After much anticipation, Yotam Ottolenghi’s new book Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London’s Ottolenghi (Ten Speed Press) finally came out last month. It’s a sequel to Plenty (Chronicle Books, 2011) which was crowned “vegetarian cookbook of the decade” by the Washington Post and is the London-based Israeli chef’s fourth best-seller, judging by its ranking on Amazon.com.
As with all his former books, Plenty More has a strong Middle Eastern and Mediterranean emphasis, with recipes such as crushed puy lentils with tahini and cumin; fennel with capers and olives; zucchini babaganoush and eggplants with crushed chickpeas and herb yogurt, to name just a few. But this time Ottolenghi draws inspiration from other cuisines – namely Iranian, Asians and Indian – and by doing so, he masterfully broadens his readers’ palate.
Still, there is something very Israeli in anything Ottolenghi does.
“It’s a huge influence on the way I cook: everything I do is book-ended by my background,” Ottolenghi told me in a recent email interview. “It’s also a big influence on the way I like to eat and the way I like to present food. I always prefer a table full of lots of different dishes to try and share, rather than one main dish with just one or two little sides, and this is very much in line with the typical Israeli and Palestinian mezze style.” The Israeli influence, he added, goes beyond the dishes themselves.