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.
Ottolenghi’s zucchini ‘baba ghanoush’
- 5 large zucchini (about 2 3/4 lb/ 1.2 kg)
- 1/3 cup/ 80g goat’s milk yogurt
- 2 tbsp/ 15g Roquefort, coarsely grated
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tbsp/ 15 g unsalted butter
- 2 1/2 tbsp/ 20 g pine nuts
- a pinch of chile flakes
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 large clove garlic, crushed
- 1/2 tsp za’atar, to finish
- salt and black pepper
- Preheat the broiler. Place the zucchini on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and broil for about 45 minutes, turning once or twice during the cooking, until the skin crisps and browns nicely. Remove from the oven and, once cool enough to handle, peel off the zucchini skin and discard it. Set the flesh aside in a colander, and mash around with a fork until it's loosely pureed. Allow to drain for 10-20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a small sauté pan, melt the butter with the pine nuts over medium-low heat and cook, stirring often, for 3 to 4 minutes, until the nuts turn golden brown. Transfer to a small bowl. Stir in the chile flakes and lemon juice and set aside.
- Using the same pan you just used for the pine nuts, combine the yoghurt with the Roquefort and egg. Heat very gently for about 3 minutes, stirring often (otherwise the egg will cook, and you'll get a lumpy mass). You want the yoghurt to heat through but not quite reach the simmering point.
- To serve, put the zucchini in a bowl and add the garlic, a scant 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a good grind of black pepper. Mash everything together with a fork and then spread the mixture out on a serving platter. Spoon the yogurt sauce on top, followed by the pine nuts and their butter sauce. Finish with a sprinkle of za’atar and serve right away.
- Best consumed warm right after it's made, but it'll keep in a container in the fridge for several days.
(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.)