Oh, Ottolenghi: Fennel and Feta with Pomegranate Seeds and Sumac / Couscous with Apricots and Butternut Squash

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A year or two ago, my friends Lauren and Amy gifted me with a cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi called “Ottolenghi: The Cookbook.” And even though it’s a beautiful, tall book with colorful pictures and herb-flecked recipes from Israel by way of London, I hardly ever used it. I made mental notes to cook from it–the sumac chicken, for example–but nothing ever happened. And then something did, finally, happen: Ottolenghi published another book, Plenty, that’s all the rage now. Instead of running out and buying that, I reopened the Lauren/Amy Ottolenghi book and discovered a world of wonders within. I decided to cook two recipes from it for a dinner that I cooked for my friends Kenny and Brendan.

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Caramelized Cauliflower with Oranges, Olives and Saffroned Cous Cous

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Cauliflower makes me comfortable. If I see it a grocery store, I heave a sigh of relief: “I know what I can do with this,” I say to myself. The store manager eyes me warily.

Last time cauliflower made an appearance on the blog, I cooked it like a steak for a bunch of vegans. Well the leftover cauliflower florets from that dinner were sitting in a bowl in my fridge last week and inspiration struck again. Here’s what I did.

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Cooking for Vegans (Watermelon Salad, Cauliflower Steaks & Coconut Lime Rice Pudding)

I was flipping out on Saturday because I’d extended a dinner invitation to an awesome friend named Isaac (he directs stunning music videos, check them out here) and Isaac is a vegan. But not just a vegan: a vegan with a nut allergy. I was already cooking a “thank you” meal for Lizzie Leitzell, my cookbook photographer, and her boyfriend Kyle. They’re mostly vegetarian, so we were already dealing with a meatless meal, but now I had to cook one without eggs, without milk, and without that most wonderful of ingredients: BUTTER. What would I do?

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Don’t-Miss-The-Meat Vegetarian Chili

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I love chili, but ever since reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and watching “Food Inc.” I have a hard time making it with ground beef. Of course, on special occasions, I make Michael Symon’s recipe with slab bacon and pork shoulder, but last Wednesday wasn’t a special occasion. No: it was just a weeknight and as I found myself wandering the aisles of Gourmet Garage, I wondered: “What if I just get a bunch of vegetables and beans and cook them the way I cook Michael Symon’s chili? Ya know: with beer and chilis in adobo and freshly ground coriander and cumin seeds?” The results, as you can see above, were so good even Craig agreed: “I don’t miss the meat!”

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How To Host A Vegetarian Dinner Party (Answer: Mushroom Bourguignon)

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My friend Lisa was there at the very beginning of this blog. Six years ago, she and I would have debates about the worthiness of olives, we’d sing songs about pumpkin cake, and often we’d cook together. Then I moved far away to a country called Brooklyn and even though Lisa and I still saw each other socially, we’d rarely cook together. Three years passed. In that time, my cooking improved immeasurably and Lisa got engaged. Life is funny that way. And now that I’m back in Manhattan and Lisa still has an appetite I decided to invite Lisa, her fiance Eric, our friend Ricky and his new boyfriend David over for a sumptuous feast. Only problem: Lisa still is (and always has been) a vegetarian. What would I make for dinner?

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Garlic Scapes

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For as long as I’ve been going to the farmer’s market (about five years now), I always eye garlic scapes with skepticism and fear. These tangly, green specimens look like a cross between a plant and an octopus. Even Craig, who loves octopi, approached the garlic scapes I brought home this weekend with great dread and apprehension….

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The Barefoot Contessa’s Wheat Berry Salad

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There are many words one might use to describe me–“enthusiastic,” “smiley,” “mildly irritating”–but “hippie” probably isn’t one of them. Sure, I may walk around in sandals in the summer, but who doesn’t? And true, Janice is my favorite Muppet and my aunt Cindy (my dad’s sister) was photographed blowing a bubble at Woodstock (see here) but I’m too neurotic to be a hippie. My motto isn’t “Free Love,” it’s “Wash Your Hands After Touching Your Shoelaces Because They’re Really Dirty.” Which leads to a very important question: if I’m not a hippie, how can it be possible that I have not one but TWO recipes for Wheat Berry salad?

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