Never did I think I'd be pulling an Ottolenghi cookbook from my bookshelf to make a weeknight dinner. And the fact that I've done just that many times in the past month still surprises me. It's nothing against Yotam Ottolenghi — it's just that I keep a rather strict set of parameters for weeknight cooking. I rely on recipes that can be meal prepped, require few ingredients, come together with freezer or pantry staples, or can be pulled together and on the table in 30 minutes or less. And the more boxes a recipe checks, the better.
If you've ever cooked from any of his previous books, like Ottolenghi, Jerusalem, Plenty, or Plenty More, then you know that as wonderful as they are, they usually don't quite fit the bill for weeknight cooking — or, at least my parameters for weeknight cooking, that is. His new book, Ottolenghi Simple, is an entirely different story.
Out of his cookbook roster, this one is easily my favorite. The recipes are so clearly and distinctly Ottolenghi — you'll see it in the photos and taste it in every dish you make — but they check the boxes that meal preppers and weeknight home cooks, like me, are looking for. From reasons that vary from a short ingredient list or cook time, to dishes that rely on pantry items or can be prepped ahead of time, the recipes in Ottolenghi Simple are just that: simple. Here's why you should pick it up.
As Ottolenghi is quick to point out in the book's introduction, the idea of what defines "simple" cooking is relative and varies in meaning from one person to the next. Perhaps it's getting dinner on the table in 20 minutes, or using few ingredients, even relying on meal prep to get a head start on dinner.
But here's why I think this book really delivers on its title.
1. It's filled with recipes you can make in 30 minutes or less.
This is the "S" in Simple and it stands for "short on time." If your goal, like mine, is getting food on the table in no more than 30 minutes, this book is filled with recipes that help you do it — everything from meats and seafood to pasta and salads. Many of these recipes are what we affectionately describe as fast and fancy. They're quick to pull off, but look and taste darn impressive, just like the braised eggs with leek and za'atar, or the recipe for Bridget Jones's pan-fried salmon with pine nut salsa.
2. It also has plenty of recipes that don't require a laundry list of ingredients.
Many recipes in the book keep ingredients to 10 or fewer. And what's more, Ottolenghi includes pantry basics like cooking oil and salt and pepper in his ingredient count. Rest assured that cutting back the number of ingredients doesn't mean settling for less flavor, though.
3. There are lots of make-ahead options for meal preppers.
This book comes with so many meal prep-friendly recipes, whether that means prepping a couple of hours, a day, or even a week ahead. Ottolenghi even clearly points out these make-ahead moments for you!
4. It'll help you cook from your pantry.
The book is filled with recipes that lean hard on pantry items. Not only does this help us use what we already have on hand, but it also means our weekly food budgets aren't going out the window on a single recipe.
5. Ottolenghi believes in the magic of one-pot meals.
This is the "L" in Simple — and it stands for "lazy." Good news, friends: Ottolenghi is on board with one-pot meals and sheet pan suppers just as much as we are. He is not shy about filling this book with recipes that ask us for sometimes minimal prep (and equally minimal cleanup), while still delivering a fresh, full-flavored dish.
6. Many of these recipes are easier to make than you'd think.
There is nothing quite like pulling off a recipe that's bursting with flavor and good looks, only discover is was deceptively easy to make. These recipes never fail to make me feel like a total rockstar in the kitchen. This is an area where Ottolenghi just gets it. He wants you to savor these recipes, all while keeping them totally easy and accessible.
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7. You'll still be introduced to fun, new ingredients.
Just like his previous cookbooks, this one introduces you to interesting ingredients, like rose harissa, and makes some unexpected ingredient combinations that might seem unlikely, but are truly magic.