It’s not often that I’m surprised by new flavors. My spice drawer and condiment shelves reach to the far corners of the earth and although there are new findings all the time, they usually fall into a spectrum of something familiar – hot, smoky, briny, fermenter, earthy, etc…And when I got Ottolenghi’s Plenty More out of the library, it was not the first of his books I would read. I own Jerusalem and I make the hummus recipe at least monthly, so his choice of ingredients and the way he combines them has been occasionally hard to source but not necessarily revelatory. Both Plenty and Plenty More have done much to encourage cooks that vegetables can be amazing things in their own right, not shoved off to the side of a meat dish, or left uninspired à la garden salad. I missed that wave (or perhaps was on to it years before it’s time) but I read a lot of cookbooks and I was impressed by this one. For starters, the photos are lovely. Remember the days when not all recipes had photographs? Or they would be terrible and small in the middle of the book? That doesn’t happen very much anymore but for me a cookbook is as much an artifact to flip through as it is an instrument that aids in making dinner.
And then there is the food. Plenty was divided into vegetables (making it easy to skip over ones we thought we didn’t like), but Plenty More focuses on cooking methods – grilling, roasting, steaming, braising, mashing, baking and the like – which feels like the proper evolution in sophistication. Ottolenghi’s cuisine is Middle Eastern but he does it in a modern way, emphasizing herbs and spices and all things fresh and when a favorite vegetable is combined with the best possible technique, then good things can happen. Which is not to say that the ingredients are not still sometimes hard to find, or out of season, or called something else entirely in North America.
After my first pass through the book I saw that ‘Shallots with Mushrooms, Garlic and Lemon Ricotta’ had been bookmarked. This most certainly by Matt who sees the word ‘lemon’ practically anywhere in any recipe and thinks that it will be delicious. For my part I was drawn to the headnote that read, ‘a hearty, oniony, mushroom stew’. All right, I thought. That looks pretty good.
And it was! My goodness. I have made shallots and mushrooms and garlic before and while I haven’t topped it with ricotta, I can extrapolate. But the surprise ingredient here is Pernod (I used Absent, another anise flavored liqueur). Simmered with cinnamon and then topped with cool, fresh lemony ricotta could be considered a revelation. I accidentally chopped the shallot which makes it cook faster than the mushrooms and garlic, but tastes no less amazing and I added a bunch of buttered kale that I had in the fridge and that also did nothing to detract from the flavor. Finally, I served it over brown rice but it could easily go with any other grain or on its own*. Enjoy!
*I forgot to take a photo before we ate it all but it looks like this.
Mushrooms, Garlic, and Shallots – and Kale! – with Lemon Ricotta
Adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
- Olive oil
- 4 TBSP butter
- 24 baby shallots, peeled
- 24 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 1/4 cup flat-leafed parsley leaves, chopped
- 2 handfuls of kale, chopped
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 7 oz portobello mushrooms, quartered
- 8 oz cremini mushrooms, halved
- 3.5 oz other wild mushrooms
- 1/4 tsp chilli flakes
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 1¼ tsp salt
- 7 TBSP Absente, Pernod or other anise flavored liquor
- 3 TBSP tarragon leaves, chopped
- 1/3 cup mint leaves, chopped
- 1 cup ricotta
- Zest of 1 lemon, grated
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan with 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat.
- Add the shallots, garlic, thyme, kale and cinnamon and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 12 minutes.
- Raise the temperature to medium-high and add the mushrooms, mixing together well. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the stock and simmer rapidly for 8 – 10 minutes, stirring gently as needed, until the liquid has almost evaporated and the shallots and garlic are cooked through.
- Add the Absente, 1 1/4 tsp salt and a good grind of pepper. Cook for about 2 minutes to allow the alcohol to burn off, then stir in the butter and chopped herbs.
- Mix together the ricotta and lemon zest in a small bowl. Serve mushrooms with a big dollop of ricotta and a drizzle of olive oil.