From Plenty: Vibrant Vegetables from London's Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi
At the end of last year, Plenty -- a new cookbook from London Chef Yotam Ottolenghi -- was turning up all over the place. It was mentioned in just about every magazine we receive, and we saw it on dozens of best-cookbooks-of-2011 lists.
A few weeks ago we reserved it from the library to see what all the fuss is about.
And let us tell you: It was love at first sight.
This book grabbed us at the introduction. Although Ottolenghi is not a vegetarian, he has written a column called "The New Vegetarian" for a British newspaper. This book is essentially a collection of recipes from that column, so it's all vegetables from the point of view of a meat eater. Often, recipes will include suggestions of what meat to serve along with the dish. Most of the recipes, though, look substantial enough to serve as the main dish of any meal.
As you know, we usually find ourselves at the carnivore end of the scale. But we've wanted to cut back the amount of meat in our diet. If you're looking to do the same, Plenty may be all the inspiration you need.
The book is categorized by vegetables ("Funny Onions," "Roots," "Leaves," etc.) and there are at least a dozen dishes we're eager to make. A Caramelized Garlic Tart. Chard and Saffron Omelettes. Sweet Corn Polenta. We're dreaming of spring and summer already.
But one dish lept out to us from the page: these Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango.
We hoard eggplant recipes.
Our CSA share usually gets very eggplant-heavy toward the end of the summer, so we spend the year clipping, saving and bookmarking new ideas for eggplant whenever we run across one that looks good. And in a section called "The Mightly Eggplant," Plenty has at least six eggplant recipes we want to try.
But it was these Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango that really called out to us, so we wasted no time in making them.
This recipe utilizes sharp flavors -- a sauce of rice vinegar, garlic, chiles, and lime -- to dress shallow-fried eggplant, soba and mango slices. It's all tossed in a bowl with thin slices of red onion, and then topped with herbs. It's an uncomplicated preparation, and you can serve it warm or cold. Ottolenghi suggests making it and then letting it sit for several hours.
This is the kind of vibrant dish that can brighten even the most dreary February day. It's both sweet and sharp, substantial but seemingly light. We loved the sautéed eggplant paired with the sweet mango. The onions we used were a bit too sharp, which is why we've added a few tips in the recipe below. And it's not often that we find ourselves eating fresh basil in the winter. On the one hand, it was depressing to be paying for basil when just a few months ago we had more on hand that we knew what to do with. But at the same time fresh basil leaves immediately get us thinking of warmer weather, spring planting and summer adventures.
Tomorrow, we'll be doing a giveaway featuring Plenty. We hope you come back then to find out how you can get a copy for yourself.
Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango
From Plenty: Vibrant Vegetables Recipes from London's Ottolenghi, by Yotam Ottolenghi
Buy a copy of Plenty
(This photo from Plenty, via SeriousEats)
Tips From Zach and Clay of The Bitten Word:
- Taste the red onion as you slice it. If it's especially sharp, soak in ice water for 10 minutes to mellow its bite.
- Unfortunately the leftovers from this recipe don't hold up very well. They still taste good, but the next day we found that our leftoveres -- especially the mango -- had lost their vibrancy. If you want to eat this over the course of several days, we'd suggest reserving somr of your mango unsliced, and then slicing it into the soba fresh the next time you want to eat it.
1/2 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 fresh red chile, finely chopped
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
grated zest and juice of 1 lime
1 cup sunflower oil
2 eggplants, cut into 3/4-inch dice
8 to 9 ounces soba noodles
1 large ripe mango, cut into 3/8-inch dice or into 1/4-inch-thick strips
1 2/3 cup basil leaves, chopped (if you can get some use Thai basil, but much less of it)
2 1/2 cups cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced
In a small saucepan gently warm the vinegar, sugar and salt for up to 1 minute, just until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the garlic, chile and sesame oil. Allow to cool, then add the lime zest and juice.
Heat up the sunflower oil in a large pan and shallow-fry the eggplant in three or four batches. Once golden brown remove to a colander, sprinkle liberally with salt and leave there to drain.
Cook the noodles in plenty of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally. They should take 5 to 8 minutes to become tender but still al dente. Drain and rise well under running cold water. Shake off as much of the excess water as possible, then leave to dry on a dish towel.
In a mixing bowl toss the noodles with the dressing, mango, eggplant, half of the herbs and the onion. You can now leave this aside for 1 to 2 hours. When ready to serve add the rest of the herbs and mix well, then pile on a plate or in a bowl.