Last month, I wrote about my new dinner plan . . . my personal challenge to try one new recipe each week this winter, focusing on one of my more neglected cookbooks for a month.
Well. It’s time for me to report back!
I started with this cookbook . . .
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. (I have the “completely revised 10th anniversary” edition.) (I also notice that this cookbook is going for $19.59 in hardback on Amazon right now. That’s a steal for this cookbook, just sayin.)
I want to just begin with this clarification . . . I am not a vegetarian (and Tom is definitely not a vegetarian), but several years ago I made a commitment to cooking more meatless meals — and learning how to incorporate more vegetables into our lives. I don’t like “labels” around what I can or can’t eat (“vegetarian,” “vegan,” “pescatarian,” etc.), although my little foray into learning to cook more/with vegetables has certainly changed the way we eat around here. I make many meatless meals now (probably the majority of my cooking is meatless these days), and we really don’t miss meat all that much. (Okay. Tom is surprised by how he can enjoy meals without meat, but he still prefers meat. I do not miss meat at all.)
That said, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian is one of my very favorite types of cookbooks. I put it in the category of “encyclopedic” cookbooks: Lots of information. Well organized. Packed with “starter recipes” that include lots of options. How-tos aplenty. If you like to geek-out a bit reading cookbooks, this is One Of Those. There are photos — but not a lot, and certainly not for every recipe. (All of the recipes I cooked over the last month? No photos. I didn’t mind a bit.) One of my favorite things about this cookbook? It has a big section with detailed information about – and multiple ways to cook – every vegetable imaginable! It’s a great resource cookbook.
So. What did I cook?
The first thing I tried was “Pasta With Lentils or Other Legumes” (it was one of those basic recipes with many, many options). I chose it because . . . I had all the ingredients on hand. Plus, we like lentils (and “other legumes,” too). It was a solid choice. Easy to put together, and tasty. Although a bit on the bland side (lentils. . . ). I made notes (I usually make notes right in my cookbooks after I try something. I note our impressions, what I’d do differently next time, and I make sure to jot down any changes I made to the recipe, too) in case I decide to make it again someday. (Jury’s out on that one.)
The next thing I made? “Tortilla Soup.” And, friends? This one was a total winner! Again, this was easy to make (there’s a flurry of work right at the beginning, but then it’s smooth sailing right through serving time), and it was delicious! Tom and I tend to like food on the spicy side, so I did add a second poblano pepper and generous measures of seasonings (which I jotted down), but I’m sure you could make this without added heat if you chose to . . . and still end up with a really tasty soup.
Best of all? I tried something new . . . I deep fried my own tortilla strips. It was fun. It was super easy. And they were delicious! (I’m always a bit freaked out by “frying” anything, and will usually avoid it like the plague.)
Then I tried “Pearl Couscous Tagine.” Another winner! The most time-consuming part of this recipe was the chopping. Once that’s done, though, this goes together in a snap — and is really delicious. (If you ever try it, don’t skip the cinnamon sticks. They make the recipe!) We’re still enjoying the leftovers.
And although I didn’t take photos, I used some of Mark Bittman’s suggestions for roasting asparagus for dinner on Sunday night, with fabulous results. I often roast asparagus anyway, but there was something about the hints he provided that made my asparagus better-than-usual — and a big hit around the table. You can be sure I’ll be consulting those vegetable hints on the regular!
I also referred to the recipes he included for making vegetable stock. This is also something else I already make regularly, but I still learned from his suggestions. (He has a quick variety and a more-hands-on variety, where you sautee the vegetables before putting them in water.) I didn’t follow either recipe — because I just keep a bag of vegetable leftovers in my freezer, and when it’s full, I make a batch of vegetable broth (easy peasy), but I like reading his recipes and suggestions — and I did add a bit more salt and pepper than I usually do.
So. There you have it. Cooking from a cookbook I had not really opened before (even though it’s been living there on my cookbook shelf for a couple of years now). I’ve marked several other recipes I’d like to try this winter, and I know I’ll be using this for fresh ideas for whatever vegetables I’ve got on hand.
I just picked up Ina Garten’s newest cookbook last week. It’s kind of . . . not what I intended by all this (because my plan was to use the cookbooks already IN my cookbook library), but I couldn’t resist! And now I can’t wait. I’ll check in next month and let you know what I made.
In the meantime, have you tried any good recipes lately?
I have never been tempted by a vegetarian cookbook, but you certainly make this one sound worthwhile! I’m thinking the real test for me might be to try some of the recipes on John (he likes meat and then more meat) but I bet even he would eat (non-spicy) tortilla soup. I’m looking forward to next month’s cookbook installment!
How I wish I lived with a vegetable eater! I have the other MB cookbook – maybe I’ll take a peek at it…it’s been years! Everything looks so delicious there Kym!
I’ve made up a few of my own that worked out really well. AND, I made a recipe that I haven’t made in about, ohhhhhhhhhh, 30 years. It is knockwurst, potatoes, and grapes baked with sauerkraut (with caraway seeds and white grape juice). The first time we couldn’t find knockwurst so we tried a different “wurst” from the farm store. Last night we had knockwurst. I prefer the wurst from the farm store, but it was all good.
Now I have to “tweak” it so I don’t need to buy a half gallon of the white grape juice. The leftovers did not freeze well.
I bought a whole bunch of thrift store cookbooks and I’m slowly going through them.
Your recipes ALL sound good.
I love a cookbook that serves doubles as an encyclopedia! My go to for vegetables has always been the Victory Garden cookbook as it gives tips on growing and storing and cooking and it’s arranged alphabetically. I love anything Ina so I’m looking forward to hearing about what you make from her new cookbook. Dale is VERY resistant to meatless meals, I’m sure that’s not a surprise.
I also just got the new Ina Garten book. Two recipes, two winners. The shining star? Creamy chicken thighs with lemon and thyme. My husband says that it was just as good left over. Going to purchase the vegetarian cookbook!
Luckily I live with someone who is willing to try anything and does not mind vegetarian meals. I have a number of vegetarian cookbooks from my college years and still use them. Lentil soup is a favorite. These meals look really good Kym! And Ina!! Her recipes always are good and fun (plus cocktails!!). My most recent cooking was the cranberry walnut upside down cake – WONDERFUL!!! (and Fletch did have some for breakfast…I resisted…) PS If you and Tom both like Lentils, I have two recipes you might like (from somewhere on the Web): BBQ lentils and then another one that is Lentil sloppy joes (no meat, but tastes just like sloppy joes!). I’ll send you those if you like. Also, I’m curious about deep frying tortilla strips!
I love Mark Bittman but don’t have that cookbook. My biggest struggle with meatless/vegetarian meals is that so many of them involve pasta, which Rusty tries to avoid.
I’ve made three recipes from Ina’s new cookbook already!!
I live with two real meat eaters and have been trying to do more meatless recipes (I eat meat but was a veggie for several years), which is always a challenge. We often do what we now call a rice bowl because my daughter is for some reason turned off by the term “stir fry,” though that’s basically what it is — stir fried veggies over brown rice. I often add oven-fried tofu. But she is picky about sauces and food in general, so many soups and stews won’t cut muster with her. One of our newer standbys is taco stuffed peppers, which I make with meat (ground lean turkey) but could easily be made with beans or veggie crumbles. I make the taco meat as usual but instead of filling taco shells or tortillas, I fill up bell peppers that have been halved and allowed to soften a bit in the oven. I top the meat with a little Mexican blend cheese and put it back in the oven for about five minutes, just until the cheese is melted. It’s always a winner — and in fact it’s what’s for dinner tonight!
Ina’s recipes never fail me!
When it turned cold and snowy this past weekend, I made pumkin curry soup, I have no idea where I got the recipe from, but it is easy, delicious, and warming!
I have been vegetarian for over thirty years, I stopped eating meat as I don’t like the taste of it, my daughter has recently stopped for the same reasons. Most of the cookbooks on my shelf are vegetarian as I do all the cooking. I love the idea of trying recipes from a cookbook that you haven’t used for a while. I am currently loving the Green Roasting Tin, which is a collection of recipes that mostly involve using one dish in the oven except I am throwing everything in the slow cooker and hoping that it will work which it mostly does.
I love to add loads of garlic, garam masala and smoked paprika to flavour lentils as they don’t have any taste if you don’t season them well. I cook a lot of puy (a French type) lentils they are a small green variety which hold their shape more when cooked.
One of my absolute favorite quick meals is Kimchi Fried Rice topped with a fried egg. I use a variety of veggies that I have on hand and it is always so delicious! (No recipe, it is based on a favorite dish from a local Korean restaurant.)
But these all look delicious Kym… especially the Couscous!
The chicken and leek recipe from Ina’s newest cookbook is a winner…so, so good!
I’ve been using a fair number of Smitten Kitchen recipes lately – this week I made Baked Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage (though with Broccolini because that was the best I could find). It felt good with the gray days we’ve been having.
You were very successful with the challenge to try some new things from this cookbook. I made a really good apple cake and warm caramel sauce that I served to my local book group last week. The cake was an old but new to me recipe that I tore out of a Country Living Magazine years ago. The sauce is an old favorite. We eat lots of vegetarian meals here.