If anyone could be called the leader of the “Vegi Renaissance”, it has to be Yotom Ottolenghi, although he readily admits to having been paralyzed at the prospect of writing a weekly vegetarian recipe for his Guardian column back in 2006. Hard to believe given the breadth of exciting vegetable, grain and legume creations shared in his two cookbooks, Plenty and Plenty More.
In the introduction of Plenty More, Ottolenghi states that just as he was growing up and overcoming his fears (of being pigeonholed as someone who cooks only vegetables and running out of ideas), the world of food was growing up too. “At the time, and in some senses still today, vegetables and legumes were not precisely the top choice for most cooks. Meat and fish were the undisputed heroes in lots of homes and restaurant kitchens. They got the “star treatment” in terms of attention and affection; vegetables got the supporting role, if any.”
“We have moved forward a fair bit since 2006. Overall, more anymore confirmed carnivores, chefs included, are happy to celebrate vegetables, grains, and legumes. They do so for a variety of reasons related to reducing their meat consumption: animal welfare is often quoted, as well as the environment, general sustainability, and health.”
Plenty More contains a wealth of inspiration: extraordinary ingredient and spice combinations as well as techniques beyond roasting, steaming, and sautéing. You’ll discover a whole range of cuisines, dishes, and ingredients that make vegetables SHINE!
The first recipe is this vibrantly colored Tomato and Pomegranate Salad that is the definition of freshness with its sweet-and-sour late-summer flavors. Inspired by a trip to Istanbul, Ottolenghi experienced a “light-bulb moment” when he first tasted a similar salad at a local kebab restaurant near the Spice Bazar and “realized how the two types of sweetness – the sharp, almost bitter sweetness of pomegranates and the savory, sunny sweetness of tomato – can complement each other so gloriously.” I couldn’t say it any better…
And you need this in your life! Excellent as a salad or as a topping for crostini or toasted baguette slices for a twist on bruschetta. The next day, I devoured it with tortilla chips – a truly unique salsa – bring it to a tailgate or football party and bask in the compliments. I had three different kinds of heirloom tomatoes and used them rather than the cherry tomatoes called for in the recipe and it was absolutely phenomenal.
- 200 g red cherry tomatoes cut into ½cm dice
- 200 g yellow cherry tomatoes cut into ½cm dice
- 200 g tiger or plum tomatoes, cut into ½cm dice
- 4 medium vine tomatoes cut into ½cm dice (500g net)
- 1 red pepper cut into ½ cm dice (120g net)
- 1 small red onion finely diced (120g net)
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- ½ tsp ground allspice
- 2 tsp white wine vinegar
- 1½ tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 60 ml olive oil plus a little extra to drizzle at the end
- 1 pomegranate seeds removed (170g of seeds)
- 1 tbsp picked small oregano leaves to garnish
- Salt and black pepper
In a large bowl, mix together the tomatoes, red pepper and onion and set aside.
In a small bowl whisk the garlic, allspice, vinegar, pomegranate molasses, olive oil, and 1/3rd teaspoon of salt, until well combined. Pour this over the tomatoes and gently mix.
Arrange the tomatoes and the juices on a large flat plate. Sprinkle over the pomegranate seeds and oregano and finish with a drizzle of olive oil.
Shared here exactly as it is written in Ottolenghi's book Plenty More, I adapted the recipe for what I had on hand by using 1/2 of three different large heirloom tomatoes and substituted a Smoky Cassis vinegar from Chaparral Gardens and marjoram for the Pomegranate Molasses and oregano. I also didn't add salt.
Enjoy! And thank you to Frieda’s Inc. for the lovely pomegranates 🙂