Beloved Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi is back once again with a brand new cookbook. Working with Ixta Belfrage, a colleague from the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen, Yotam has developed a new kind of cookbook, one anchored by how three elements—process, pairing, and produce—can ultimately generate flavorful, plant-based recipes.
What does that mean, exactly? Well, in “Ottolenghi Flavor,” Yotam and Ixta center on a new kind of approach to leveling up vegetables. The aforementioned process involves wielding novel techniques—like infusing and charring—that will upend the ingredient you’re working with. Thinking about the flavors you can pair these vegetables with—acidity, fat, heat, sweetness—rather than simply working with salt and pepper will create a new kind of feel in your cooking. But focusing on those two elements would hardly be important unless you’re also putting the same kind of emphasis on the produce you select; at the end of the day, the ingredients you choose will be the catalyst for dishes morphing from meh to mind-blowing.
Ottolenghi Flavor: A Cookbook, $20.99 on Amazon
The 100 recipes included in the cookbook are all vegetarian, with about half that are vegan. Rather than merely plucking inspiration from Middle Eastern fare, Yotam and Ixta also looked to other parts of the world for insight, reaching for Asian, Italian, and Mexican ingredients and techniques, too. Recipes run the gamut from stuffed eggplant in curry and coconut dal, to spicy mushroom lasagna, and a one-pan orecchiette puttanesca. Along with plenty of main courses, sides, and desserts, Yotam and Ixta also provide a slew of what the two call “flavor bombs” (aka homemade condiments), designed to accompany any meal (think lime leaf butter and date barbecue sauce).
Below you’ll find a recipe for Noor’s black lime tofu, excerpted from the book. Noor, an Ottolenghi colleague who was raised in Bahrain, introduced dried limes to the test kitchen, which serve as the flavor base for this recipe. You’ll fry up some tofu in a neutral oil, but the real flavor comes from the blitzing of onions and garlic, which are then cooked down with cumin seeds, black limes, tomato paste, and sugar. The resulting sauce is thick, stoked with spice and acidity, and finished off with wilted spinach and crispy tofu.
Reprinted from Ottolenghi Flavor. Copyright © 2020 by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage. Photographs copyright © 2020 by Jonathan Lovekin. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC
Noor’s Black Lime Tofu Recipe
Dried limes have been a constant in the Ottolenghi pantry for years. Recently, though, we have been using them with extra vigor thanks to Noor Murad, our test-kitchen colleague who grew up in Bahrain, where they consume dried limes intravenously (well, not literally). The limes go by different names and come in different colors. Go for the black variety, if you can, though for this recipe, regular fresh limes are also fine.
Noor's Black Lime Tofu
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tsp superfine sugar
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced into rounds on a mandoline, if you have one, or by hand (½ cup/60g)
- Table salt
- 2½ cups/600ml sunflower oil
- 2 blocks extra-firm tofu (1 lb 4 oz/560g), patted dry and cut into ¾-inch/2cm cubes
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 yellow onions (10½ oz/ 300g), roughly chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- ¼ cup/60ml olive oil
- 2 tsp cumin seeds, roughly crushed in a mortar and pestle
- 2–3 dried black limes, blitzed in a spice grinder to get 2 tbsp (use a food processor if you don’t have a grinder, and pass through a sieve), or 1 tbsp regular fresh lime zest and 1 tbsp lime juice
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 12⁄3 cups/400ml water
- Black pepper
- 1 cup/20g parsley, roughly chopped
- Scant 6 cups/250g baby spinach
- Put the vinegar, 1 tsp of the sugar, the red onion, and ⅛ tsp salt into a small bowl and mix well to combine. Set aside to pickle.
- Line a plate with a double layer of paper towel. Heat the sunflower oil in a medium, high-sided sauté pan on medium-high heat. Once hot, toss the tofu in a bowl with the cornstarch until well coated. In two batches, fry the tofu until crispy and lightly browned, about 6 minutes per batch, then transfer to the prepared plate and set aside.
- While the tofu is frying, put the yellow onions and garlic into a food processor and pulse a few times until very finely minced but not puréed. Put the olive oil into a large sauté pan on medium-high heat. Add the onion mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the cumin seeds, black limes or fresh lime zest and juice, and tomato paste and cook for 1 minute more. Add the water, remaining 1 tsp sugar, 1¼ tsp salt, and a generous grind of pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick and rich. Add the crispy tofu, parsley, and another grind of pepper and stir to coat. Add the spinach in increments, stirring until just wilted, about 3 minutes.
- Transfer the mixture to a shallow serving platter and top with the pickled red onion; or serve straight from the pan.
Header image by Jonathan Lovekin.