Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Vegetarian Cookbooks for Omnivores

The reason cookbooks continue to sell when you can find plenty of recipes online is beautiful photos, illustrations and inventive recipes. The Forest Feast as it all. The pretty visual style of recipes with tons of photos as well as pretty watercolor illustrations is easy to follow and ever so appealing. The vegetarian recipes are simple but also attractive, such as Strawberry Salsa, Nectarine and Tomato Salad, Corn & Cauliflower Tacos and Polenta Portobellos. There are also a handful of cocktails. Erin Gleason the blogger behind the stylish vegetarian blog The Forest Feast is self-taught and focuses on seasonal ingredients. Nothing too cheffy here. Easy, pretty and original, it's a great introduction to vegetarian cuisine for omnivores or newbie home cooks looking for inspiration for everything from family meals to cocktails and entertaining.

Vegan cookbooks are nothing new. But a vegan cookbook written by someone who is not only not a vegan but not a vegetarian? Well, that is something new. And frankly, welcome. Myra Goodman and her daughter Marea Goodman are worthy evangelists for eating organic produce, since Myra Goodman is one of the co-founders of Earthbound Farm. She has written some lovely cookbooks in the past, but Straight from the Earth is particularly special. The recipes do not feature  dishes that approximate meat, but rather celebrate vegetables, grains, fruit, beans and nuts. The photography is beautiful and recipes are very enticing. There is no attitude, thankfully, just creativity and genuinely appealing recipes like Grilled Fig Sandwiches with Pistachio Pesto and Balsamic Caramelized Onions or Wheat Berry, Baby Kale, Grape and Orange Salad. Some recipes require the best seasonal produce like Crostini with Vine-Ripened Tomatoes and White Bean Puree, but others use things you can easily find all year long such as Miso Roasted Eggplant.

The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is a doorstop of a book, with 665 pages and more recipes than you could cook in a lifetime. Deborah Madison has added 150 recipe and updated countless more to her classic volume. There’s more emphasis on tempeh than tofu, which may or may not be a good thing, depending upon your taste. But the inclusion of ingredients like smoked paprika, curry leaves and farro is definitely good thing. What I particularly like about the book is that it covers so many different cuisines, there are galettes, tagines, risotto, breakfast breads, hearty main dish salads and so much more. I’ve bookmarked Saffron Dumplings, Spicy Quinoa and Potato Croquettes and Braised Artichokes with Leeks and Peas. You will never again wonder what to cook for vegetarians with this book and the emphasis on deliciousness means omnivores will not get bored.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links and books were provided as review copies. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Roasted Garlic and Potato Dip Recipe

Roast Garlic & Potato Dip
Greek cuisine features many great snacks and nibbles from olives to pastries and dips. An easy dip to make is skordalia. Recipes vary regionally, but generally feature garlic, extra virgin olive oil and potatoes though sometimes egg yolks, almonds or bread as well. The problem for me is raw garlic which gets more and more potent over time. The solution? Roast garlic.

Roast garlic is sweet and soft and most important, mellow. It won't overpower most dishes like this skordalia inspired dip made with potatoes, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and roast garlic, instead of raw. Not only is this dip good for Passover, it's vegetarian (vegan if you use vegan mayo) and gluten free! That is if you use a gluten free mayonnaise, which adds additional creaminess to the dip.

I have been experimenting with "roasting" garlic in the microwave oven, but whatever technique you want to use is fine. The main thing is not to overcook it. It should be soft and creamy but not too darkly caramelized. I use 3-4 cloves, but feel free to use as much as you like. Serve it with fresh vegetables for dipping.

Roasted Garlic and Potato Dip

1 russet potato
4 cloves roasted garlic (use any method you like)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Bake or microwave the potato until thoroughly cooked. You are not going to use the skin so however you prefer to cook it is fine. When cool enough to handle, slice open and scoop the potato out of the skin. Place the potato in a bowl with the garlic cloves and mash. Mix in the olive oil, mayonnaise and lemon juice. Add enough water to make a thick dip. Season to taste with salt.


Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Beet Almond Dip Recipe

I'm in the midst of creating 101 recipes for a new cookbook (it was announced March 3rd). As a result, I haven't been cooking anything other than recipes for the book. But Passover is coming up and I've been asked to bring appetizers to the seder dinner. Appetizers for Passover are a bit tricky. If the meal is meat, which is typical, then you can't use any dairy. In addition you can't use legumes, seeds and most grains. So that means things like hummus and baba ghahoush are out so are cheeses and dairy based dips. What's left? Vegetables and nuts. Also eggs and meat (chopped liver is typical).

Recently I received some samples of Melissa's Organic Baby Beets, peeled and steamed and ready to eat. These cooked beets are great for salads but I decided to try use them to make a dip. Instead of tahini, I used blanched almonds. Beets and almonds are really nice together. But they are both sweet, so I added ginger and lemon to cut the sweetness. It also needs plenty of salt.

You can serve this dip with chips or fresh vegetables. It's creamy and smooth and even though I felt like I was cheating on my Vitamix, I did test it in my ancient Cuisinart food processor and got great results. I am thinking about making another dip using roasted carrots and almonds. What do you think?

Beet Almond Dip 


1/4 cup blanched almonds
2 Tablespoons water
1 cup sliced cooked beets
1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger


Process the almonds and water in the food processor for a minute or so, until white and creamy but not completely smooth. Add the beets and process, scraping down the sides from time to time. Finally add the lemon juice and olive oil and ginger. Season to taste with salt.


Disclaimer: My thanks to Melissa's for providing me with the beets 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Brassicas, Soufflés & Okra: Single Subject Cookbooks

Brassicas: Cooking the World's Healthiest Vegetables 
Remember when people hated broccoli? And Brussels sprouts? And kale and collard greens were something only Southerners ate, but that was about it. Happily the brassicas which also include bok choy, cauliflower, cabbage, kohlrabi, mizuna and tatsoi are in vogue. But if you only know a few ways to cook those glorious cruciferous greens, you should check out this book. The recipes sound like dishes you’d find on a trendy menu— Kimchi Pancakes, Moroccan Turnip and Chickpea Braise, Smoky Kale Salad with Toasted Almonds and Eggs. While it's a shame this book didn't come out in the Fall, that is my only quibble with it.

The French Cook: Soufflés
I love soufflés. I just need the encouragement and reminder to make them more frequently. That is the role of Greg Patent aka The Baking Wizard, who offers up sound advice regarding the importance of separating whites and yolks, the freshness of eggs, the use of salt and sugar and the most crucial question of all, when are the whites beaten enough? As a chronic overbeater, this is something I desperately need to learn.  From savory to sweet to frozen, there are recipes for 2, 4-6 and 8-10 so for just about any occasion. If you’ve only ever had a cheese or chocolate soufflé, try your hand at the Spinach and Mushroom Soufflé, Fresh Apricot and St. Germain Soufflé or Meyer Lemon Soufflé.

Okra: A Savor the South® Cookbook
A whole cookbook on okra? Yes! This book takes on a vegetable that some love and others don’t. But seasoned chef and all around charmer, Virginia Willis can do magic with okra, frying it crisp, turning it into gumbo and also shares African, Mediterranean, Caribbean and Indian recipes for this odd vegetable. This book is a must for okra lovers, but also those, like me who don’t have a clue how to prepare it. I bought some okra just the other day and plan on making the West African Chicken Stew with Okra and Peanuts as well as the Limpin’ Susan, with rice, okra and bacon. When tomatoes are in season I want to try the Old School Okra and Tomatoes.

Disclaimer: These book were provided to me as review copies. This post includes Amazon affiliate links.