty More chapter with a downbeat round-up of recipe reports. I don’t like writing these. I feel like a prig, picking apart dishes that didn’t please her majesty. But since they're integral to my critique of the book, here goes:
-The Iranian vegetable stew with dried limes was a tart, frumpy melange of butternut squash, spinach, potatoes and barberries. I made a pot of this for my lunches and by the middle of of the week it was a struggle not to jump in the car and drive over to the frozen custard shop instead of heating up another bowl of nutritious sludge. It was a struggle I eventually lost.
-You’ve made dozens of tastier pasta dishes than the misleadingly-named grilled ziti with feta, a tomato sauced pasta that you top with three kinds of cheese and run under the broiler so the cheese gets leathery and the noodles crunchy. Needlessly fussy. Not great.
-The sweet potatoes with orange bitters required too many ingredients and too much work (fresh-squeezed oj boiled down to a syrup, bitters, two heads of garlic, sage, thyme, goat cheese), given the pedestrian dish I eventually put on the table.
-Ok, the halvah ice cream with chocolate sauce and roasted peanuts was delicious, although halvah ice cream isn’t as exciting as it sounds. I wouldn’t make it again. You could achieve much the same effect by crumbling halvah on store-bought vanilla ice cream.
Here’s the breakdown from the thirteen Plenty More dishes I tried:
worth price of book -- 0
great -- 1 (the squash with chili-spiked yogurt and cilantro pesto)
good -- 8
so-so -- 4
bad -- 0
Shelf essential? No.