Posts Tagged ‘ottolenghi london’

My continuing research about how to improve my overall health, has led me to modify my diet so that it’s 70 to 80 percent fruits and vegetables, with a little starch and protein to round it out. I am primarily eating fish (every possible kind of seafood) and fowl (chicken and duck) for my protein, which is what I relied on for my main source of protein for the 24 years I didn’t “eat mammal.” I try to get my starch from healthy sources like sweet potatoes, but I’m half Japanese, so I regularly eat rice. I’m also not one to give up all comfort foods, so I occasionally make gluten-free pasta using brown rice or chickpea flour pastas, which the kids love. I often toss the pasta with chicken sausage, braised chard and fresh tomatoes to “health it up.” And since dairy and I remain estranged, the only dairy I consume is a little grass-fed butter, ghee and organic whole-milk, Greek-style yogurt on occasion.

Since my diet is mainly focused on vegetables, I’m reframing my idea of what constitutes a meal. I grew up with the idea that dinner included a main dish–usually involving meat, accompanied by a simple salad and cooked vegetable. My new favorite thing to do is cook 3-4 vegetable side dishes, which together with a little protein make a fun, nutritious and not-at-all-boring meal in which there is not necessarily an obvious “main dish.” And I truly dislike eating salad for the sake of eating salad, so I’m continually searching for salads that feel like a meal in and of themselves.

I made, served and ate this particular salad this past summer, but it’s really a dish for all seasons, and all its ingredients are readily available year-round. It’s from the Jerusalem cookbook by Ottolenghi and Tamimi. I’m a huge fan of all Ottolenghi’s cookbooks, having first discovered his incredibly delicious food in a tiny shop off Kensington High Street when I lived in London many moons ago. I was new to London–and newly pregnant, and stumbled upon the tiny shop purely by accident. Even though I lived in London only a few years, I considered a takeout meal from the shop a special treat. I fondly remember marveling at all the delectable looking dishes displayed in tiers in the shop front window. My mouth would instantly start watering upon seeing the array of colorful vegetable dishes and beautiful, yet simple desserts. Everything was fresh, flavorful and colorful. What I appreciate most about Ottolenghi’s cooking is that (most of) the dishes are relatively simple to make relying heavily on an abundance of spices and variety of textures. It’s what makes his food beautiful to look at and delicious to eat.

Most of the recipes I share on my site are completely my own invention, or they are ones I’ve modified from someone else’s recipe, or developed by combining various parts of several people’s recipes. However, this one I want to share as is because it’s perfect just as it is. One caveat is that I’ve been making it so often that I’ve stopped measuring the ingredients, and it’s fair to say you have a lot of leniency with this recipe; a little extra this or a little less that still results in a delicious salad.


1 tbsp white wine vinegar

1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced

3-1/2 oz/100 g pitted, Medjool dates, quartered lengthwise

2 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tbsp olive oil

2 small pitas, roughly torn into bite-sized pieces

1/2 cup/75 g whole unsalted almonds, coarsely chopped

2 tsp sumac

1/2 tsp chile flakes

5 oz/150 g baby spinach leaves

2 tbsp fresh-squeezed lemon juice



Place the dates and onion slices in a small bowl. Add the vinegar and pink of salt and mix well with your hands. Leave to marinate for 20 minutes.

While the date mixture is marinating, heat the butter and half the olive oil in a medium frying pan. (I use my 10-inch cast-iron pan.) Add the pita and almonds and cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring all the time, until the pita is crunchy and golden brown. Note: The Ottolenghi recipe actually says to cook the pita for 4 to 6 minutes, but that has never been enough for me, so maybe our US pita cooks differently. Remove from the heat and mix in the sump, chili flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside too cool.

To serve, toss the spinach leaves with the pita mix in a large bowl. Drain off and discard any extra vinegar from the date/onion mixture before adding the dates and onion to the spinach. Add the remaining olive oil, lemon juice and another pinch of salt. Adjust seasoning as desired and serve immediately.



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swt pot gratin


We are not experiencing a normal summer where I live. The days are unusually cool for Northern California, and we regularly feel a strong, cool breeze coming from over the mountains–beyond which lies the mighty Pacific Ocean.

I happen to not mind the cooler than normal weather for several reasons; I’m not continually looking for ways to cool off, the kids aren’t demanding I take them to the pool every hour of every day, and outdoor grilling is currently an option instead of a necessity.

The cooler days also mean I can keep cooking “cooler weather dishes,” such as this sweet potato gratin. It’s not particularly heavy, so it doesn’t feel strictly like a Fall or Winter dish, but it’s naturally rich, sweet and hearty. It’s also a cinch to make, is a dish the whole family enjoys, and uses one of my favorite super-foods: sweet potatoes. Rich in beta-carotenes, sweet potatoes are also an excellent source of dietary fiber and potassium.

ottolenghi book


This recipe is adapted from Ottolenghi The Cookbook. As a side note, Ottolenghi is a patisserie-style shop in London that I frequented when we lived in the Holland Park neighborhood. I was pregnant, always hungry, and constantly in search of good, wholesome cooking that used fresh ingredients. The Ottolenghi shop off Kensington High Street appeared to be a tiny space on a narrow cobblestoned street–the dishes and delicacies inside seemingly vying for space on the crowded shelf behind the window. I always appreciated the apparent simplicity of the dishes–in terms of the number of ingredients they contained, although they boasted wonderfully complex flavors, textures and colors. The founders of Ottolenghi, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, have produced several cookbooks to date, and I have given many as gifts to aspiring chef friends. The recipes are amazing, relatively simple, and accompanied by beautiful photos.



6 medium sweet potato (about 3 1/4 lbs), the orange-fleshed kind

5 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh sage leaves, plus extra for garnish

6 cloves garlic crushed

2 tsp coarse sea salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth

1/2 cup heavy cream*

*I keep meaning to try this dish using coconut milk instead of heavy cream since dairy isn’t always my friend, but somehow I haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’ll post an update when I do to report how it turned out, but I imagine it would work well. The original recipe calls for 1 cup cream, which would be delicious if not a little decadent.

swt pot slice



Preheat the oven to 400F.

Scrub, but do not peel, the sweet potatoes then cut them into disks 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick using a mandoline or very sharp knife.

In a large bowl, mix together the sweet potatoes, sage, garlic, salt and pepper. Arrange the slices of sweet potato in a fairly deep, medium-size baking dish by taking tight packs of slices and standing them up next to one another. Sprinkle any remaining bits of garlic or sage from the bowl over the potatoes. Drizzle the broth over the rows of potatoes. Cover the dish with aluminum foil, and roast in the oven for 45 minutes.

swt pot laid

Remove the foil and pour the cream over the potatoes. Return to the oven and roast, uncovered, for 25 more minutes. The cream should have thickened. Pierce the potatoes in several different places using a sharp knife to make sure the potatoes are fully cooked and very soft.

Serve immediately. Garnish with chopped sage leaves.




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