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in the kitchen with: yotam ottolenghi’s spinach dish

by Kristina Gill

We are so very lucky to have an original recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi this week.  Yotam, together with Sami Tamimi, are the creative forces behind Ottolenghi, one of the most delectable and popular food shops and caterers in London (there are four shops actually!).  Yotam has just published his second book, Plenty, a collection of recipes based on his column “The New Vegetarian” in the Guardian’s weekend magazine. {Anyone looking for irresistible vegetarian recipes should bookmark that!} This recipe for spinach with sumac and fresh cheese is the perfect meal when you want something really fast.  Three minutes is all it takes!   You can follow Ottolenghi on Twitter for sneak peeks into the kitchen, and to see preparations of what will be available each day at Ottolenghi. –Kristina

CLICK HERE for the full recipe, more images, and more about Yotam after the jump!

About Yotam: Yotam was born in Jerusalem, 41 years ago to a mother from Germany and a father from Italy.  He completed his studies in Philosophy and Literature at Tel Aviv university and worked as a sub-editor for the daily Haaretz.  In 1997, after completing his Master of Arts degree, he moved to London to attend a few courses at The Cordon Bleu, during which time he also worked in the evenings as a pastry chef.  He continued to work for a couple of more years in various restaurants and delis until 2002, when, along with Noam Bar and Sami Tamimi, he set up Ottolenghi: a unique food shop offering a wide range of freshly made savoury dishes, baked products and patisserie items. They now have four locations in London.

Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, was published by Ebury Press in May 2008 and sold over 100,000 copies.  Ottolenghi’s second book, Plenty,  also published by Ebury Press, was released earlier this month.

Yotam writes The New Vegetarian column in The Guardian’s Weekend Saturday magazine.  He lives with his partner, Karl, in west London.  (Portrait of Yotam and Images of Ottolenghi shop by Keiko Oikawa)

Spinach with sumac, pine nuts, and fresh cheese

In the UK you can now find different types of local soft curd cheese, or quark, which has been extremely popular in Eastern Europe for generations. It is like a version of cream cheese, only lighter, fresher and much lower in fat. Choose one with about 10 per cent fat. Or you could substitute ricotta or fromage frais.

Serve this dish as soon as it is cooked, with thin slices of grilled bread; it will make a modest yet wholesome meal.

Serves 2

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
400g small spinach leaves, washed
1/2 tbsp sumac
1 1/2 tbsp chopped dill
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
50g soft curd cheese (or ricotta), at room temperature
20g pine nuts, lightly toasted and roughly crushed
1 tbsp chilli oil (or olive oil)
salt and black pepper

Pour the olive oil into a large pot and add the spinach. Cook on high heat, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes. The spinach needs to wilt completely and lose some of its water; drain off any remaining liquid.

Add half the sumac, the dill, garlic, lemon juice and some salt and pepper to the spinach. Taste for seasoning, making sure the mix is quite peppery and well salted.

Lift the hot spinach onto serving plates – when doing this, squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can. Deposit spoonfuls of cheese on top of the spinach. Scatter over the pine nuts and drizzle with chilli oil. Finish with the remaining sumac and serve at once.

Why Yotam chose this recipe:

This recipe is a perfect example of simplicity and freshness.  It is light and sharp and is all you really need for an invigorating summery lunch.

Kristina’s notes:  For this recipe, I used an Italian cheese called ‘giuncata’ because I could not find quark here. Also, the recipe is gluten-free obviously…if the grilled bread is gluten free!

Recipe Images by Kristina Gill:  Brown rimmed plate in ingredients shot from Vintage Heaven; salt dishes (wasabi and white), dipping bowl (white), dessert bowl (ash), square (milk) all by mud australia; all other utensils are vintage pieces.

Suggested For You


  • Sounds yummy, but I’m afraid I do not know what “sumac” is or where I might find it. Any suggestions?

  • This looks delicious – I love spinach. And it’s quick, so I can prepare something else for my reluctant kids, while I indulge in the greenery!

  • I have Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, the first book by Yotam and Sami. I bought it after much debate. I had seen a few interior photos on Design*Sponge so I knew the book had gorgeous photography, but I never saw it in person so I couldn’t flip through to look over the recipes. I asked a local bookstore to order it so I could look at it and they told me that it was already sold out in the U.S. (It was shortly after it was published so apparently a small quantity was printed and it sold out fast.) I was intrigued because I continuously heard great things about it on blogs so I went to the UK Amazon site and was blown away by all the glowing reviews. After that I ordered my book immediately from UK Amazon.

    Although I haven’t cooked extensively out of the book, I have cooked a few recipes and realize that what’s offered are very unique recipes and a few dishes could be extremely addictive – like home cooking but with a middle-eastern twist. I feel very fortunate to have gotten a copy of such a fantastic book and am really excited about the new book, Plenty. Anyway, I wanted to tell my story because I see that Plenty was published in late April but the US Amazon doesn’t have any copies available. I hope this won’t stop someone from ordering the book who is looking for something different. You can always order a used copy or order from overseas.

  • i just ordered the book and i’m anxious to have it in my hands and start cooking from it. beautiful photos by keiko and kristina once again!

  • Sumac is a spice frequently found in Persian food and in fact, I have it because I got it to prepare Persian rice and kebab. (@Oonafey I didn’t know it was used in Greek food!)

    I got mine in London at Portobello Rd market because I happened across it. Try in a specialty cuisine market where you live, or if you have Persian, Turkish, North African, Greek, restaurants where you live, drop by and ask them where to get it?

    You could also just leave it out of the recipe, and once you taste it, add a spice you have that you think goes well with it.

  • Yum! I know in a previous post you said that you are working on it, but PLEASE, please create a print recipe only ability. You feature such wonderful recipes and I am not technologically sound enough to be able to forgo a paper recipe. Or maybe my memory just isn’t good enough! Either way, I need the physical reminder of a wonderful recipe as I page through my recipe books and folders. Thank You!

    • ck

      if you want a physical reminder, simply cut and paste the text in one big CLICK into a text doc to print. we have equal numbers of people who want to print with images and without so i’m trying to decide what’s best to do. people get ticked at me if the print option includes images and get ticked if it doesn’t, so it’s sort of a lose lose right now. i’m trying to find something that we can drop in just these posts that lets people choose either but i haven’t found anything yet…


  • I love everything I’ve cooked from the previous book – the quinoa salad is totally addictive. Trying to restrain myself from rushing out to by this one as have so many cook books – but don’t think I can hold out much longer! Nice post – lovely photos.

  • Ooooh Yum:) Ottolenghi Rocks! Was in London in June for 5 days and went for the first time and ended up there everyday, sometimes twice – bought the Plenty book and lugged it home- well worth it! Thanx for such a great post!

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