Dreaming of Ottolenghi and Amada; stuck on frozen gyoza
December 29, 2013 9:24 PM   Subscribe

I love cooking, but it's been a while since I've cooked on a regular basis (besides throwing together ingredients for salads and pastas) and even longer since I put together a proper meal with courses. I'm a pretty decent cook (and I have a list of favorite blogs, like Smitten Kitchen and 101 Cookbooks) but nothing's clicking, and I want recipes that are complicated and fun and delicious for a change of pace! And so I turn to you, AskMetafilter: help me find awesome, vegetarian, delicious, adventurous dishes to usher in 2014.


-Must be vegetarian (absolutely no fish/seafood; dairy of any sort is totally fine, as are eggs.) All vegetables are welcome; seitan is not.

-Would prefer that cream not be a primary ingredient for the sake of my new year's resolutions, but if you can make an argument for something super indulgent, sweet.

-I have a pretty decent kitchen of staples and more-than-staples but not a lot of access to specialty Asian ingredients aside from a Japanese market.

-There is one of me so the ability to store and reheat said food is welcome.

- Extra bonus points for Ottolenghi recipes that you've tried and tested; I have half of his Guardian series bookmarked but to be honest I'm a little scared of them!
posted by jetlagaddict to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I don't know if this is particularly adventurous, but learning to roast cauliflower completely changed my appreciation for that vegetable.

This warm fava bean and shallot couscous salad is amazing, and worth the effort of the fresh fava beans (I usually double the amount).

If you are looking for something super-indulgent, I highly recommend the artichoke heart and ricotta-stuffed shells in the Smitten Kitchen cookbook (couldn't find it on her blog). It's cheesy but ridiculously good; I added some kale to my stuffing mixture (from a bag of Trader Joe's frozen kale). I've had good luck with everything I've cooked from that book so far, actually.

Have fun! I'll be keeping an eye on this thread to look for inspiration as well.
posted by skycrashesdown at 9:51 PM on December 29, 2013

We're making this tomorrow. Oh yes.
posted by Specklet at 10:01 PM on December 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: It isn't that complicated but Ottolenghi's Castelluccio Lentils with Tomatoes and Gorgonzola is amazing. Super delicious and great cold as leftovers (I may have made it a few times just to take for lunch all week).
posted by grapesaresour at 10:09 PM on December 29, 2013

Best answer: If you're looking for great Ottolenghi recipes, the caramelized garlic tart is incredible. I made the Surprise Tatin (basically a potato tart) for a party last week and people enjoyed it too. Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce was another hit.

Most of the dishes I've made from his recipes are great, but most are too fussy to bother with unless it's a special occasion. (Either it takes a bit too long, or requires an ingredient scavenger hunt despite my well-stocked kitchen & urban location.) But perfect for something like this!

You mention Smitten Kitchen - I am in love with all of her galette recipes, sweet and savory. They feel special and there's several different steps, but it's all super manageable and really yummy. The zucchini ricotta galette is my fave, but I also just made the mushroom stilton galette for Christmas.
posted by soleiluna at 12:21 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't have a particular recipe recommendation, but when I decide I want to cook something challenging or out of the ordinary I usually pick a main ingredient and trawl epicurious.com for recipes. Right on their front page is a recipe for spinach puffs that I might just have to make tonight, now that I've seen it. Searching for "vegetarian" brings up, on the first page, recipes for pozole, pad thai and cassoulet, which are all out of the ordinary fantastic dishes.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 1:24 AM on December 30, 2013

Best answer: Ottolenghi's 'Plenty' is one of my favourites, because it taught me that vegetarian food can be tasty and satisfying. However, not all recipes were to my taste.

If you have access to a Japanese market, you should try the Soba with Eggplant and Mango - sexy textures (slippery soba, melty eggplant), sweet cubes of mango and fresh zesty dressing. It tastes even better on the second day! The challenge is in cooking soba noodles properly - buckwheat takes longer than normal noodles, and are very disappointing when overcooked.

The Moroccan Carrot Salad was popular at a dinner party I made, but I preferred the flavours of the Sweet Winter Slaw with toffeed macadamia nuts: perfectly balanced sweet, sour, and spicy.

The Wild Mushroom Parcel has 8tbs of cream in it, and Pernod, and was greeted with "wows" when presented to guests. Leftover parcels can be heated up the next day, and served over thick toast with a poached egg with a drizzle of truffle honey (you know, to make it more breakfasty :).

Don't bother with the Black Pepper Tofu (oily, sticky failure) or the Vietnamese Banh Xeo (I didn't make it, but as a banh xeo fan, the recipe just doesn't look right).

I made a tray of Lidia's Eggplant Parmigiana for my vegetarian parents... and promptly ate half of it. Use Fontina over mozzarella. As with all baked dishes, the flavours get better after the first day.
posted by travellingincognito at 3:59 AM on December 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

Try the Dirt Candy cookbook by Amanda Cohen for complicated, adventurous vegetarian recipes.
posted by Jeanne at 4:32 AM on December 30, 2013

I've tried about 75% of the recipes in Plenty (I'm in a cookbook club and we did this one a while ago), and every single one is delicious. I highly recommend buying the book if you like Ottolenghi's style. The best part, in my opinion, is that the recipes actually come out looking like the pictures in the book - this almost never happens. Our cookbook club is a mix of food-industry professionals, avid home cooks, and people just starting out, and everyone was able to execute a killer dish from Plenty without issue.

I've heard mixed reviews about Jerusalem, but the newest eponymous book looks divine.
posted by melissasaurus at 6:53 AM on December 30, 2013

Seriously, buy Plenty and just commit to cooking every recipe over a few months. Amazing flavors. Many of these can be scaled down and/or store well. I've found that having a project (cook all the recipes in this book) makes it less necessary for things to "click" with me--I just make them, they're great or not, and I move on, but my initial ambivalence doesn't keep me from cooking in the first place.

Alternatively, decide to go on a _____-vegetable kick. Pick a veg and try all kinds of crazy preps with it. Eggplant is my suggestion. I think Ottolenghi has this blackening technique, IIRC, and once you do that to a good eggplant you can pretty much make any flavor work with it.
posted by Mngo at 7:24 AM on December 30, 2013

If you check out the home cooking forums of chowhound.com, there are several threads of reviews of Ottolenghi's recipes that are fabulous, cooked through by some pretty darn talented cooks.

Also, the Smitten Kitchen butternut squash galette is insanely good.
posted by purenitrous at 9:03 AM on December 30, 2013

For complicated, delicious, vegetarian recipes, it's hard to go wrong with Annie Somerville's cookbook Fields of Greens. The Moroccan lentil soup and the spring and winter curries are my go-to recipes for company dinners, and a lot of her techniques have seeped into my everyday cooking. There are a bunch of strategies for making ordinary button mushrooms taste extra rich and delicious, for instance.
posted by yarntheory at 12:19 PM on December 30, 2013

Response by poster: So I was so inspired by all of this that I made roasted potatoes with truffle salt, roasted garlic, the Moroccan carrots (with Harissa instead of the fresh chiles), and Smitten Kitchen's mushroom bourguignon with a fried egg. I have leftovers for days AND so many new recipes to try the next time I go grocery shopping! I used to be quite active on Chowhound but the quality seemed to drop off four or so years ago-- I will have to spend more time there. And maybe I'll bite the bullet and invest in Plenty. Thanks, all! (And please keep adding recipes if you think of any...)
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:20 PM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nthing Plenty. If you don't want to drop the money on it right away, see if your local library has it. I do that a lot with cookbooks that interest me to try out recipes and see if I want to buy the book after all.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 8:29 PM on December 30, 2013

You know that frozen gyoza you like to make? Make it with fresh ingredients, and see which one you prefer.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:07 PM on December 30, 2013

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