A friend said, "I was given this book and I know you love him, but I don't know where to begin." Here's what I suggest to get started. Two of the recipes listed below with links are currently appearing on Ottolenghi.com if you don't have the book yet.
Ottolenghi is famous because his food is so good, but you may not feel the need to make three garnishes for one dish as a restaurateur does, so skip them the first time and if you like the dish, add them on the next time to decide if they are worthwhile for you. He encourages being flexible with ingredients to suit you and your time to run out for missing ingredients. I freely substitute the pasta and grains for whatever I have on hand even though I think he thinks carefully about the pairings. I love farrow but not so much quinoa or barley. One example of an herb combo that sounded weird to me at first, but I love the result, is putting lavish quantities of parsley, cilantro and mint in so many dishes. He never serves yogurt plain, but always seasoned and with a little oil or cream in it, which really makes it taste like a special sauce. After you cook a few of his recipes you’ll begin to see the pattern of how he layers on flavors to build a bold result. He may have grown up in Jerusalem, but he is a global cuisine guy who embraces Malaysia as easily as the Mediterranean and Middle East. He is not hung up on LOCAL, go for quality of what’s available to you.
Mixed bean salad page 42 the dressing elevates humble vegetables to something interesting.
Root vegetable slaw page 49 A colorful winter slaw concept to serve any time with any vegetables you choose.
Chermoula eggplant page 59 The chermoula mixture is also great on any fish you like.
Roasted cauliflower & hazelnut salad page 62 This treatment makes the plain Jane of the garden elegant.
Stuffed eggplant with lamb and pine nuts page 166 I thought an extra 1-1/2 hrs. of baking would turn it to mush so only baked about 45 minutes to let the flavors meld and the sauce thicken. I think the lamb mixture would be good on anything, rice, faro, or plain.
Braised quail with apricots, currants etc. page 176 Chicken thighs worked fine as he suggested.
Roasted chicken with clementines and fennel page 179 Fennel is a tough sell here so I used celery with extra fennel salt, seeds or pollen for anise flavor and aroma. I purchased a three bottle fennel set because it was beautifully packaged and now use all of them frequently. Same with the anise alcohol substitute if you don’t have any arak, ouzo etc., use equal measurement of liquid from vermouth, wine or stock and a generous sprinkle of some fennel spice for aroma.
Chicken with caramelized onion and cardamom rice page 184 A crowd pleaser you might want to try first to introduce Ottolenghi flavors to your group.
Saffron chicken and herb salad page 188 The trick with the boiled orange is worth trying as you could use it any vegetable or protein you want to have a bold orange flavor.
Chicken sofrito page 190 I did not fry the potatoes and it was still great.
Pan fried sea bass with harrissa and rose page 218 I suggest you look for a jar of harrissa paste and taste to see if you prefer a lot or a little bit. It becomes a quick marinade, glaze or flavoring for many dishes when you are in a hurry or don’t feel like following a recipe.
A very similar recipe to Prawns, scallops and clams page 233 We call this Ottolenghi Cioppino, a favorite of the man in my life. The trick of making the tomato sauce ahead, days or months to have in the freezer, and heat up when you’re ready to cook the fish, makes it very easy for weeknight or company. If the sauce is hot in 475 degrees F oven, add all the fish and bake 5 minutes for gently cooked seafood. Stir and look to see if the seafood looks done or needs a few more minutes. It doesn't take long to cook or turn into rubber. We skipped the feta both times we made it. Ottolenghi loves feta and puts it in lots of things, a restaurateur’s way of balancing the recipe and/or making dishes richer and heftier, which as a home cook your group probably doesn’t want or need.
I doubled the recipe because I had five adults, one an extraordinary eater, and two kids. I don't think it was absolutely necessary as I had leftovers. It's a great recipe!