If you’re like me, you’ve spent at least some of the last week Googling “Best Cookbooks of 2013”—and then wondering if Ottolenghi, by London chef and restaurateur Yotam Ottolenghi (which turns up on just about every list) is really all its cracked up to be.
I don’t know. Nor do I know if Jerusalem, which won the same author heaps of accolades in 2012, deserved them. But I can tell you this: either book would have to be mind-bogglingly good to surpass Plenty, which he put out in 2011 to slightly less acclaim.
Plenty is the rarest of things: a vegetarian cookbook that will totally captivate meat-eaters, even as it delights longtime vegetarians with flavor profiles that are so inventive and original that it’s hard to believe that many of these recipes will work out (I mean, celeriac and lentils with hazelnuts and mint? Fried lima beans with sorrel and sumac? Tomato-semolina-cilantro soup?) until you cook them and they knock your socks off, every single time. My mother has always judged a cookbook a success if it contains just one great recipe she’ll come back to. Plenty is a veritable home-run derby.
It may also solve the conundrum of buying for a Philly vegetarian who may already be getting Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby’s new Vedge: 100 Plates Large and Small That Redefine Vegetable Cooking from like six other people.
Bonus gift: Head down to International Food and Spices (4203 Walnut Street) and pick up some dried Persian limes, an ingredient that turns up frequently in Plenty. A bag of ten or 12 will only set you back about three bucks, and their enthrallingly funky tang defies substitution.