Of the four recipes from Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi that I’ve made so far, this Pasta & Fried Zucchini Salad is the only one that I haven’t had to restrain myself from altering.
With the others, the changes my fingers itch to make range from a tiny tweak because I prefer other flavors to completely abandoning my intent to follow the recipe exactly because it was annoyingly—and unnecessarily—difficult.
Reminder: Cooking by the Book posts are meant to be companions to the original recipe, not a substitute. As long as the book is still in print, I won’t be copying the recipe here for you. See here for why.
Before You Start (Regarding Ingredients)
Ultimately, I did stray from the exact ingredients in two places: I decided I wouldn’t be buying yet another bottle of oil, and so would forego using sunflower oil, as the recipe specified, and I got regular ol’ run of the mill mozzarella, not buffalo mozzarella.
Nothing in this recipe is difficult to get, and you can pick whatever type of pasta floats your boat.
Side note: Personally, even though it takes more work, I prefer to buy frozen edamame (soybeans) in the shell instead of pre-shelled beans. They stay firmer after cooking, plus you can use the extras to make Spicy Garlic Soybeans—yum!
Like the Plenty Mushroom Parcels, this is another dead easy dish to assemble. Chop, fry, boil water, blend, mix. Dinner!
So easy, there wasn’t anything in the process worth photographing.
Shake and I really loved this meal. There’s a lot of flavor from the herb oil sauce, and of course Shake loves anything with capers.
It just hit me that I did deviate from the recipe in one way that I didn’t even think about: Ottolenghi directs you to fry the zucchini using 2/3 cup of sunflower oil. That’s quite a bit of oil. It honestly didn’t even register with me that when I pan-fried the zucchini I probably used barely one third of a cup of oil—I very rarely fry in pools of oil, particularly when it comes to vegetables, so this was a totally subconscious change.
I bring this up because I remembered that one of the criticisms people had of this book is that although its emphasis is on vegetables, it’s not as healthy as that might lead you to believe it would be—lots of oils and fats in the recipes. The way I cooked it, it wasn’t terribly greasy, but I think with the full 2/3 cup it might have been a wee bit too oily.
I don’t think this dish needs meat at all, but Shake had stopped by The Whole Ox where Bob McGee has got the butcher side of things really up and running. He’s offering an amazing selection of fresh local butcher cuts, and also has some nice cured meats. Shake brought home some sopressa (left) and pancetta (right).
The cured meats at The Whole Ox haven’t gone 100% local yet, though—Bob’s still working on it. But Shake happened by on a day when Bob had a bit of house-made pancetta—Malama Farms pork cured for four months. Bob suggested we try having the pancetta as we would eat salami—not the usual way people have it, but, he assured Shake, this particular pancetta was delicious just thinly sliced.
Word to the wise: Never doubt Bob when it comes to meat. Man knows what he’s talking about. A couple days later I crisped some of the pancetta to go on top of some egg salad…the uncooked was better!
Let’s step away from the meat and go back to my veggie cookbook…
Should I try this recipe? Yes. It’s simple, doesn’t take long, and uses a fantastic array of easy-to-get fresh veggies and herbs. Lots of good green stuff. I had the leftovers for lunch a couple days later—still great! It was a very nice, refreshing chilled pasta, so this would be a great option for picnics; make it the night before and the flavors meld together nicely.
Difficulty: 1 out of 5
Should I buy the book? I said in my last CBTB post on this book that I have mixed feelings on it. I still do. This recipe and the Mushroom Parcels I tried earlier are really easy. But the Mushroom Ragout with Poached Egg was unnecessarily complicated—I mean, I’m down for making things from scratch, but vegetable stock from scratch on the spot is pretty annoying, especially since the way the recipe’s written, it sort of sneaks it in and before you realize what you’re doing…you’ve spent a whole bunch of time making stock. I couldn’t even do that dish as a CBTB post because I scrapped half the process.
So I still stand by what I said earlier: this is a lovely book full of fantastic, delicious, creative ways to prepare vegetables. But I think it’s best as an idea resource, and not a step-by-step guide.
Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi
by Yotam Ottolenghi
Retail List Price: $35.00
288 pages, padded hardcover
Chronicle Books; American edition (March 2011)