Recipe creation can be a fun, gratifying and satiating experience. With all of your senses in high gear, you draw from various food-related memories – be it last week at a gourmet restaurant or a childhood experience like cooking with a grandparent, which is deeply ingrained in your soul. Your kitchen turns into a science lab, as you try out different flavor combinations and translate a memory into reality.
Creating a recipe can also be a very frustrating process. We all go through periods when we lack inspiration. Similar to an artist staring at an empty canvas, I sometimes find myself looking at an empty plate, wondering how I can fill it. Over time, I have come up with somewhat of a routine when I find myself stuck. I rack my brain and write down recent dishes that I have enjoyed. I browse the PacknWood catalogue and try to draw inspiration from some of their designs. During my last bout of frustration, I found myself intrigued by the Palm and Sugar Mini’s collection – both for its sleek, structural design and its ability to provide a clean backdrop for a dish and best bring out its vibrant colors.
For the last part of my routine, I head to my bookshelf, where I often pick up the same cookbooks that have the ability to fill me with inspiration and get me excited about making food. I can always count on Yotam Ottolenghi and his recipes to give me the push that I am seeking. Ottolenghi is a well-known chef in the UK and originally hails from Israel. He has created a culinary empire, with numerous acclaimed restaurants, award winning cookbooks, a food column in the Guardian and several TV shows.
I am particularly drawn to Ottolenghi for several reasons. In his cookbook Jerusalem, which he co-authored with his restaurant partner Sami Tamimi, both chefs are able to share their memories of Jerusalem from two vastly different perspectives. Ottolenghi from his Jewish upbringing and Tamimi from his Palestinian home. The fusion creates a beautifully told story about history, culture and the glue that binds it all together – food. The recipes are bold and full of flavor, with each ingredient serving an important purpose.
Ottolenghi also has some strong views about vegetarian based diets, something that he has received some flack for in the last several years. The result of his ideas created two cookbooks which focus solely on vegetarian recipes – Plenty and Plenty More. He is able to present vegetables in a unique and inspiring way. By giving center stage to ingredients that are often only regarded as a side dish, Ottolenghi enables us to think outside of the box.
Below is one of my favorite Ottolenghi recipes, watermelon gazpacho, served in the elegant Bio ‘n’ Chic drop shaped sugar cane dish and egg shaped sugar cane dish, both of which will be a great addition to your next event and get bonus point for being eco-friendly and biodegradable!
Yotam Ottolenghi’s Watermelon Gazpacho
Fills 20 drop shaped or egg shaped sugar cane dishes
- 2 pounds ripe tomatoes (about 10), peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- 3 celery stalks (leaves included), roughly chopped
- 1/2 small onion, roughly chopped
- 7 oz. watermelon flesh, preferably seedless (if not, remove seeds)
- 75 ml tomato passata (or tomato juice)
- 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 100 ml. olive oil
- small handful of basil leaves
- salt and pepper to taste
- Place the tomatoes, garlic, celery, onion, watermelon, bread, passata and 2/3rds of the basil in a food processor or blender with salt and pepper to taste. Pulse or blend until smooth. With the processor or blender still going, add the red wine vinegar and olive oil. Refrigerate until serving.
- To assemble: pour the soup into individual bowls and top with croutons. Hand tear the remaining basil and sprinkle on top of each bowl, followed by a drizzle of oil olive. Finish with a pinch of sea salt and serve.