Read About Our Kitchen Failures, Fiascos, and Successes...
This story begins, as all great ones do, in a bookstore. Before dinner at Tsubaki, which was excellent, by the way, we stopped at one of my favorite book shops in all of Los Angeles, Stories Books & Cafe.
My partner, Sam, and I were browsing, and he picked up Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi, a famous British chef Sam was familiar with. We paged through and figured the simple, minimal-ingredient recipes would be perfect for easy weeknight dinners. How wrong we were.
Ottolenghi's Special Ingredients
First off, Ottolenghi has a series of "pantry staples," which are special ingredients the professional chef keeps in his pantry. For the rest of us, these items can be difficult to find. So far, we have tried six recipes, and I have had to hunt for ingredients for about four of them.
My Hunt for Semolina Flour
One of the first recipes we tried was called, "Herby Zucchini and Peas with Semolina Porridge." We could not find the semolina flour anywhere, and after having a full-on breakdown at Sprouts (my last hope! and yes, I cried in front of the cashier), we had to order it on Amazon.
Once we had the flour, the recipe was pretty straightforward, aside from a lot of chopping. I have never sliced so many zucchini in my life, and I was like a squash-chopping machine by the end of the prep. Also, the herbs packs they sell in grocery stores are NOT ENOUGH for how herby Ottolenghi wants your veggies to be. I usually have a hard time using all of the herbs, but this time I was fresh out. I also spent so much time picking tarragon leaves and absolutely demolished one of those living plants. Sorry, buddy!
The recipe itself turned out well, but I think the veggies needed those extra herbs, and it would have tasted better if I had purchased more from the market. After the great semolina fiasco of 2022, however, I couldn't be bothered to go back.
We also made the "Shrimp and Corn Fritters" Ottolenghi recommended as a starter, and those were to die for and quite easy to produce. 10/10 would make again - even though I had to use a blender instead of a food processor and blending raw shrimp is about as gross as you would imagine.
Ottolenghi's Asian Feast
Before I continue my rant about finding ingredients and pushing myself to my own physical limits as an amateur chef (oops), I should note that Sam made the "Chicken with Miso, Ginger, and Lime," which was as simple as promised, especially with me serving as sous chef.
Sam is also a lot calmer than I am in the kitchen, so it was a pleasant experience all around - and the chicken was delicious. This could absolutely be a simple weeknight dinner.
For my next recipe, I got extremely ambitious and bought an entire sea bass at the La Cañada Flintridge Farmer's Market on Sunday, then cooked it according to Ottolenghi's instructions - and with all his recommended sides.
Before I could start with that, however, I had to find the ingredients. One of the ingredients was Thai sticky rice for the, "Thai Sticky Rice with Crispy ginger, Chile, and Peanuts," recipe.
I went to two stores and still couldn't find it, so I had to sub in sushi rice. Also, Los Angeles seems to have every kind of pepper except for regular red chiles, so I subbed in some Serrano peppers, which were far too fierce for my taste.
I also couldn't find flaked sea salt, which is a fancy chef item that I will own someday but not today.
In the kitchen, I quickly got overwhelmed because I was working on about three recipes simultaneously. I had Sam help with chopping, and at one point he pretty much took over the "Broccolini with Soy Sauce, Garlic, and Peanuts," recipe because I was a bit overwhelmed by scoring the fish and boiling the sauce for the "Whole Roasted Sea Bass with Soy Sauce and Ginger."
Aside from a lot of stress, everything turned out alright! The rice was a bit too spicy for me, and the veggies on top didn't get quite as crispy as they were meant to, but Sam really liked it. The fish was flaky, beautiful, and delicious and I might have liked the marinated, fishy cabbage underneath even better.
-> Rizzo (my cat) approved as well. She is usually hesitant about eating people food, but licked the bit of fish we gave her right out of Sam's hand.
The broccolini didn't quite caramelize or blend the way it should have, probably because we didn't give it enough attention, but the flavors were still great!
Overall, it was a feast as promised and it looked and tasted brilliant. I wish we could have had people over, but Sam was feeling a bit under the weather.
He said it was a bit outrageous for a Monday night (fair) but it was as good as or better than any Thai fish he had had in a restaurant, so I'll take it as a win!
We have tons of leftovers from our previous recipes, and I need a little break from cooking (and grocery shopping, to be honest) after all that, but tune in for future culinary adventures!
As always, you can contact me through the contact form on my website or at loganrosereadsandwrites at gmail dot com.
I'm always up to talk about food, cooking, and restaurants - as well as writing and pretty much all forms of creativity - so don't hesitate to reach out!