The adventure begins! I cooked my first two recipes from “Plenty”: the Beet, Orange and Black Olive Salad and the Steamed Rice with Herbs (or, actually, herbs with rice).
This project, for me, is not only to cook and create new and exciting vegetarian food, but also to attempt to bring these restaurant-inspired recipes home. In other words, to see how “home-chef” friendly they are. After taking more than merely a glance through the cookbook, I realized that this endeavor may be more difficult than I originally anticipated and may call for some creativity on my part. I noticed that there are many ingredients that are not typically found on your average pantry (and maybe not even in your local grocery store!). So, not only will this experience be about attempting to cook this food, but it will also be about making these recipes a little easier for those who want to try them out at home. I will offer my experiences on what worked, what didn’t, and what (if any) tweaks I made.
When choosing what to cook as my first “Plenty” meal, I chose recipes in which the ingredients would most likely already be in the pantry. Starting at the beginning of the cookbook, I came across the third recipe: the Beet, Orange and Black Olive Salad (pg. 15) and thought it would be the perfect place to start. Especially considering I already had freshly steamed beets in the fridge! I then chose the Steamed Rice with Herbs (pg. 235) to accompany the salad, as suggested by Chef Ottolenghi, to create my “light and healthful meal.”
I started with the Steamed Rice with Herbs, knowing it would take longer. I loved the fragrance as I finely chopped the green onions and the fresh herbs!
With the rice and herbs mixed, I set them aside and continued onto the potatoes. The recipe called for grapeseed oil or another vegetable oil. I did not have grapeseed oil (something I’ve always been meaning to add to my pantry), so for this recipe at least, I used vegetable oil. My potatoes were especially small, too, so I used 2 instead of the 1 called for. However, once arranged in the bottom of the pot, I ended up using about 1 and a half. My potatoes also took a little longer to “get a little color” than the “about two minutes” called for, so I left them to fry for about 4-5 minutes. Then I heaped the rice back onto the potatoes and let it cook.
While the rice was cooking, I mixed the Beet, Orange and Black Olive salad. The recipe called for 1 Treviso (red chicory). Well, I did not know what this was, so for those of you, like me, who are ignorant, I learned this is just a fancy name for radicchio. The oranges were by far the most difficult part. Have you ever tried to remove an orange’s skin, white pith, and membranes? It’s hard to do! If you do attempt this, be warned: it’s messy and you will need a very sharp knife. At least, that was my experience. In the end, though, my oranges were successfully de-membraned and seemed juicier once in the salad. The only ingredient I didn’t have was the orange flower water, but a quick Google search revealed a good substitute was an orange liquor, so that’s what I used (it was only 1 tablespoon anyway). Then, I added the rest of the ingredients, including the black olives (even though I do not like them), and mixed it all together for a successful dish!I then took the rice off of the burner and let it set, continuing to steam, for another 20 minutes. In the meantime, I mixed the Greek yogurt/sour cream/olive oil sauce.Finally, everything was done and I had completed my first “Plenty” meal. It took me about 2 hours to cook (not including the time it took to soak the rice). Everything tasted great! My mom shared the meal with me and enjoyed it, too. Whenever we cook together, my mom and I rate the recipes from 1 star to 5 stars helping determine if we ever want to cook them again. We gave the Beet, Orange and Black Olive salad 5 stars. The recipe was amazing! The sweetness of the beets and oranges and the acidity of the dressing cut the bitterness of the radicchio perfectly. My mom does like black olives and she said they worked in the salad, too, adding a little salty flavor. Everything balanced in perfect proportions. And, while my mom typically doesn’t like citrus fruits in her salad, she went back for seconds!
The Steamed Rice with Herbs we gave 3 stars. It was good, but bland, even with all of the freshly chopped herbs. Bites with the potato were better, and mixing it with the yogurt sauce made it better yet, but still, my mom ended up adding salt. Overall, though, the meal was delicious, healthy, light, and not overly difficult. I would say my first attempt was a success and I can’t wait to see what’s to come!