This month’s gathering, hosted by Michele in her beautiful back yard, was a throwback to our very first meeting in January 2016, with a new celebration of the dishes of Yotam Ottolenghi and friends.
Ottolenghi hails from the same town in Israel as our own Sari, and runs several restaurants in London, one of which our friend (and former member) Glenda had the good fortune to visit during her travels. We shared dishes from Plenty, Plenty More, Jerusalem, Ottolenghi: the Cookbook, Nopi, Sweet and the Ottolenghi website, taking care not to replicate any of the dishes from our previous meetup.
Since our humble beginnings as a group of nine enthusiastic home cooks, we have grown in numbers as well as culinary skills, and expanded our palates as well as our confidence. Becky recalled how complicated her first Ottolenghi dish seemed two years ago, while she now feels much more confident tackling a recipe with multiple steps.
A common concern with these recipes was Ottolenghi’s use of maddenly non-specific terms like “scant” (and what does he mean by “red chili?!”), and we discussed publishing errors in Sweet. We also encountered some less-common ingredients which called for a little creativity, like shiso leaves (MaryLou gladly sourced them in a local Asian market for Jackie), castor sugar (Mary substituted regular sugar), fava beans (Becky discovered frozen ones, while Gabby substituted edamame), pomegranate molasses (Sari made her own since she couldn’t find it in local shops), lovage (Gabby substituted tarragon) and nigella seeds, which inspired Susie to make her first trip to Penzey’s Spices.
Some dishes also required a deft hand to assemble and serve. Michele’s Maqluba, a chicken, vegetable and rice dish assembled in layers, required several extra hands in order to carefully up-end the pot onto a serving platter.
Mary Lou’s rolled pavlova, baked just long enough to remain flexible, came together with the help of a dishtowel. Extra credit to Mary Lou for putting together two amazing dishes despite the untimely demise of her refrigerator!
With so many beautiful dishes to choose from, we voted separately for our favorite savory and sweet dishes. First place among the savories was a tie:
Christina’s Leek Fritters (from Plenty); and
MaryLou’s Corn Cakes with Beet & Apple Salad (from Nopi).
Second place went to Becky’s Beef Meatballs with Fava Beans & Lemon (from Jerusalem).
Michele’s Maqluba (also from Jerusalem) was our third favorite.
In the dessert category, Dianne’s Caramel & Macadamia Cheesecake (from Ottolenghi - the Cookbook) was everyone's very favorite, followed closely by MaryLou’s Rolled Pavlova with Peaches & Blackberries (from Sweet - and featuring seasonal mango instead of peaches).
As always, we enjoyed a wonderful meal together, tried some amazing new flavors and left satisfied, inspired, and edified. See you at the next gathering!
Click here for photo gallery and recipes.