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.

Next up?

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?