Praising a foreign 'Plenty'
The American cookbook market tends to be somewhat chauvinistic. We like our own. This does not make us unique -- Julia Child was as little appreciated in England, relatively speaking, as Delia Smith is here. But every once in a great while a book crosses over, at least among a certain segment of the cookbook-buying public. The last great British cookbook I remember having to buy was Fergus Henderson's "Nose to Tail Eating." I paid quite a lot for it and then a couple of years later they brought out an American edition, called "The Whole Beast."
Yotam Ottolengthi's "Plenty" prompted a similar urge to buy, but fortunately this time I held off, because it's just been published in a very nice American edition by Chronicle. Ottolenghi is a vegetarian cook, but in the same manner as Deborah Madison -- that is, he's a very good cook who happens to cook vegetarian food.
I can't wait to dig in to "Plenty." The recipes are an intriguing mix of familiar and strange. Somehow, despite the fact that he uses some ingredients and techniques that aren't part of my usual kitchen habits, the dishes sound like exactly the kind of food I want to eat. Eggplant with buttermilk sauce; watercress, pistachio and orange blossom salad; yogurt flatbreads with barley and mushrooms.
Everything seems at once familiar and vaguely exotic. Foreign, but not so much.
"Plenty" by Yotam Ottolenghi, Chronicle Books, $35.
-- Russ Parsons