Book Club Dinner, inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi

by Elissa

This week it was my turn to host my book club for dinner, so I got to break out of my dinnertime rut and try some new recipes.  And I got to enjoy a nice dinner with some of my favorite people. There are some dietary restrictions in play, so I needed a vegetarian dinner that had some non-dairy options. Yotam Ottolenghi is an Israeli chef who has several restaurants in London and who writes a food column for the Guardian. His most recent cookbook is called Jerusalem , and I am obsessed with a recipe from it for roasted squash and red onion with za'atar and a tahini sauce.  On a tip from Olga Massov, this time I substituted sweet potato for the squash, and I thought the end result was pretty amazing. 

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The flavors in this dish are simply excellent, and it's perfect for entertaining:  it tastes great at room temperature and is vegan. And, although there are a few different components, it actually comes together pretty quickly. 

I have heard generally great things about Ottolenghi's vegetarian cookbook, Plenty .   I decided to try it before buying it and checked out a copy from the library.  Many of the recipes in this book are tempting (the gorgeous photography doesn't hurt), but I opted for this Chickpea Saute with Greek yogurt (I served the yogurt on the side).

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This was a very nice dish, which also can be served at room temperature. I had cooked the chickpeas in the Crock Pot the day before, and I think I overcooked them a touch. And next time I think I might skip blanching the Swiss Chard and simply add the stems and leaves directly to the saute pan. But this was a very satisfying main dish, and it would be a great one pot meal.

The great thing about the Ottolenghi recipes that I have made (I also made this soba noodle dish a few weeks ago) is that the favors are bright and somewhat unexpected. And the balance of salt, sweet, and acid is pretty masterful. Now I just need to get myself to London to try one of his restaurants.