Tag Archives: Ottolenghi

Winter Warmer – Spiced Roasted Vegetables with Chickpeas & Apricots

We’re in the midst of a relentless winter here in the Northeast, with snowfall totals that have likely earned this season a place in the record books. I can’t remember what the city looks like without snow on the ground, and I’m becoming well acquainted with the sound of spinning wheels outside my window as people try to free their cars from some stubborn snowbanks. It’s fair to say that most of us are feeling a little weary of this weather by now, so why not take solace in a cozy meal – the kind that requires roasting tasty things in the oven and permeating the kitchen with lovely smells.

I’d been itching to try this recipe from Plenty for ages, and I finally gave it a spin during one of the latest snow days. The shallots, carrots, parsnips, and butternut squash take on a sweet, mellow flavor when they’re roasted, and the addition of chickpeas makes it a hearty vegetarian meal. The dried apricots are a nice touch – they add a little sweetness to the dish and soften up a bit in the oven, a bit like prunes in a tagine. I used quinoa instead of the couscous called for in the original recipe – but I think any small grain (or seed, in the case of quinoa) will do. And the spices – star anise, ginger, turmeric, paprika – not only impart plenty of warmth and depth, but give the dish great color. The finished product has a golden, sunny hue -reminiscent of warmer days that (I hope!) lie ahead. These spiced roasted vegetables are just the thing to see you through another snow day; easily eaten while you’re curled up on the sofa making a dent in your Netflix queue.

Roasted spiced vegetables over quinoa
Makes 4 servings
Adapted from Plenty (“The ultimate winter couscous”)
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ¾-inch chunks
2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into ¾-inch chunks
8 small or 4 large shallots, peeled
2 cinnamon sticks
4 star anise
3 bay leaves
5 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp hot paprika
¼ tsp chile flakes
2 ½ cups diced butternut squash (about 10 oz.)
½ cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
1 cup chickpeas (canned or freshly cooked)
1 – 1 ½ cups chickpea cooking liquid and/or water
1 cup quinoa
pinch of saffron
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp harissa paste
1 oz preserved lemon, finely chopped
2 cups cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

  1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the carrots, parsnips and shallots into a large, ovenproof dish and add the cinnamon, star anise and bay leaves. In a small bowl mix ¾ teaspoon of salt with all the other spices. Add the spices and four tablespoons of oil to the vegetables and mix well. Place in the oven and roast for 15 minutes.
  2. Add the squash, stir, and return to the oven. Roast for an additional 35 minutes, by which time the vegetables should have softened while retaining a bite.
  3. Add the apricots, chickpeas, and cooking liquid/water, then return to the oven for 10 minutes or until hot.
  4. Around 15 minutes before the vegetables will be ready, cook the quinoa according to the package instructions. Stir the remaining olive oil, butter, and saffron into the cooked quinoa.
  5. To serve, fill the base of a deep plate with quinoa. Stir the harissa and lemon into the vegetables, taste, adjust the seasoning and spoon on to the centre of the couscous. Garnish with the cilantro leaves. 

Emerging from the holiday food hangover

After a brilliant Thanksgiving dinner, an ample supply of leftovers and various other festivities during the weekend, I’m officially stuffed! With the holiday behind us, my husband and I were craving something clean, healthy, and flavorful  – in other words, something that would taste good and make us feel good. We definitely don’t buy into the idea that eating well should feel like a form of deprivation. Last night, we put together a soup and salad combo that rose to the challenge.

I found this recipe for Tom Kha Gai (Thai coconut chicken soup) on Food52, one of my favorite sites to search for dinner inspiration. The galangal (use ginger if you can’t find it), lemongrass, and lime really brighten up the flavor of this soup and contrast perfectly with the creamy coconut milk. Since we’d eaten plenty of poultry over the last few days, we opted to use shrimp instead. They only require a few minutes to cook, so we added about 6 ounces of shrimp (peeled and deveined) to the hot soup 3 to 5 minutes before we were ready to eat.

To go with the soup, I made a cucumber salad with smashed ginger and garlic, based on a recipe in Plenty, one of Yotam Ottolenghi’s fantastic cookbooks. It’s been one of our favorites since it landed on the kitchen bookshelf a couple of years ago; it’s full of creative vegetable dishes that have definitely expanded our culinary repertoire and the gorgeous photography doesn’t hurt either. The cucumber salad is a great option when you’re looking for a fresh, clean dish. The cucumbers make a great partner for the garlic, ginger and vinegar and the result is vibrant and pleasantly sharp.

The soup and salad combo makes enough to feed a hungry couple for dinner, with leftovers to supply lunch for one of you the next day.

Cucumber salad with smashed ginger and garlic
From Plenty

3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp sunflower oil or olive oil (not extra virgin)
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 a red onion, very thinly sliced
1 1/2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 garlic cloves, peeled
4 small, or 8 mini cucumbers (about 1 1/4 lbs in total), peeled
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
3 tbsp chopped cilantro

  1. Whisk all the dressing ingredients together in a medium bowl. Add the sliced red onion, combine well, and leave to marinate for up to an hour.
  2. Place the ginger and salt in a mortar and pound well with a pestle. Add the garlic and continue pounding until it is crushed, but stop before it becomes a paste. Using a spatula, scrape the garlic, ginger and salt mixture into the bowl with the onion and dressing and stir everything together.
  3. Cut the cucumbers lengthwise in half, then slice on an angle into 1/4 inch thick slices. Add the cucumber, sesame seeds and cilantro to the bowl. Stir well and let the salad sit for 10 minutes.
  4. Before serving, stir the salad again, and if a lot of liquid has accumulated at the bottom of the bowl, pour some of it out. Taste for seasoning, and add a few more drops of toasted sesame oil if you like.

Spinach salad with dates & almonds

A few weeks ago, we had some friends over for dinner to celebrate my husband’s birthday. My favorite part of having friends over for dinner – besides the great company – is planning the menu. Whether it’s nibbles or a sit down dinner, I love pulling together a handful of dishes that will serve as the backdrop to a great night. For this occasion, we promptly turned to Jerusalem, a cookbook that has been getting a lot of love in our kitchen since my husband bought it for me as a Christmas present. Very simply stated, it’s a collection of recipes from the various cuisines that meet in its eponymous city, and it has inspired many a meal that we’ve cooked in 2013, including my husband’s birthday dinner. One of our favorite recipes from the book is a spinach salad with dates, topped with spiced toasted pita bread and almonds – sweet, spicy and crunchy. And it went down well with our friends too – clean plates all around and a few requests for the recipe too. If you’re looking for a unique salad (and I’m always looking for them), then give this recipe a spin.  

Spinach salad with dates and almonds

Serves 4

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

½ medium red onion, thinly sliced

3 ½ oz Medjool dates, pitted and quartered lengthwise

2 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tbsp olive oil

about 3 ½ oz pita bread (or 2 small pitas), roughly torn into 1 ½-inch pieces

½ cup whole unsalted almonds, roughly chopped

2 tsp sumac

½ tsp crushed red pepper

5 oz baby spinach leaves

2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice


  1. Put the vinegar, onion and dates in a small bow. Add a pinch of salt and mix well with your hands. Leave to marinate for 20 minutes, then drain any residual vinegar and discard.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the butter and half of the olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the torn pita and the chopped almonds and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, stirring constantly, until the pita is crunchy and golden brown. Remove the pita from the heat and mix in the sumac, crushed red pepper and a pinch or two of salt.
  3. When you’re ready to serve, toss the spinach leaves with the pita mix in a large bowl. Add the dates and red onion, the remaining olive oil, the lemon juice and another pinch of salt. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately.