Yotam Ottolenghi and Mayukh Sen
Two totally fun, and totally different conversations
“So many of the women I wrote about in my book — even Marcella Hazan, who proudly stands on her own, Julie Sahni, Norma Shirley — all these people were called ‘the Julia Child’ of their respective home countries, and I just found that to be such a lazy and pervasive descriptor that so many women have been tagged with throughout American history.” — Mayukh Sen
“I’m really happy that veganism has taken such a dominant position in our culture — people eat better for that, and I think that it’s a great thing. But I really think that people need to respect that people take their own personal journeys when it comes to what they eat, and the best way to encourage people to take the vegetable route over the meat route is not to tell them ‘you must go vegan.’” — Yotam Ottolenghi
Mayukh Sen, who is one of my two guests on this week’s episode of Food with Mark Bittman, is someone I feel a great deal of affection for. He’s eloquent and wildly talented, one of the great new generation of food writers. Mayukh is perhaps best known for his loving profiles of women: He wrote about Grace Zia Chu and Sophia Loren for us, and he recently published Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionized Food in America. If you haven’t read anything Mayukh’s written, you should, because you’re really in for a treat — but he is also a terrific conversationalist, as you’ll see. Beware, though: He doesn’t like cooking.
Also on this week’s show is someone who does like cooking: Yotam Ottolenghi, who you probably know from his great cookbooks, Plenty, or Jerusalem, perhaps — there are several, they’re all beautiful, everyone I know has at least one of them. His work to shepherd complex and wonderful Middle Eastern flavors to kitchens around the world cannot be dismissed. He got people who’d never cooked before cooking with spices that they’d never heard of. I wrote about Yotam for the Times in 2011; we’ve become friendly since then, and I was as excited about his cooking then as I am now. His new book, Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love, is a bit of a departure, which we discuss.
The recipes featured in the episode are below. Please listen, subscribe, and review! And remember to call us on 833-FOODPOD (833-366-3763) OR email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with all your food-related questions.
Thank you, as always. — Mark
Savory Oat Porridge with Ginger-Garlic Crumbs
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 45 minutes
Breakfasts are a solo affair at the OTK, with each person left to their own devices. Tara with her big ol’ bowl of eggs and greens, Ixta and Noor with their “every green” green smoothies, and Gitai with his one-cup-of-coffee-in-silence, please. Verena will, more times than not, rustle up a bowl of porridge, sweet spices, and raisins stirred in, warm and inviting and easy on the tummy.
This porridge gets a savory twist, thanks to the addition of an umami-rich soy butter and crispy ginger-garlic yumbits. Feel free to quadruple the amount of said yumbits — they’re so good sprinkled onto eggs, rice and every other food group (we think). — The Ottolenghi test kitchen
12 green onions, trimmed and halved lengthwise (61/3 oz/180g)
3 tbsp olive oil
3 oz/80g fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
12 garlic cloves (about 1 head), minced
4 large eggs
1 ¾ cups/160g rolled oats (gluten-free if you wish)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup/50g unsalted butter, fridge cold and cut into 3/4-inch/2cm cubes
1 tsp chile flakes, or more if you like extra heat
Salt and black pepper
1. Toss the green onions in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Place a large, nonstick sauté pan on high heat and, once hot, cook half the green onions for 3 minutes, turning a couple of times, until softened and charred. Transfer to a plate and char the remaining half, adding to the plate when done. Let the pan cool slightly.
2. Wipe out the pan and place it on medium heat with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Once hot, add the ginger and garlic and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until deeply golden and crispy. Transfer two-thirds of this mixture to a small bowl and leave the rest in the pan.
3. Meanwhile, boil the eggs for 6 minutes, until soft-boiled (or longer if preferred). Drain, peel, and set aside.
4. To the ginger-garlic pan add the oats, 1 quart/1 liter of water, 1 teaspoon of salt, and a good grind of pepper. Bring to a gentle simmer on medium-high heat, then cook for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until you have a loose porridge. Add a splash more water if needed.
5. Meanwhile, put the soy sauce and a generous amount of pepper into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer on medium-high heat. Turn the heat down to low and slowly whisk in the butter cubes, 2–3 at a time, waiting until just melted before adding some more. Continue in this way until you have a homogenized mixture. Don’t let it boil at all as it will split.
6. Divide the porridge among four bowls. Top each bowl with some of the soy butter and green onions. Cut the eggs in half, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place on top. Finish with the reserved ginger-garlic crumbs and a sprinkling of chile flakes. Serve warm.
Yellow Split Pea Purée with Buttered Onions and Caper Sauce
Makes: 6 servings as a dip, or 4 as a side
Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes
Yotam’s love affair with the Mediterranean means those signature staples—fatty olive oil, salty feta, briny capers!—permeate both his home kitchen and the OTK. This purée is a take on fava, a Greek mezze dish of yellow split peas with capers and red onion. It’s fantastic served as a dip, but also works alongside broiled fish or roasted meat. — The Ottolenghi test kitchen
3 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp olive oil
2 red onions, finely chopped
1 cup/180g yellow split peas, rinsed well and drained
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
For the caper sauce
2 tbsp capers, roughly chopped
1/4 cup/5g parsley, finely chopped
2 thin lemon slices, seeds discarded and the slices finely chopped (flesh, rind, and all)
2 tbsp olive oil
1. Put the butter, 2 tablespoons of oil, the onions, and 3/4 teaspoon of salt into a large sauté pan, for which you have a lid, on medium heat, and cook for 15–18 minutes, stirring often, until soft and deeply golden. Transfer half the onions, along with most of the oil and melted butter, to a small bowl and set aside, to serve.
2. Add the split peas, turmeric, 5 cups/1.2 liters of water, and 3/4 teaspoon of salt to the pan with the remaining onions and bring to a simmer on medium-high heat. Lower the heat to medium and cook for 20 minutes, uncovered. Cover with the lid and cook for another 40–45 minutes, or until the split peas are very soft and most of the liquid has evaporated.
3. Meanwhile, combine all the ingredients for the caper sauce together in a small bowl.
4. While the split peas are still warm, put them, together with any remaining cooking water and the last 1 tablespoon of oil, into a food processor and blitz until completely smooth.
5. Spoon into a shallow dish, creating a dip in the middle. Mix the buttered onions with the caper sauce, then spoon on to the dip. Serve warm, or at room temperature.
— Recipes from Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love