Bold Vegetarian

Kirchner, Bharti. The Bold Vegetarian: 150 Inspired International Recipes. New York: HarperPerennial, 1995.

A cookbook chock full of information beyond ho hum vegetarian recipes. Eggplant is listed in the index but you won’t find a recipe for Eggplant Parmesan. Special recognition must be made to the word “international” in the subtitle because The Bold Vegetarian takes you on a culinary adventure around the world. Oh, the places you will go! In no particular order:

  • China
  • Spain
  • Italy
  • India (this is a given because Kirchner is a renowned author of Indian cookbooks).
  • Korea
  • France
  • Japan
  • Caribbean
  • Africa
  • Thailand
  • Greece
  • Middle East
  • Germany
  • Mexico
  • United States, and because food is subject to the literal and cultural melting pot,
  • International (in other words, who knows where it originated!)

In addition to great recipes that sound different and exciting, Kirchner adds serving suggestions to create entire menus. She offers variations to make a dish vegan instead of vegetarian. She includes anecdotes, illustrations, and trivia to spice up the pages (pun intended). There are even a few notes for the Grow It At Home gardener. All recipes are simple to follow. Cooking directions are aided by a glossary of terms (just in case someone doesn’t know how to blanch, grill or simmer) and a “pantry” list although the term pantry is misleading because I would never consider storing ghee or feta in a traditional pantry. To say these are ingredients to have on hand would be a better way to phrase it. One other small detractor – no nutritional information. In this health-aware age knowing what you eat is all the rage, especially when it comes to foreign foods made from scratch.

Meals I am most looking forward to making:

  • Curry Gyozas (p 38),
  • Chipotle Chickpeas (p 150),
  • Plum Kuchen (p 254)

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Fiction for Foodies” (p 88). Even though this is a straight up cookbook Pearl mentioned it because the author, Bharti Kirchner, also wrote a fiction called Pastries: a Novel of Desserts and Discoveries (to be read later).


Invitation to Indian Cooking

Jaffrey, Madhur. An Invitation to Indian Cooking. New Jersey: Ecco Press, 1999.

I have to start off by saying I love Madhur Jaffrey’s cookbooks. I own several and all of them are well-organized and beautifully illustrated (or have gorgeous photographs).

An Invitation to Indian Cooking might have been a more accurate title had it included the subtitle Getting to Know Indian Cuisines and Ingredients because Jaffrey not only invites you into the world of Indian cuisine she also includes history lessons and ingredient explanations in addition to recipes. While her tone is conversational I found it to be a little didactic at times. Her claims that Americans, on the whole, don’t know what well-prepared rice tastes like is one such example. Another drawback to An Invitation to Indian Cooking is its out-of-date information. Basmati rice, Jaffrey recommends, is readily available at specialty stores. That may have been true in 1973 when her first cookbook was published, but I expected the reprint to have some updated information. I also find it hard to believe that out of 50 states only 12 have stores that carry authentic Indian ingredients.
But, having said all that, I love the recipes Jaffrey includes in her first cookbook. I like her attention to detail and her comparisons between American and Indian products. For example, Jaffrey points out that American chicken is more tender than chicken purchased in India, therefore traditional Indian cooking techniques would not work well on an American-raised bird.

“The chicken available in American markets is so tender that it begins to fall apart well before it can go through the several stages required in most Indian recipes” (p 86).

If you are ambitious enough to make several Indian recipes at the same time Jaffrey includes a series of different menus to try.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust  in the chapter called, “India: a Reader’s Itinerary” (p 125).


Too Good to Keep

I don’t care what anyone says. Summer officially started this weekend. To hell with the calendar. I’m ignoring the meteorologists, too. Summer wasn’t summer until the sun came out for more than an hour. For the first time in weeks I was able to weed the garden and the walk without dodging raindrops. I finally took up those giant prehistoric looks growths growing along side the driveway. I tackled the ground cover problem, too. Redistributing the gravel that has slid down the hill. This is Hilltop, after all. I moved rocks until my sun-bared arms ached. It felt good. I got in the pool for the second time this season and actually took a few strokes for the first time. Maybe I’ll learn to swim for real. It felt amazing. We got more of the back of the house painted. The gutter guys came. Progress is progressing.
Inspired by the weather I decided on a grill dinner. Pork marinated in lime, garlic, cilantro, and cumin. But, that wasn’t the best part of the mean meal. The salsa/salad was. Try this for yourself – play with the ingredients and measurements:

  • chickpeas
  • black beans
  • grape tomatoes
  • grilled corn
  • red onion
  • avocado
  • jalapeno
  • cilantro
  • cumin
  • chili powder
  • red pepper flakes
  • olive oil
  • champagne vinegar
  • sea salt
  • tri-colored fresh cracked pepper

Throw everything into a big bowl and let marinate for a few hours. Any ingredient can be left out or substituted for something else. Think about it – red beans instead of black, how about rice? Vidalia instead of red onion, scotch bonnet instead of jalapeno, red wine vinegar instead of champagne…these switches aren’t a stretch, but the options are limitless. Then, to really blow your mind, there is texture. Mince everything small and you have a blended salsa, puree it and you have a killer sauce for grilled chicken. Leave it super chunky and sprinkle it with tortilla chips and you have a great side salad. Add lettuce and grilled beef (sliced paper thin) and there’s a whole meal. I love meals like this.

This weekend felt like a holiday. We worked around the house and enjoyed the sun. Grilled on the deck and savored sweet cherries for dessert. Danced around the living room to Coldplay drums. Later, from our living room window we paused a movie to take in the second fireworks display of the holiday. Bedtime brought a book to bed with me. But, before long my eyes grew too heavy. Sleep came easy. A perfect ending to a perfect day to good to keep.


The African Cookbook

African CookbookSandler, Bea. The African Cookbook: Menus and Recipes From Eleven African Countries and the Island of Zanzibar. New York: Citadel Press Book, 1993.

This is a gorgeous cookbook. Not just for the recipes and menus, but also for the art. The illustrations by Diane and Leo Dillon are amazing. My personal favorite introduces the recipes of Tanzania (p. 57).
In the first half of the cookbook the recipes cover all the regions of African cooking. In addition each chapter has a section on the culture of the region, how meals are served (traditionally) and how you, the American cook, can pull off your own Tanzanian, South African or Liberian meal. The second half of the cookbook covers additional recipes. Chapters are gouped by product – fish, poultry, beef, starch, etc.
Something else I find interesting is the nontraditional layout of each recipe. You won’t find a list of ingredients and then preparation instructions. Instead, each ingredient is presented as needed in the preparation instructions. Something I am never good at is reading through the entire recipe before starting and with The African Cookbook that step would be imperative.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter “Africa: A Reader’s Itinerary” (p4).


Is There a Nutmeg in the House?

David, Elizabeth. Is There a Nutmeg in the House; Essays on Practical Cooking with More Than 150 Recipes. New York: Viking, 2001.Nutmeg

Elizabeth David writes with humor. She also writes about cooking. My kind of book. Sorta. In the rules of the Book Lust Challenge, I said that I wouldn’t read cookbooks from start to finish. I would read the intros and “skip” the recipes. I didn’t want to try every recipe; didn’t want to be David’s version of a Julia Child fanatic. Here’s the issue I have with Nutmeg. Essays run seamlessly into recipes and commentaries. I end up reading about how to make mayonnaise (my archenemy) step by step.
Nevertheless, I have learned interesting things such as:
          *the potato is an aphrodisiac, capable of advancing a man’s “withered state” (p. 73). I kid you not.
          *Nutmeg is underrated and people should carry graters with them to utilize this spice more often (p. 93). 
          *David hates garlic presses as much as I do (p.51). 
Probably one of the best things I’ve learned from reading David’s Nutmeg isn’t really a lesson. It’s more of an affirmation – to “not to despair over rice” (p.139). While I don’t despair over any kind of rice per se thanks to Alton Brown and a whole episode dedicated to the grain, David’s words ring true with me on a deeper level, “Every amateur cook, however gifted and diligent, has some weak spot, some gap in her knowledge or experience which to anyone critical of her own achievements can be annoying and humiliating.” This statement even knocks the great ones down a notch. Ever seen Bobby lose a throw down? You get what I’m talking about.

BookLust Twist: Nancy Pearl adds this to her “Food for Thought” chapter in Book Lust (p.91) and goes on to say, “…Elizabeth David not only shares her love of food and cooking  but writes so evocatively that you can smell and taste the ingredients and dishes as she describes them.”


Breads

Clayton, Bernard. Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads.New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987.

I wish I baked more. When I was a teenager my mother taught me how to make a white bread with a cup of mashed potatoes that was amazing. It was the most perfect carb I could create. Grilled cheese sandwiches were heaven with this bread. I always pictured my adult wholesome self, kneading and sifting on a Sunday morning, flour dust rising in clouds around me. I don’t know what happened to that “from scratch girl” but, Clayton’s book makes me want to jump in the car, rush to the baking aisle and buy dry yeast. In bulk. This 748 mammoth of a cookbook is cover to cover baking knowledge. There are no glossy photos to fill space. Even the illustrations are small and unobtrusive. It’s all about the bread. And Bread there is. From rye bread to crackers and everything in between. My favorite chapters were, “baking for dogs” (p 715), “little breads” (p 517), and “vegetable breads” (p 409). But, I can’t forget my other favorites like potato, croissant and cheese. Of course Clayton goes over equipment, technique, ingredients, and what went wrong should something go wrong, but he also includes storing, freezing, and there’s even a chapter on homemade ovens.

I would even go so far as to say this book demonstrates culture. In addition to all the different recipes Clayton gives a little history on the more unique ones, “…In Portugal, the bread is served warm or cold with a famous dish of peas and eggs, and a potato- sausage soup” (p 183). Now I want to go out and find that recipe for the soup!

BookLust Twist: One of the reasons why I love reading Book Lust and More Book Lust is quotes like this, “For me the best part of baking bread is theupper-arm exercise involved with kneading, and the times that you can curl up on the couch with a good book while the dough is rising.” Pearl goes on to say, “I’ve used Bernard Clayton’s bread books since the first one was published in 1973, and have never found a bad recipe” (More Book Lust p72).


Africa News Cookbook

Africa News Service, Inc. The African News Cookbook: African Cooking for Western Kitchens. New York: Penguin, 1986.African cookbook

Another BookLust pick. There is something magical about this book. Maybe it’s from the introduction, “Cooking by the book is not the African way” (p.xiii). It’s romantic to learn the ingredients, forget the recipe and go with the heart; that’s what this book seems to be telling me.
On a serious side it’s crammed with interesting facts usually not associated with a cookbook. For starters there is a list of African nations and their capitals. Because this cookbook focuses on a geographical location there are maps. Because it focuses on a culture there are stories about African Women and food, and even how to eat with joy.
Probably my favorite aspect of this cookbook is the recognition of the origin of each recipe. From Malawi comes Masamba; from Algeria comes Dess b’l-besla. I think of Aubrey from Malawi who would write letters on onion paper and dream of traveling to Algeria.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust under the category of, “Africa: A Reader’s Itinerary” (p.2)