Wednesday, July 6, 2011

ottolenghi soba noodles with eggplant and mango

Last year, I had the distinct pleasure of eating at Ottolenghi in the Islington neighborhood of northern London (see post): it was one of the best (perhaps the best?) meals of my life. Today, I had the distinct pleasure of opening up the front door at my mom's house to find an unexpected box from Amazon. Inside: Yotam Ottolenghi's latest cookbook, Plenty.

Plenty might be the most beautiful cookbook that there ever was. My first impression out of the box was visual: a delicious cover photo (eggplant with buttermilk sauce). Second impression: tactile. It's a book you want to pet, with its velvety matte finish. The cover is thick and a little springy (reminiscent of a learn-to-read children's book, in a good way), giving it a bit of heft without rendering it tome-like. And then there are the recipes. Oh, the recipes.

"Vibrant vegetable recipes" is the book's subtitle. This cookbook was written for me, it seems, with veggies playing starring roles in dishes like sweet potatoes with lemongrass, leek fritters, crusted pumpkin wedges with sour cream, broccoli and gorgonzola pie, caramelized fennel and goat cheese, and so many more incredible sounding combinations.

I had been thinking about some sort of cold soba noodle salad for dinner before the book arrived, so the first thing I did was to scan for soba recipes. There were two to choose from: soba noodles with wakame and soba noodles with eggplant and mango. I went with the latter.

The dish was as pleasing as the cookbook. Visually, it was a stunning combination of colors: sunny yellow mango with browned eggplant offset by the cilantro and basil greens with specks of red pepper and purple onion. The texture was appealing: silky, saucy noodles, crispy fried eggplant with a soft interior, toothsome mango. The flavor profile was of simple ingredients melding into complex: sweet mango, earthy eggplant, bright and tangy lime dressing, a bit of spice from the pepper and kick from the garlic and onion. The flavor is sure to be even better tomorrow after the components have a chance to further meld in the fridge overnight. It was a hit all around: Mickey and Mom agreed that this should be made again in the future. We're already looking forward to leftovers tomorrow.

Photo curtesy Mickey Nussbaumer.

Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango
Serves 6

1/2 c. rice vinegar
3 Tbsp. sugar (I substituted agave)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 fresh red chile, finely chopped
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
grated zest and juice of 1 lime
1 c. sunflower oil
2 eggplants, cut into 3/4 inch dice
8 oz. soba noodles
1 large ripe mango, cut into 3/4 inch dice
1 2/3 c. basil leaves, chopped
2 1/2 c. cilantro leaves, chooped
1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced

Gently warm vinegar, sugar, and salt for up to 1 minute, just until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add garlic, chile, and sesame oil. Allow to cool. Add lime zest and juice.

Heat sunflower oil in a large pan and shallow-fry the eggplant in three or four batches. Once golden brown remove to a colander, sprinkle liberally with salt and leave in sink to drain.

Cook noodles in plenty of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until tender but still al dente. Drain and rinse well under cold water. Shake off as much of the excess water as possible, then leave to dry on a dish towel.

In a mixing bowl, toss the noodles with the dressing, mango, eggplant, half the herbs and the onion. You can now leave this aside for 1 to 2 hours. When ready to serve, add the rest of the herbs and mix well, then pile on a plate or in a bowl.

Two years ago: stuffed patty-pan squash


  1. That sound delicious, and the cookbook sounds amazing. I've been veggie for almost a month, and feel like I'm running low on veggie options at home. A new veggie-friendly cookbook might be in my future :)

  2. It's tough being a veggie ,the food you get sometimes is bland and tasteless ,this looks very nice, wa have 2veggies in our house and it's always difficult to feed them.So will give this one ago.
    Kind Regards
    David Head


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