I have an adult cooking crush on Yotam Ottolenghi. I’m almost hesitant to call it a crush, lest you think this is some kind of juvenile, fleeting thing. It’s a legitimate, serious, long-term obsession. I’ve sung his praises elsewhere on this blog, bought all of his cookbooks, and even plotted future trips to London just to go worship at his many namesake deli/restaurants.
If all this sounds a bit ridiculous and extreme, clearly you’ve never tried his food. Because to make just a single Ottolenghi recipe is to fall head-over-heels in love with his genius. The flavor combinations are unusual bordering on outrageous (yes, the recipe that follows this gushing intro does in fact combine cauliflower with sesame seeds, turmeric, basil and eggs in a single breath). The guy has a penchant for bold spices and big glugs of odd ingredients. And there is that huge moment of self-doubt every time you make his recipes – “Umm, really…a whole 3 tbsp of what spice? Won’t that send the flavors completely off-kilter?” etc. You are pretty sure the man has finally lost it, or that his editors have made the ultimate typo. But as it turns out, you’re wrong. And when you sit down to the meal, you realize, for the hundredth time, that you should just blindly trust Yotam.
So you can imagine the stars I had in my eyes when I actually spoke to the man in person last night (gushing stupidly, of course, while he signed my copy of his latest book) and listened in wide-eyed wonder as he regaled a packed auditorium with tales of his childhood and listed his new favorite ingredients. He was charming, personable, generous with his opinions, funny, humble…and brilliant. It was all I could do to not blush.
Here is the first recipe I tried from his new book, Plenty More. In truth, I made it months ago, when this cauliflower parmesan cake originally appeared online on the column he writes for the Guardian. But now seems like the right time to sing its praises. It is savory, filling and absolutely delicious. Perfect for a large crowd, or as part of a bigger spread where everyone can have a slice. Try it this weekend, and please trust me as you read the ingredient list…there are no typos 🙂
Cauliflower Parmesan Cake
Recipe from Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi
1 medium cauliflower (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 large red onion, peeled
6 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
8 large eggs
Handful basil, chopped
Scant 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 cups finely grated parmesan cheese
Salt and black pepper
Butter, for greasing pan
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 350°F degrees. Break cauliflower into medium florets. Place florets in a pot with a teaspoon of salt, cover them with water and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until quite soft. Strain and let drip in the colander for a few minutes so they dry and cool.
Meanwhile, prepare the batter. Halve your red onion and cut a few thin rings off the end of one side; set them aside. Coarsely chop the remainder of your onion. Heat all of your olive oil in a saucepan and saute the chopped red onion and rosemary together until soft, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Whisk eggs and olive oil and onion mixture together. Stir in basil. Whisk flour, baking powder, turmeric, cheese, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and lots of ground black pepper together in a separate bowl and add to egg mixture, whisking to remove lumps. Stir in cauliflower gently, so most pieces remain intact.
Line the bottom of a 9-inch round springform pan with parchment paper. Butter the sides generously. Put the sesame seeds in the pan and toss them around so that they stick to the sides. Pour in the cauliflower batter, arrange the reserved onion rings on top and bake cake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes, until golden brown and set. Let cool slightly before carefully removing from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.