Let me say this to start: Yotam Ottolenghi is one of my favourite cookbook authors. He creates truly special dishes that are almost always a delight to eat, and pairs together flavours and ingredients that it never would have occurred to me to try.
That being said, my god, the man in a pain in my ass.
Anyone who’s ever tried to cook his recipes will be familiar with hair-tearing frustrations that can sometimes (see: often) ensue. The litany of complaints includes having to seek out obscure ingredient after even-more-obscure ingredient, rigid specifications for vegetable slicing (nothing is ever just chopped; it’s cut to 1.678987645cm square cubes), dirtying every single dish in your house to create a meal, and the tendency to make things complicated when they could have easily been simple.
Case in point: this zucchini ‘baba ghanoush.’ A friend of mine brought it to a picnic recently and it was so damn good that I immediately dreamed of making it myself at home. But do you think this man just allows you to broil some zuchs, throw on some yoghurt, and call it a day? No. You’ve got to make a custard with goat milk yoghurt and two tablespoons of Roquefort (not to mention a whipped egg). And are you just going to top it with some toasted seeds? No, my friend, you’ve got to fry your pine nuts in butter, and then toss those with chili flakes, lemon juice, and finish the whole thing of with some za’atar — which you forgot to purchase at the store, so you had to make that from scratch too.
And just when you think Why in god’s name am I doing this for some dip? Couldn’t I just buy hummus at the grocery store like a normal person?, you spoon some onto a wedge of warm pita, and all of the curses you’d been muttering under your breath (some of which might have potentially involved strangling the cookbook author for leaving you with a bunch of uneaten, expensive-as-fuck Roquefort because what recipe calls for just two tablespoons of the stuff?! and it turns out you’re not really a blue cheese person and now there’s going to be so much of this offensive fermented dairy leftover in your fridge), suddenly vanish.
Because this ridiculous, gussied-up dip is actually fantastic. It’s smoky and garlicky and buttery and perfect.
You win again, Ottolenghi, you win again.
(p.s. I’m headed off to Italy for the month, dear readers, and my posts are going to have been scheduled in advance, so if my response time for the comments, etc. is poor, sorry! I’ll be back at it in earnest in October.)