It is a mad scientist’s power that comes from making something wonderful and brand new. A singular dish that was just a grocery list of disparate ingredients, moments or hours before. The golden, shimmering alchemy of cooking is one of the ways I fill my life with warmth and light. I cook home food; no molecular gastronomics, no loopy swirls on the plate. It is a remarkable thing to be confident in providing for yourself—not just surviving, but creating, often out of very little, a feast, nourishing and magnificent in its rustic simplicity.
YELLOW BELLIED SOUP (ADAPTED FROM NIGELLA LAWSON)
This warm, lemony bowl of turmeric-scented squash is a super fast dish that’s perfect for fading into fall.
2 medium yellow squash, diced
1 lemon, juice and zest
2 tbsp olive oil
4 c chicken or vegetable broth
1/3 c basmati rice, rinsed in three batches cold water
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
Cut the squash into 1/8-inch thick rings, and dice.
Warm the olive oil over medium.
Add the squash and lemon zest, and scoot them around for about 5 minutes, until they’ve softened slightly. Mix in the turmeric and pour over the broth and juice.
Once everything comes back to medium heat, add the rice. Cook uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes. Shooting for a little under is best, as you want everything just tender.
Add the salt and taste for seasoning. Let cool a bit before serving in big bowls with big spoons. You want it warm rather than hot.
This is the most cheerful dish. The color is astonishing. Revel in it.
YOTAM OTTOLENGHI’S CAULIFLOWER CAKE
An eggy, cheesy cauliflower cake that’s best anywhere, anytime, and travels very well.
4 c cauliflower, broken up into small one-inch pieces
1 small red onion, peeled
5 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp finely chopped rosemary
7 large eggs
1/2 c basil leaves, chopped
1 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 tsp ground turmeric
1 1/2 c coarsely grated Parmesan
Melted unsalted butter, for brushing
1 tbsp white sesame seeds
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Pop the cauliflower in a saucepan and add a teaspoon of salt. Cover with water and simmer for 15 minutes, until the florets are soft, and crumble when pressed with a spoon. Drain and set aside in a colander to dry.
Cut off the top and then four round slices of the onion, each 1/4-inch thick. I use a mandolin and it works like a dream. Chop the rest of the onion and place in a small pan with the oil and rosemary. Cook for about 10 minutes over medium, stirring occasionally, until soft. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Transfer the onion to a large bowl, add the eggs and basil, and whisk well. Add the flour, baking powder, turmeric, Parmesan, a teaspoon of salt, and plenty of pepper. Whisk until smooth before adding the cauliflower and stirring gently, trying not to break up the florets.
Line the base and sides of a thin baking dish with parchment paper or aluminum. Brush the sides with melted butter, then toss sesame around the inside of the pan so that they stick to the sides and bottom. Pour the cauliflower mixture into the pan, spreading it evenly, and arrange the reserved onion rings on top.
Place in the center of the oven and bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown and set; the toothpick test is a lifesaver here. Let sit at least 20 minutes before serving.
It should be served warm or at room temperature.
MEDITERRANEAN TOMATO SALAD
The blanched tomatoes in this recipe really give it another level of life! Skinless, the tomatoes just drink up the tart, herby dressing, and it’s just the best.
3-5 medium vine-ripe tomatoes
1 garlic clove
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Handful fresh chopped chervil, parsley, cilantro, basil, or some combo of them
1 shallot (peeled)
1 clove of garlic (peeled)
3-4 tbsp olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
Blitz the shallot and garlic as finely as possible in a processor, and put it in a small bowl to souse with the oil, then salt and pepper while you get to blanching! Blanching the tomatoes is no big whoop: Just boil up a large pot of water, take it off the heat, then dip each tomato into the hot water for about a minute. Place them in a colander and rinse with cold water. Now, you can flick off the skins with a sharp knife with no trouble at all.
The skinless tomatoes are fuzzy and awesome, just slice them into fat rounds, and place them in a dish. Pour over the dressing and fold it into the tomatoes with your hands. Let them steep this way for at least an hour, so the flavors can develop and deepen.
When you’re ready to serve, just arrange the tomatoes on a plate, drizzle over the dressing in the bottom of the bowl, squeeze over the lemon, and add your herbs and one more sprinkle of finishing salt. Serve at room temperature and watch your guests taste tomatoes and herbs like never before.
Do not refrigerate! This salad likes to hang out and be a little loosey-goosey. A trip to the icebox and all is lost. Keep it casual!
BEST CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES EVER
They’re the best.
2 c bread flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 c tiny chocolate chips (dark, milk, vegan, whatever—they just have to be small)
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp fleur de sel
1/2 c coconut oil (warmed to liquid)
1 c light brown sugar
1/4 c plain, unsweet almond milk
Sift flour, fleur de sel, baking soda, and baking powder together and set aside. Cream together liquid coconut oil and brown sugar. When it’s thickened, add the milk and vanilla extract, and blend. Pour it into the sifted dry ingredients and incorporate it slowly, by folding and pulling the mixture with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
Next, fold in the chocolate chips. Just use the fold-and-pull method for a little bit. Have faith, and all of a sudden, the flour, oil and baking soda, and all the rest, will react—and bam! A dough will spring to life under your hands.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Roll out small—tablespoon or smaller—sized balls of dough, and place them on a baking sheet lined with foil. Pop those round little cookie balls in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes and let them cool at least 5 minutes before eating.
After 5, they’re alllllll yours!