Ottolenghi Flavor Book Summary - Ottolenghi Flavor Book explained in key points
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Ottolenghi Flavor summary

Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage

A Cookbook

4.1 (21 ratings)
25 mins
Table of Contents

    Ottolenghi Flavor
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    Charring vegetables creates rich, smoky flavors.

    Yotam Ottolenghi's earliest memory of cooking over a flame is from when he was a young boy, eating a potato cooked in a bonfire to celebrate a Jewish holiday. It didn't look like much, but when he peeled the skin and started eating the soft, creamy flesh, he was in heaven. The potato tasted both sweet and smoky. 

    The secret? Charring, the application of intense heat to an ingredient. When Ottolenghi became a chef years later, this memory inspired him to start charring vegetables. When a simple charred broccoli salad with chili and garlic became so popular that his customers wouldn’t allow him to take it off the menu, he knew he was onto something. 

    The key message here is: Charring vegetables creates rich, smoky flavors.

    The intense heat used in charring intensifies the flavor of anything it’s applied to, and the outer layer actually burns. This releases smoke, which adds another layer of flavor. Pretty much any vegetable can be charred, but some need additional cooking. For example, broccoli and cauliflower should be boiled briefly before hitting the grill pan. Harder vegetables like pumpkin or beets should be put in the oven to finish cooking after being grilled. Vegetables that could be eaten raw, like a strip of zucchini or a tomato, don't need any other cooking. 

    Are you excited to start cooking with this technique? Try making Ottolenghi’s grilled peach and runner bean salad. To start, you simply grill the beans in a pan on high heat for a couple of minutes. That’s where the charring happens. They’ll burn slightly and be left with grill marks on each side. Transfer the beans to a covered bowl for a few minutes to soften. Next, cover your peach slices in oil and grill for a minute on each side. Then mix the peaches and beans together, and dress them with lemon juice, a pinch of salt, and some cracked pepper. Finish off the salad with chunks of creamy goat cheese, some mint leaves, a sprinkling of roasted almonds, and a drizzle of honey. The sweetness and smoky charred flavors combine to create a delicious, deceptively simple dish. 

    Charring is also an excellent method for adding depth to sauces and dressings. For example, try charring a couple of mild chilies in the pan and then blending them with some tomatoes, vinegar, and salt. The result is a fresh salsa with a rich, smoky flavor that gives an instant pop to vegetable dishes. 

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    What is Ottolenghi Flavor about?

    Ottolenghi Flavor (2020) shows home cooks how to create big flavors. It offers guidance about which cooking methods get the best results in a plant-based kitchen; gives advice for pairing different ingredients and selecting the best produce; and provides inspiration for creating exciting and flavorful meals.

    Best quote from Ottolenghi Flavor

    If all cooking is about transformation – about a certain kind of alchemy – then the process of aging has something particularly magic about it.

    —Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage
    example alt text

    Who should read Ottolenghi Flavor?

    • Home cooks who are stuck in a flavor rut 
    • Newly converted vegetable-lovers looking for a guide to plant-based meals
    • Quarantine kitchen pros hosting fabulous dinner parties on Zoom

    About the Author

    Yotam Ottolenghi is an Israeli-born chef, food writer, and restaurant owner. His best-selling cookbooks Simple, Plenty, and Plenty More have received widespread acclaim for revolutionizing plant-based cooking.

    Ixta Belfrage started her formal culinary training at Ottolenghi’s NOPI restaurant. She subsequently became a chef, perfecting recipes at Ottolenghi’s office-cum-food laboratory, the Test Kitchen. She’s also a contributing food writer for publications like the Guardian and the New York Times.

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