Sunday, July 13, 2008

Veggie goodness

I am not, by any stretch, vegetarian. But I do need more veggies in my life. So I try to do vegetarian meals every now and then. "Meatless Monday" if you will. It helps me to stop thinking of meat as "the real food" and everything else as "sides," aka "optional if you're still hungry after the meat and bread" or "get this down so you don't feel guilty about the chocolate cupcakes." (Am I talking to anyone out there?) I would love to think of the green stuff as what I most need and want to eat, with a little meat thrown in here and there for protein. That would be much healthier.

Enter my new cookbook.

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman is a great reference for curious omnivores like me. Justin picked this out for me, and it was a great selection. I've tried other vegetarian or even vegan cookbooks, but they too often are preachy, or a little too funky, or call for excessive amounts of tofu. I'm just looking for good recipes eaten by normal people, not self-help. We've got enough preaching around here; I don't need it from a cookbook (wink, wink).

But this book has great ideas, modern and interesting but not weird. I love his style of "theme and variations." For example, he'll list a simple pasta sauce but then 5 ways to modify it, depending on the season or what's available. Or a list of "20 things to put on bruschetta." The "vegetables" chapter is enormous, with lots of information about how to choose and prepare different produce. I think that will help me use up some of the bounty from our CSA.

I like cookbooks that are written by regular home cooks rather than professional chefs. The recipes are very realistic, and most ingredients are available even at small town groceries. If it's a complicated recipe or obscure ingredient, he makes sure to warn you so you don't get in over your head. He's also an omnivore, so it's a good perspective for someone like me who's just experimenting.

To give you an idea, so far I've tried Southwestern Mixed Vegetable Soup, Barley Soup with Seasonal Vegetables (the summer vegetable and roasted variations), Vegetable Lasagna, Buttermilk Blueberry Pie (in an oatmeal crust), Upside Down Plum Rosemary Cake, and Buttermilk Ice Cream. I'm excited to try his Corn Chowder, lots of pizza ideas, Oatmeal Apple Cookies, Olive Oil Cake, and Brown Sugar Cookies with Sea Salt.

I know, I've spent a lot of time in the dessert chapter. So sue me. Most desserts are vegetarian anyway (although he does include vegan recipes and modifications, which are harder to find), but these desserts are a little bit healthier but still feel like real dessert. More whole grains, natural sweeteners, that sort of thing. Baby steps.



Bri Westbury said...

Thanks so much for this post-my friend just told me that veggies are super cheap in South Africa... I need to learn new tasty ways to cook them! Great timing!

5 Chicks and a Farmer said...

I need more creative (or at least) new things to do with veggies. We aren't vegan by any stretch for obvious reason (we have a natural meat farm:), but veggies are a major part of our diet.

Thanks for the recommendation! I have been known to be overly obsessed with cookbooks so any reason I have to get a new one, I'm all for;).


mandi said...

what? you had a bluberry buttermilk pie and didn't invite me over? sacrilege!
this cookbook looks great-thanks for the tip. almost makes me want to forgive you...almost...

Catherine Haskew said...

I can't wait to get this cook book!! Mike and I have been really trying to eat more vegetarian meals...we are of the same belief that for some reason meat equals yummy main course and veggies are just an after thought. We are trying to train our minds to think differently though. SO far we have fallen in love with squash and zucchini, but we dont know where else to go. Thank you so much for posting about this!