PROS: The recipes are easy to follow. The recipes are broken into meals as opposed to just separate recipes, so you can easily meal plan. The book makes the timing very easy, as it gives advice on the order to cook the separate recipes for each meal. The food tastes delicious.
CONS: So many dirty dishes!
For the next cookbook review I told my boyfriend he got to make a choice on what type of book I chose to review. He asked for something with veggies. I told him that was great! There were tons of vegetarian and vegan cookbooks. He then paused. He asked if we could have a book with vegetables with some meat too. I proceeded to laugh at him. And then I found this book. It doesn’t have any meat in it, but a vegetarian cookbook for a meat lover seems to hit his request on the head.
I really wish there were more pictures. I think every cookbook author should know that pictures really do help sell a book. Regardless, the pictures that are in the book look yummy.
O’Donnel started life a meat lover, much like myself. Her picture with a steak is similar to my toothless grin holding a rib slathered in barbecue sauce. Unlike myself however, O’Donnel has made great strides towards reducing the amount of meat in her diet. She explains why and promotes the Meatless Monday trend that may become a thing around my house.
The book itself is broken into four chapters, each for a different season of the year. Because this is a veggie cookbook, it makes sense that you’d want to cook seasonally. For this review I’m cooking from each of the four seasons though for the most variety. The breakdown is an efficient and interesting way to organize the book.
The recipes I cooked were very flavorful. My only complaint is that each recipe creates a ton of dirty dishes. But for tasty meatless dishes . . . I guess that’s such a small complaint it isn’t even worth whining over. I’m actually going to buy this cookbook based on my own review of it.
Before I start with my recipe reviews, please kick me in the shins. I somehow deleted one of the recipes, the Red Lentil Dal with Cumin-Fried Onions & Wilted Spinach. It was actually the nicest looking of all the pictures I took, so this makes me horribly sad. I can’t wait until I get a new lens on my camera so I don’t have to rely on the iPhone anymore and won’t be as likely to mistakenly delete something important.
I told my mom I was making a vegetarian shepherd’s pie for dinner and she laughed at me! For good reason though. So many of the recipes in this book are recipes you would correspond to meaty dishes, but they leave out the meat and replace it with some other tasty protein source, retaining the go-to flavors of the meat-filled dish.
This shepherd’s pie did create a pile of dirty dishes, but it was entirely worth it. The gravy on top of the shepherd’s pie was a great addition to making this a rich and delicious meal, sans the ground beef. Of the recipes I tried for this book, I’ll be sharing this recipe.
“Kitchen Notes: . . . First item of business: Get the lentils on the stove. While they’re simmering, work on the onion gravy. While the gravy simmers, boil the potatoes for the mashed topping. Everything comes together in a pie plate.”
FOR THE PIE
1 cup wine-braised lentils (recipe follows)
1 1/2 cups onion gravy (recipe follows)
2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes
2 tsp salt
3 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
5 tbsp olive oil
ground black pepper
3 to 4 cups chard, washed, stemmed, and cut into ribbons
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1. Grease a 9-inch pie plate.
2. Fill a medium-size saucepan with 4 cups of water, and add the potatoes and salt. The water should just barely cover the potatoes. This is important.
3. Cook and bring to a boil. Add the whole garlic. Return the lid and cook until tender about 30 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 350.
5. With a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes and garlic to a large mixing bowl and mash with a hand maser. Stir in the reserved cooking liquid as necessary to moisten the potatoes. Add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and stir in vigorously with a wooden spoon. Taste for salt, pepper, and texture and season and stir accordingly; mashed potatoes should be smooth and well seasoned.
6. In a large skillet, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat and cook the chard with the chopped garlic, until wilted, 3 to 5 minutes, regularly tossing with tongs to cook evenly. Stir in the nutmeg and season with more salt to taste, if needed. Transfer to a medium-size bowl.
7. Portion out 1 cup of the lentils (the rest is cook’s treat) and stir into the chard until well combined.
8. Assemble the pie: Transfer the chard mixture to the greased pie plate. Top with the mashed potatoes, and with a rubber spatula, smooth the mash so that it’s evenly distributed and completely covers the surface. Top off with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
9. Place the dish in the oven and heat through, 20 to 25 minutes. During the final 2 minutes of cooking, set the onion to broil settings to brown the cheesy mashed top.
10. Remove from the oven, slice into wedges, and eat hot with a ladeful of onion gravy.
FOR THE LENTILS
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup carrot, peeled and diced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 cup dried lentils, rinsed
2 tbsp red wine
3/4 to 1 cup water
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt
1. In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion, carrot, and thyme. Cook for about 5 minutes, until slightly softened. Add the lentils and stir to coat. Add the red wine and bring to a lively simmer. The wine will reduce a bit. Add 3/4 cup of the water, return to a lively simmer, then lower the heat, cover, and cook until fork tender, about 40 minutes. Check and add a little extra water if need be, to keep the lentils from drying out completely. Stir in 1/4 tsp of the salt, taste, and add the remaining salt, if needed.
FOR THE ONION GRAVY
3 tbsp butter
2 cups onion, sliced thinly into half-moons
1 or 2 sprigs thyme
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cups water
1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 tbsp water
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of sugar
1 tsp soy sauce
1. In a deep skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and add the onions and thyme. With tongs, toss to coat the onions with the butter and cook over medium-low heat, until softened, reduced, and jam-like, about 25 minutes.
2. Add the balsamic vinegar, stir, and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
3. Add the water and bring to a lively simmer. Reduce by half, about 15 minutes. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook for an additional 5 minutes; the gravy will continue to reduce. Stir in the salt and sugar, and taste. Finish off with the soy sauce.
4. Turn off the heat, cover, and gently reheat at a simmer, just before serving with pie.
* Makes about 6 servings.
Red Lentil Dal with Cumin-Fried Onions and Individual Flatbreads p. 133
It’s ambitious to make bread with dinner. It’s very ambitious to make fresh bread with dinner. It took awhile, but I followed the recipe and flatbreads I made! I wish I had the picture of this to share, because I really enjoyed the flavors of the dal and the ease of the flatbreads.
The flatbreads were actually a yeast bread, so you have to wait for the dough to rise. O’Donnel suggested the timing of starting the dough, prepping the soup while it’s raising, and baking the bread and making the soup at the same time. The timing suggestions helped a lot and made the one hour rise time fly by. This was absolutely a delicious dish.
This recipe is another that is traditionally a meat dish. Cassoulet is usually stuffed with sausage. This meatless (and therefore sausage-less) dish, manages to retain the great flavor of a traditional cassoulet while leaving out the meat.
My romaine wedges didn’t quite work (due to only having romaine hearts,) but the dressing on it still tasted great and paired with the cassoulet perfectly.
Zucchini & Corn-Studded Orzo p. 105
As you might be able to tell from the picture, I didn’t use orzo. My little grocery store didn’t have any and I kept forgetting to go to Safeway to get it. So I decided instead to make this dish using a bag of pasta noodles that were intentionally broken into short pieces (so intentional that I bought them that way!)
The flavors of this dish were wonderful. This recipe comes from the summer section of the book. Though it’s obviously not the summertime right now, it brought a taste of sunshine into my home this rainy evening.
Overall: I’m going to buy this cookbook. The four recipes I’ve sampled leave me feeling affirmed that the other recipes in the book will be equally delicious. It was nice to have a book that left the meat out and focused on the vegetables, in ways that go beyond a green salad or steamed green beans. I like how the cookbook was arranged, though more pictures would only have made it better!