Why is London chef Yotam Ottolenghi so popular in the US? The Israeli-born chef owns five London restaurants (along with partner Sami Tamimi) but none in this country, and he's not really on TV apart from the occasional interview and/or MasterChef guest judging gig. Yet his first two books released in the US, Plenty and Jerusalem, were New York Times bestsellers. Jerusalem was far and away the most recommended cookbook of 2012. So what gives? Perhaps the answer lies within the US release of Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, out this Fall.
This is actually Ottolenghi and Tamimi's first cookbook, and was originally published in the UK in 2008. The book contains recipes from the four London locations of "patisserie, deli, restaurant, and bakery" Ottolenghi, and as such has much more of an emphasis on sweets and baking than the other two books. But otherwise it's chock full of the food Ottolenghi's known for: unfussy, vegetable-heavy dishes, popping with herbs and color.
Perhaps the reason Ottolenghi's books do so well here — why they legitimately have a cult following, as Julia Moskin points out in today's NYT — is they contain a balance that's absent from a lot of our cookbooks. They're vegetable-centric without being vegetarian, sophisticated and modern without being overly complicated, healthy without being a fad diet, gutsy without being some bro chef's ode to pork cuts you haven't heard of. (Also, the recipes happen to actually work, which is more uncommon than one might hope.)
That said: the book was originally published in 2008, and it's beginning to show its age. The photography is slightly dated, the layout is a little confusing, and a side-by-side comparison to Jerusalem shows that Ottolenghi and Tamimi's later work simply just had more money poured into it. Still, expect this one to be pretty popular come Fall. Ottolenghi: The Cookbook comes out from Ten Speed September 3 (pre-order on Amazon).