i don’t know about you, but at this time of the summer, i usually start hunting around for new ways to use vegetables from the garden (for others, it could be the farmer’s market or CSA).
on the one hand, we don’t want to waste even a bite of that great summer flavor, but on the other . . . if we have to eat green beans (squash, tomatoes, peppers—you name it) fixed the usual way one more time, we just might question our good fortune.
enter another terrific book in the CIA at home series—vegetarian cooking at home with the culinary institute of america.
now, i know that the word “vegetarian” often conjures up all manner of negative connotations—the most scurrilous being that one will be be forced to choke down tofurkey with some sort of stringy, greenish-gray mass of goo on the side, all in the name of “dinner”.
uh . . . NOT.
think back to all those meals you’ve watched me cook and asked for recipes to make yourself—did you see any meat? most people who eat in our home don’t even realize they are enjoying meat-free meals.
and truly, there is no reason on earth that eating vegetarian should involve foods that are any less delicious, nutritious, or attractive than those containing meat. i wasn’t raised in a vegetarian household, but because my mom is italian, we enjoyed a whole repertoire of dishes that are vegetable based—childhood favorites that we continue to cook and share. we never thought of them as foods from the fringe—just what was for dinner. and the fact that these dishes are often more economical is an added bonus.
i guess what i’m trying to do is set the scene—if you’ve been looking to expand your horizons, add new levels of texture and taste to your diet, and/or eat from a more healthy selection of choices, get ready to be wowed.
as with other books in the CIA at home series, this one is not merely a collection of recipes. i think that’s especially important in a vegetarian guide, because great meatless meals rely on a certain chemistry for success, both in flavor and in nutritional value. not that getting it right is difficult—it isn’t. but knowing a few key pointers about cooking and combining various food types will go a long way to bringing out the fullest flavor of each dish, while ensuring proper balance and complete protein.
the book is divided into sections according to meal components and food groups—starters, soups, main dishes, grains, vegetables, sauces, and even condiments.
each section begins with some background information, pantry basics, and cooking fundamentals for that food type, followed by a series of tempting recipes through which to put that information into practice.
a handy and guide to making soup stocks and which one goes best with which soup segues right into some awesome soup recipes
taking advantage both of the fruits of summer
and the warmer, richer flavors of winter.
now, soups and vegetables and grain dishes aren’t the jurisdiction only of vegetarians—just about any cook might have use of a book that offers both tasty vegetable recipes and some guidance to making them the best they can be.
i just love that the book has a section on making pasta. i do have at least four or five other books that contain pasta recipes, but i know i will use this one a lot because it has the information and the recipe right there
alongside sauce recipes i might be making or vegetable preparations i might be using in the same meal. making my kitchen life a little easier was very smart.
while it’s true that preparing vegetarian meals might entail a little more prep than say, slapping a steak on the grill and opening a bag of peas, the book does a good job of showing one how to get from A to B efficiently and effectively,
whether you are tackling one of the fancier, fussier dishes designed to impress
or a more humble and hearty meal in a pot.
all of the reasons listed above are good ones for considering this book, whether you intend to go full-on vegetarian or not. but what if you ARE curious about meat alternatives, such as soy, tempeh, or seitan?
no worries—it’s in there.
the section on cooking with high protein meat alternatives is quite informative and even contains a guide to making these products at home, should you want to try it.
while we enjoy eating these products as ingredients in a number of our favorite dishes, i had never thought about making them at home before. however, i may do it after reading up on it more. i’m not sure i’m well set up for it in our current situation, but i’ll find out if i decide to experiment, haha.
i do think it would be great to make our own burger substitutes for instance—we both like the idea (and the convenience, once in a while) of veggie burgers, but have yet to find a packaged brand that is nutritionally sound and really knocks our socks off.
i have great hopes for the recipes here . . .
another bonus section contained in the book is the one on condiments. because many vegetable based recipes may come from unfamiliar cuisines, learning a little about the condiments associated with them can widen the appeal of a new dish by allowing eaters to customize the spiciness or flavoring.
salsas, relishes, chutneys, dressings, flavored vinegars, even ketchup are included and using them to add a layer of flavor to everything from soups to sandwiches is encouraged.
yeah, if i go to the trouble of creating our own homemade veggie burgers, i just might go the extra mile and make some ketchup to go with them. all the more likely if the recipe is right there where i can get my hands on it.
last but certainly not least—this book is simply gorgeous. it celebrates the mouthwatering beauty of vegetable dishes so that i can practically smell the food as i browse the pages—it makes me want to cook something right now. that’s the best advertisement for vegetables i can think of.
so, are you excited?? thinking already about rolling up your sleeves to get busy in the kitchen this weekend? well fortunately for us, our friends at the CIA are generously holding a signed copy of vegetarian cooking at home with the culinary institute of america for one lucky reader. want to throw your hat in the ring to win it?
leave a comment at the end of this post by 9 pm EDST on sunday, september 2nd naming a vegetable dish you want to learn to make better. we’ll announce a winner in the blog post following.
in the meantime, don’t hold back from getting started on some new vegetable dishes this weekend—the best of summer is upon us; time to get in the kitchen and enjoy what remains.
hope we all have happy labor day weekend with safe travels. for those who have asked, erica finally resurfaced this morning and i hear that baby knitspot will be making an appearance very soon—stay tuned!