Diner’s delight: Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes for American treats (2024)

From Spain last week to the big old United States this, I think I’m still on some kind of imaginary summer holiday road trip. That’s the power of food, though: it can take you to places that life and logistics prevent you from actually ever getting to. In my mind, then, here are three deliciously dialled-up diner dishes for which I’d turn off any highway.

Smashed potatoes with ranch dressing and charred green beans (pictured top)

If there was ever a king of all the US salad dressings, it would be ranch. Spoon it over roast vegetables, smother fries with it, dip crisps in it … Make it your own with a sprinkle of cayenne or a dash of Worcestershire sauce, or swap the coriander for any soft herb that you have to hand.

Prep 25 min
Cook 1 hr
Serves 4-6 as a side

1kg new potatoes, or charlotte potatoes
Fine sea salt and black pepper
70ml olive oil
100g green beans
, trimmed
7 spring onions, trimmed
1 large green chilli (20g), cut in half lengthways, then cut at an angle into 4-5cm pieces (discard the pith and seeds if you like less heat)
2½ tbsp fresh lemon juice (ie, from 1-2 lemons)

For the ranch dressing
120g mayonnaise
2 spring onions
(30g), trimmed and roughly chopped
2 green chillies (20g), roughly chopped (deseeded if you like less heat)
15g fresh coriander, roughly chopped
½ tsp onion granules
¼ tsp garlic granules
120g Greek yoghurt

Heat the oven to 240C (220C fan)/475F/gas 9. Put the potatoes in a large pan of well-salted water, bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium-high and cook for 20-25 minutes, until the tip of a small sharp knife goes through them easily. Drain, then spread out on a large oven tray lined with baking paper. Using the base of a glass or bowl, lightly press down on each potato, to smash it, then sprinkle over a good grind of pepper. Add 45ml olive oil to the tray, toss gently to coat, then roast for 25-30 minutes, until golden and crispy in places.

Meanwhile, put a large frying pan on a high heat. Once it’s smoking, char the beans and spring onions in two or three batches for two to three minutes, turning regularly, until nicely blackened in places. Lift out on to a tray, leave to cool, then cut at an angle into 4-5cm lengths. Put in a bowl with the pieces of chilli, a tablespoon of lemon juice, the remaining tablespoon and a half of olive oil and a quarter-teaspoon of salt, then set aside.

Now for the dressing. In the small bowl of a food processor, blitz the remaining tablespoon and a half of lemon juice with the mayonnaise, spring onions, green chillies, coriander, onion and garlic granules, and a half-teaspoon of salt, until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl, stir in the yoghurt and set aside.

To assemble, arrange the potatoes on a platter, scatter the green bean mixture all over the top, then spoon on a quarter of the ranch dressing. Serve with the rest of the dressing in a bowl on the side, for dipping.

Quick biscuits and sausage gravy

Diner’s delight: Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes for American treats (1)

Biscuits and gravy are an American breakfast staple that originates from southern Appalachia. The dish provides a cheap, substantial meal to start the day. These biscuits are quick, but still produce a buttery, short crumb, and are best served freshly baked. The gravy can be made while they bake, so you can eat them warm from the oven.

Prep 15 min
Cook 25 min
Serves 4

For the biscuits
250g plain flour
¾ tsp demerara sugar
2 tsp baking powder
⅛ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Fine sea salt and black pepper
100g fridge-cold butter
, cut into small pieces
130ml buttermilk

For the Cajun gravy
4 sausages (280g) – we used cumberland
½ tsp sunflower oil
1 green pepper
(140g), stem, pith and seeds removed, flesh diced small
20g unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp Cajun seasoning
¾ tsp smoked paprika
1 pinch cayenne pepper
2 tsp plain flour
300ml whole milk
15g chives
, finely sliced

To serve
Gherkins, pickled jalapeños or lemon wedges

Heat the oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7. Mix the first four biscuit ingredients and a half-teaspoon of salt in a medium bowl. Add the cold butter and rub into the flour mix with your fingertips until it’s a shaggy breadcrumb texture with a few flecks of butter. Stir in buttermilk, to make a dough, then knead for 15 seconds, just to bring it together. Divide into four even balls, place on a lined oven tray and bake for 25 minutes, until deeply golden brown and nicely raised. Set aside until you’re ready to eat.

Meanwhile, make the gravy. Put a medium saute pan on a medium-high heat. Remove the meat from the sausage casings and pinch into rough 1cm pieces. Add the oil and sausagemeat pieces to the hot pan and fry, turning occasionally, for 10 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. Transfer the browned sausagemeat to a bowl, leaving the fat in the pan. Add the pepper to the hot fat and fry, stirring occasionally, for four minutes, until lightly charred. Stir in the melted butter, spices, an eighth of a teaspoon of salt and a grind of pepper, cook for a minute, then add the flour and cook for 30 seconds more. Still stirring, slowly pour in the milk and cook for about six minutes longer, until the mix thickens and turns glossy. Return the sausagemeat pieces to the pan, add two tablespoons of cold water and cook, stirring, for a further 30 seconds, until the meat is warmed through. Take off the heat and stir in half of the chives.

To serve, cut the warm biscuits in half widthways, then arrange cut side up on a platter. Pour the hot gravy and sausage pieces all over, sprinkle on the remaining chives and serve with gherkins, pickled jalapeños or lemon wedges.

Sweet potato pie with whipped cream

Diner’s delight: Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes for American treats (2)

Sweet potato pie is as traditional as southern US cooking gets. In this version, we love the crunchy cookie case against the silky smooth filling, while the peanut butter adds a creamy twist. You can bake it up to a day ahead, but don’t top with cream until just before serving.

Prep 20 min
Cook 1 hr 30 min
Cool 2 hr
Serves 10

For the tart base
110g fridge-cold butter, cut into 1cm cubes
170g plain flour
75g light brown sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp fine sea salt
1 egg yolk
1½ tsp bourbon
(or water)

For the sweet potato filling
3 sweet potatoes (800g)
90g unsalted butter, melted
90g light brown sugar
1½ tsp cornflour
¼ tsp fine sea salt
90ml double cream
3 eggs
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp peanut butter

For the whipped cream
200ml double cream
50g cream cheese
1 tbsp icing sugar

To serve
1 tsp finely grated lime zest

Start by making the tart case. Lightly grease a 24cm springform tart tin. Put the butter, flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt in the bowl of a food processor and blitz to the texture of breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and bourbon (or water), pulse until well combined, then tip out on to a work surface and knead for a few seconds, until the mix comes together into a dough. Pinch off and place pieces of the dough on to the lined tin, starting from the sides, then press them together to form a roughly ½cm-thick crust, working your way around the tin to form as even a layer as possible. It should come up just above the rim of the tin. Put in the fridge to chill and rest for at least an hour (and up to 24 hours).

Meanwhile, start on the sweet potatoes. Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Put the sweet potatoes on an oven tray lined with baking paper, prick them all over with a fork, then bake for an hour to 75 minutes, turning once, until completely soft. Remove and leave to cool before peeling off and discarding the skins.

Once the sweet potatoes are out of the oven, bake the tart case at the same temperature for 17 minutes, until golden brown, then remove and transfer the tart tin to a wire rack to cool.

When you’re ready to bake, heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Put the peeled, cooked sweet potatoes in a blender with all the remaining filling ingredients, then blitz for 30 seconds to a minute, until smooth. Pour the filling into the tart case, smooth out the top, then bake for 30 minutes, rotating once halfway, until the filling is set and burnt orange in colour. Remove from the oven, leave to cool slightly, then carefully unclip and lift on to a large platter.

Just before serving, put all the whipped cream ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until the mix just holds its shape. Spoon on to slices of the pie and serve sprinkled with lime zest.

Diner’s delight: Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes for American treats (2024)

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