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Six O’Clock Solution: Ottolenghi unlocks cucumber's secrets

A new Yotam Ottolenghi cookbook is always an event, and the vegetable-based Ottolenghi Flavor is a winner.

Yotam Ottolenghi's cucumber salad is trimmed with black sesame seeds.

A new Yotam Ottolenghi cookbook is always an event, and the vegetable-based Ottolenghi Flavor (Appetite by Random House, $45) is a winner.

Featuring 100-plus recipes, the Israeli-born London restaurateur’s new book begins with a chapter explaining his vegetable cuisine, and how he unlocks the flavours with sweetness, fat, something acidic and some heat from chilies or spices. Having whetted our appetites, Ottolenghi then expands on his four methods of bringing punch to a vegetable: charring in a grill pan; browning, a slightly gentler method; infusing, a combination of soaking and gentle heating; and aging, which is done with such products as Parmesan, anchovies and soy sauce.

As fans of these books well know, Ottolenghi’s recipes tend to have long lists of ingredients and can require special shopping. Believers don’t mind. Newcomers can take it easy with the simpler dishes, such as today’s salad. Its tahini, mirin and black sesame seeds can be found in most supermarkets.

Cucumber Salad

Serves 4

Dressing:

1/4 cup (60 g / 60 mL) tahini

2 tablespoons (30 mL) soy sauce

4 1/2 teaspoons (22 mL) mirin or maple syrup

4 1/2 teaspoons (22 mL) rice vinegar

1 tablespoon (15 mL) water

Salad:

2 to 3 cucumbers (4 cups / 1 L), cut up

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 teaspoons (10 mL) rice vinegar

3 tablespoons (45 mL) fresh lime juice

Flaked sea salt

3 tablespoons (45 mL) sunflower oil

1 1/2 teaspoons (7 mL) black sesame seeds, lightly toasted

2 green onions, finely sliced on an angle

Dressing: Whisk together the tahini, soy sauce, mirin, vinegar and water until you have a very smooth sauce. Dressing may be made up to one week in advance and refrigerated. Stir to loosen, adding a little water if necessary.

Salad: Slice cucumbers into 3/4-inch (2 cm) pieces and put in a bowl. Add garlic, vinegar, lime juice and 1 tablespoon (15 mL) salt. Mix to combine, using your hands to lightly crush the cucumber.

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