It’s half an hour before the doors open, but there’s already a line of people (mostly women) circling the building. “Are you as excited as I am?” says the well-heeled lady behind me, “This is better than seeing Mick Jagger!” Yes, I’m excited and yes, I agree with her (sorry, Mick). The moment we’re breathlessly awaiting? Meeting Yotam Ottolenghi, on tour with his executive chef/coauthor Ramael Scully to celebrate the publication of Nopi, The Cookbook. I’m an unabashed admirer of everything Ottolenghi; in my food world, he is not just a star, he’s THE star.
This particular event is put on by Book Passage, a phenomenal independent bookseller. Cooks with Books features not only a book signing, but also a multi-course meal straight from the pages of the book, paired with the appropriate wines. It’s like a surprise party where you’re the guest of honor and the presents just keep coming. Every dish brings something unexpected and delightful.
As we eat, Ottolenghi talks about his restaurants, the food, his own personal journey, and we get the sense that he’s every bit as nice as he is talented. He urges us not to be afraid of the more complex recipes that push us past the edges of our comfort zone as home cooks. Flipping through the pages of Nopi, I decide I’ll try every single one of these gorgeous recipes just as soon as I feel like eating again, which could be days from now. I’ll probably need a nap, too; all this fan girl excitement has worn me out.
— Mona Helen
Make just the dip if you want to keep things simple: it’s delicious spread on bruschetta or at a barbecue, alongside some grilled ears of corn.
Slices of fried red chile and thin slivers of garlic are like old Ottolenghi friends. They’ve been together for many a year, sprinkled on top of various dishes of roasted eggplant or with grilled broccoli in the salad that has become our signature dish. They’re on stage again here—providing heat and crunch and the supporting act to a mellow, creamy dip. Use lacinato kale, if you like, instead of the curly kale.
Instead of green onions you can use big fat Catalonian Calçot onions, if you can find them; they are wonderfully meaty, so are particularly happy to be grilled. One important point to remember: there’s no such thing as overcharring your onions, so hold your nerve at the grill, whichever variety you are using. The more burnt they are, the better and more smoky they will taste. If you’re having a barbecue, it is well worth grilling the onions outdoors; if you’re using a grill pan indoors, make sure your kitchen is very well ventilated indeed. — Yotam Ottolenghi
Ten Speed Press
- 1 head garlic
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 5 ¼ oz/150 g green onions (12 to 14), ends trimmed, then sliced in half lengthwise (3 ¾ oz/110 g)
- 1 1/2 tbsp sunflower oil
- ⅔ cup/150 g cream cheese
- ½ cup/110 g sour cream
- coarse sea salt and black pepper
- 6 tbsp/90 ml olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 3 large red chiles, seeded and thinly sliced
- 1 1/4 lb/550 g curly kale, washed, tough stems removed, cut widthwise into 1 1/2-inch/4-cm slices (1 lb/450 g)
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- Preheat the oven to 425°F/220°C (390°F/200°C convection).
- To make the green onion dip, slice off the top quarter of the head of garlic and discard. Place the garlic in the center of a square of foil with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Wrap up the garlic, place it on a baking sheet, and roast for 30 minutes, until soft. Set aside and, when cool enough to touch, squeeze out the garlic cloves, discard the skin, and, using the flat side of a sharp knife, crush to form a purée. Set aside until ready to use.
- Place the green onions in a bowl and brush with the sunflower oil. Sprinkle over ¼ teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Place a small grill pan over high heat and ventilate your kitchen. When the pan is smoking hot, add the green onions and grill for 5 to 6 minutes, turning halfway through, until black and burnt all over. Set aside to cool, then finely chop. Transfer the onions to a bowl and add the cream cheese, sour cream, the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, the roasted garlic purée, and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Mix well and set aside until ready to use.
- Put the oil for the kale into a large sauté pan and place over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and chile slices and fry for 4 to 6 minutes, stirring constantly, until crisp and golden brown. Add the kale, along with 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and a good grind of black pepper, and cook for 3 minutes—you might need to do this in two or three batches—stirring often, until the kale is cooked but still retains a bite. Remove from the heat, add the lemon juice, and serve warm on a large platter or individual starter plates, with dollops of the green onion dip spooned on top.