I hate it when NPR scoops me, although it happens regularly. This morning Susan Stamberg did a piece on the book Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi, which I had become enamored with a couple months ago. So much so that I got permission to excerpt a couple recipes and images ( which will appear in the Spetember issue of Relish). It’s by Yotam Ottolenghi, a chef and columnist for the British newspaper, The Guardian. He writes the vegetarian column, but oddly enough is not a vegetarian, which may be why his approach to vegetables is so captivating and outside the box. He is Iraqi and his cooking is decidedly Middleastern, but with influences from all over the world. Susan Stamberg loved the same things I did about the book, the beautiful images, the yummy, interesting recipes and adept use of ingredients, and the chef’s approach to food. If you need some inspiration for vegetables this summer, check it out. I love Shakshuka which I had at the privilege of eating at Dr. Shaksuka in Israel. His recipe uses fresh summer tomatoes, but it works equally well with canned tomatoes which is here at relish.com. Here are his summer recipes keying on summer tomatoes.
The purpose of this salad is to make use of as many as possible of the infinite types of tomatoes that are available now. Some I cook a little, others more, and some I leave completely raw, to maximize the “tomatoey” effect with diverse flavors and textures. Choose whatever tomato selection you can get; the one below is just a suggestion.
Instead of the Sardinian fregola (available from kalustyans.com), you can use Arab mograbiah (from Middle Eastern grocers) or Israeli couscous. Or just leave out the fregola and double the quantity of couscous.
¾ cup couscous
2/3 cup boiling water
1 cup fregola
3 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, quartered
¾ tsp brown sugar
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 cup yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp roughly chopped oregano
2 tbsp roughly chopped tarragon
3 tbsp roughly chopped mint
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 small green tomato, cut into thin wedges
¾ cup red cherry tomatoes, halved
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Put the couscous in a bowl with a pinch of salt and a drizzle of oil. Pour over the boiling water, stir and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside for 12 minutes, then remove the plastic wrap, separate the grains with a fork and leave to cool.
Place the fregola in a pan of boiling salted water and simmer for 18 minutes, or until al dente. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water. Leave to dry completely.
Meanwhile, spread the quartered vine tomatoes over half of a large baking pan and sprinkle with the sugar and some salt and pepper. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar and some oil over the top. Place in the oven. After about 20 minutes remove from the oven and increase the temperature to 400°F. On the empty side of the baking pan, spread the yellow tomatoes. Season them with salt and pepper and drizzle over some oil. Return to the oven and roast for 12 minutes. Remove the tomatoes and allow to cool down.
Mix together the couscous and fregola in a large bowl. Add the herbs, garlic, cooked tomatoes with all their juices, the green tomato and cherry tomatoes. Very gently mix together using your hands. Taste for seasoning: you might need to add salt, pepper and some olive oil.
In a tiny alley in old Jaffa there’s a little restaurant serving food to customers sitting outside at shared shabby tables. The place is heaving around lunchtime and everybody, more or less, is eating the same thing. The place is called Dr. Shakshuka, after its signature dish, and this is, obviously, what everybody’s tucking into.
Shakshuka is a North African dish with many variations. Some add preserved lemon, others feta and different herbs and spices. It is my ideal brunch fare! Cook and serve it in individual pans, if you have them, or in one very large one. Chunky white bread on the side is a must.
½ tsp cumin seeds
¾ cup light olive oil or vegetable oil
2 large onions, sliced
2 red bell peppers, cut into ¾-inch strips
2 yellow bell peppers, cut into ¾-inch strips
4 tsp muscovado sugar
2 bay leaves
6 thyme sprigs, leaves picked and chopped
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp chopped cilantro, plus extra to garnish
6 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
½ tsp saffron threads
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and black pepper
up to 1¹ 8 cups water
In a very large pan dry-roast the cumin seeds on high heat for
2 minutes. Add the oil and onions and sauté for 5 minutes. Add
the peppers, sugar and herbs and continue cooking on high heat
for 5 to 10 minutes to get a nice color.
Add the tomatoes, saffron, cayenne and some salt and pepper.
Reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. During the
cooking keep adding water so that the mix has a pasta sauce
consistency. Taste and adjust the seasoning. It should be potent
and flavorful. (You can prepare this mix well in advance.)
Remove the bay leaves, then divide the pepper mix among four
deep frying pans, each large enough to take a generous individual
portion. Place them on medium heat to warm up, then make two
gaps in the pepper mix in each pan and carefully break an egg
into each gap. Sprinkle with salt and cover the pans with lids.
Cook on a very (!) gentle heat for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the
eggs are just set. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.