Sunday, November 29, 2020

Radish and Cucumber Salad with Chipotle Peanuts

I have to admit, the new Ottolenghi Flavor cookbook, of which I received a review copy, took me by surprise. It is, of course, focused on developing big flavors in every dish, but some of those flavors are a bit of a departure from what we’ve come to expect from Ottolenghi recipes. It’s particularly fun to see more chiles being used with inspiration from Mexican cuisine. This book expands on Plenty and Plenty More by continuing the vegetarian theme, and all the recipes can easily be made vegan if preferred. The goal here was to distinguish each vegetable with cooking techniques and paired ingredients to maximize flavor potential. There are three sections that focus on Process, Pairing, and Produce, and all three are filled with exciting dishes I want to try. One example is the White Bean Mash with Garlic Aioli. At first glance, this looks like a fun take on hummus made with white beans and topped with aioli, whole white beans, herbs, and oil. But reading through the recipe reveals that the aioli is a nontraditional version made from cooked and softened garlic, cooked white beans, Dijon, anchovies if you wish, and lemon juice. I’m already making plans for some cooked cannellini beans I have stored in the freezer. Another is the Lime and Coconut Potato Gratin that looks like a typical potato gratin but is completely vegan with coconut cream and bright-flavored with lime, chiles, ginger, and green onion. Vegetables take on deep flavor from slow roasting in some cases and smoky char from grilling in others. A whole roasted celery root is sliced into steaks and topped with CafĂ© de Paris Sauce. Eggplant is charred for a soup with lots of herbs that looks delightful. And, Smoked Cascabel Oil sounds like something I want to drizzle on everything. There really are too many things I want to try to mention them all, but Tofu Meatball Korma, Olive Oil Flatbreads with Three-Garlic Butter, and Udon Noodles with Fried Tofu and Orange Nam Jim are at the top of my list. Right away, I had to try the Stuffed Eggplant in Curry and Coconut Dal, and it did not disappoint. And before that, I made the Radish and Cucumber Salad with Chipotle Peanuts. 

For this salad you start by making the spiced peanuts, and I highly recommend making more than the suggested amount. They make a terrific snack and disappear quickly while working the remaining ingredients. A dried chipotle was ground to a powder in a spice grinder. Some of that was combined with peanuts, cayenne, maple syrup, salt, lime juice, and olive oil in a saute pan in which the mixture was cooked while stirring until the peanuts were coated. The mixture was then transferred to a baking sheet and allowed to cool before being broken into pieces. For the salad, sliced cucumber, daikon, and cilantro leaves were tossed with a dressing made from minced garlic, jalapeno, cumin, lime zest, lime juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. The salad was served on a platter topped with the spiced peanuts. 

This salad was big on texture and flavor. I had cucumber, purple daikon, and jalapeno from local farms to use here. The freshness of the vegetables and spicy kick from the dressing and peanuts made for a great combination. It reminded me of a Thai salad I’ve made before that also brought together cucumber, chiles, and peanuts, but here the smoked chipotle and jalapeno took it in a new direction. I can't wait to taste all the other new directions found in dishes throughout the book.

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