Yotam Ottolenghi Came to my House for Christmas
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Marked by tradition, Christmas can seem like a repetitive ordeal for many families, especially those without young children. This is the case with my family. Although, always a wonderful excuse for my husband’s family to reunite (my family lives in the USA and we opt to remain in Brazil for Christmas each year) Christmas tradition rings loud and clear and one can always anticipate what the night of December 24th holds. The weather will be hot and humid and people will be cranky because of this. My mother-in-law and her sister will prepare all of the food and be either delighted or frustrated by this fact. At some point during the evening an argument or disagreement will breakout, often involving my brother-in-law. And, without fail there will be at least one member of the family sleeping at the table, and the rest of us will be drunk or tipsy.
The food, also marked with tradition, will consist of dried fruits, nuts, turkey, a large pigs leg, salted cod, rice, a floury side dish called farofa and dessert, lots of it. This menu does not change.
This year was different!
As everyone stood in the kitchen, trying to help prepare for dinner wherever possible, my husband asked, “Where are the dried fruits and nuts?” (These always come before the meal). The response was loud and clear from the chefs, “We’re having salad instead.”
As if on cue Yotam Ottolenghi made his grand appearance in our kitchen and our traditional Christmas was changed.
Yotam Ottolenghi is a best-selling author and chef. Born in Jerusalem in 1968 Ottolenghi moved to Amsterdam where he completed a master’s in philosophy and comparative literature. In 1997, he moved to London where he planned to get his PhD. Before beginning his PhD program, he enrolled in a six-month Le Cordon Bleu culinary course. Upon finishing the course, he abandoned his PhD program and began working as a head pastry chef at the London boutique bakery Baker & Spice. In 2002, Ottolenghi opened his first Deli in Notting Hill where he served a variety of savory and sweet foods. His culinary style is based in his Middle Eastern roots, mixing a beautiful variety of vegetables, grains and spices. Ottolenghi is known for his beautiful vegetable dishes and mix of flavors. He is the author of four best-selling cook books, The Cookbook, Plenty, Jersualem and Plenty More.
These are the cookbooks, which inspired the change in our family’s Christmas celebrations this year! The salads that were being beautifully arranged in the kitchen were full of color, smell and freshness: tomato with buffalo mozzarella and basil, baby greens with pomegranate, figs, chevre cheese and balsamic vinaigrette, roasted eggplant dip, tomato and grilled lemons, the list is endless. Thoughts of dried fruit and nuts quickly dissipated. Ottolenghi even made an appearance on our dessert table in the form of a beautiful apple cake with a maple syrup and cream cheese icing.
Christmas was markedly more colorful this year with Ottolenghi’s presence. The heat dissolved around us through the freshness of the salads, and everyone was inspired to try more dishes from Ottolenghi’s recipe books the next day (he came for New Year’s too).
No matter what recipe book you pick-up from Ottolenghi you are sure to find beautiful salads, delicate meat and fish dishes and mouthwatering sweets. Ottolenghi will brighten your meal and leave you feeling healthy and refreshed.