My husband really hates to exercise. In fact, he prefers not to break a sweat under any circumstances, and if possible, to avoid exercising outdoors at all times. If I can persuade him to take a walk with me, we have a negotiation over the route: he will walk if we stay on the sidewalks, but if I suggest we go through the woods in Dumbarton Oaks Park, he’s out. These are the minor quirks of a long-married couple, but what it translates to is that I have to be mindful of what he eats when he’s home. His loathing of the great outdoors and all physical movement is not conducive to a slim waistline or a long life.
This got me interested in the healthful properties of what is generally known as a Mediterranean diet, which led me to Ottolenghi. I mentioned Ottolenghi in a recent post about London, and have been looking forward to putting up a recipe from one of the cookbooks ever since. The true test of a great cookbook is to try recipes from it and find them slipping automatically into the weekly menu rotation of family favorites. This summer, we’ve been eating a couple of meals a week out of the Ottolenghi and Jerusalem cookbooks. The food is simple, fresh, and bursting with color, texture, and exotic spices. They use lots of lemon juice and garlic, fresh herbs, crunchy vegetables, tangy cheeses and yogurt, and spices that seem almost extraterrestrial in their exoticism. It’s a whole new way for us to eat, and perfect in the summer heat. I don’t mean to draw any false conclusions here, but both my husband and I have lost a couple of pounds since May. Could it be the Ottolenghi influence? I don’t know, but I’ll take it.
The two chefs, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, are practical in their approach to cooking: they support organic and locally sourced food, but they understand that not everyone can ‘grow their own’, or afford to eat a fully organic diet. Their cookbooks remind us that cooking should be a simple, realistic, and joyful part of daily life.
This is a summer salad in all but its presentation: substantial, flavorful and light enough to feel that there’s room for a bite of dessert.
Ottolenghi Lamb Cutlets with Fig and Goat Cheese Salad
Prep Time 45 minutes
- 12 lamb cutlets, French trimmed
- sea salt and pepper
- Leaves from 6b thyme sprigs, roughly chopped
- Leaves form one rosemary sprig, roughly chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 6 Tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup orange juice
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ¼ cup broken walnuts
- ½ cup crumbled goat’s cheese
- 1/8 teaspoon flat leaf parsley leaves
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 4 fresh figs, halved or quartered
- Mix together marinade and massage into the lamb.
- Refrigerate in sealed container for at least four hours.
- Put sauce ingredients in heavy saucepan, bring to a boil, and stir.
- Simmer for 30-40 minutes, until reduced by two thirds.
- Set aside to cool.
- Toast walnuts in a non-stick frying pan at medium heat for five minutes and set aside to cool.
- Season both sides of the lamb cutlets with salt and pepper.
- Heat a pan until piping hot and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side for rare to medium meat.
- Remove from pan and allow to rest for two minutes.
- Toss together the salad ingredients, except the figs, and season with salt and pepper.
- Don’t let the goat cheese smear the leaves.
- Place cutlets on serving plate, pile the salad next to them, and the figs alongside.
- Spoon sauce over all.
- Serve at once.