Bookshelf

Saving the Salad

Hearty (and vegan) salads go way beyond rabbit food

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TM_BK_SALADS_AP_001_1We’re living in a golden age of salad. But for too many people, the thought of salad for dinner still conjures up ideas of rabbit food – and doubly so when it’s vegan. Terry Hope Romero’s new book, Salad Samurai: 100 Cutting-Edge, Ultra-Hearty, Easy-to-Make Salads You Don’t Have to Be Vegan to Love is here to help. The book is available now on Amazon and at your local bookstore.

“But there’s always the salad!”

If you don’t eat meat (or any animal-derived food), ordering a meal in a nice, if not necessarily accommodating to a vegan palate, restaurant usually drifts to the inevitable rendezvous with a salad. Everyone tucks into steak and potato-flavored mounds of butter. You, however, poke your fork into a morose pile of limp leaves. As a teen vegetarian (and later, adult vegan), countless experiences like this one soured me on ever loving salad. Or actively seeking it out as a meal. Salads just sucked. MORE

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The Rutabaga. It sounds like the name of a retro car, like a cross between a Studebaker and a Winnebago. It might just be me, but this inconspicuous root vegetable is puzzling, and frankly, doesn’t look any more appealing than a Studebaker-Winnebago hybrid would. A waxy turnip-like nub that’s slightly purple-brown in color, the only thing that caught my eye about the humble vegetable was its price – on sale for 99 cents per pound. I loaded up my grocery basket with rutabagas.

Soon, I found myself in a conundrum, as I often do. As a thrifty shopper, my budget decides what I pick up in the grocery store, which usually includes in-season produce that, sometimes, is unrecognizable to me. Which is why I was staring at three pounds of rutabagas in my kitchen without the slightest clue what to do with them. I had never even eaten a rutabaga before, let alone cooked one. Are you supposed to peel it? Which side is the top? Clearly, I needed help. So I began researching recipes online, trying to find something to do with this week’s sale item.
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Bookshelf

Chocolate Without Compromise

Vegans deserve decadent desserts, too – and a new book is here to help

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TM_BK_VEGCHOC_AP_001When I was in high school, my best friend was a vegan. She subsisted primarily on rice, beans, fruit, and the vegan cookies her mom baked in giant batches every weekend. Any time there was a party, she’d bring a plate of these cookies to share. They were overly sweet, weirdly gummy, and not at all appealing to anyone who wasn’t devoted to a strict plant-based diet.

Happily, things have changed a lot in the world of vegan desserts over the last 20 years, in large part thanks to Fran Costigan. She has been working as a vegan pastry chef and baking instructor for more than two decades and is known for desserts that satisfy in a way that’s better for you and for the planet.

In her recent book, Vegan Chocolate (Running Press, 2013), Costigan serves up a luscious array of vegan truffles, cakes, cookies, pies, puddings, tarts, and drinks. Of the recipes I tried, not one felt like a sacrifice or compromise. They were universally delicious and were a pleasure to make, because I could taste freely throughout the prep process without worrying about raw eggs in the batter. MORE

Bookshelf, Thanksgiving

Choosing Sides

Make your side dishes the best part of your Thanksgiving meal

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TM_BK_CHSIDES_AP_001 We all know that Thanksgiving is a turkey-centric holiday, but I don’t think I’m speaking an untruth when I say that for most of us, it’s a meal that’s really more about the side dishes than the main event. Truly, it’s stuffing, potatoes, green beans, and casseroles that make this annual meal feel both special and festive.

Cookbook author Tara Matazara Desmond knows that it’s really the side dish that makes the meal, and has recently published a book celebrating the things we serve along with our mains. Called Choosing Sides: From Holidays to Every Day, 130 Delicious Recipes to Make the Meal, this book features side dishes for every occasion.

Whether you’re searching for something special to join a brunch menu or you’re simply on the hunt for some new flavors to enhance a weeknight regular, this book is here to serve as useful guide for home cooks who are stuck in a rut and need a few new ideas.
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When my sister was 14 years old, she stopped eating meat. We were always a household that was big on vegetables, so it wasn’t too much of a hardship, but when meat-centric holidays like Thanksgiving rolled around, it was a little bit more of a challenge.

One year, my mom sprang for a tofu roast that was pressed into the shape of a turkey. Other years, we did fanciful things with sautéed mushrooms, roasted acorn squash, and toasted nuts.

Eventually, my sister returned to the poultry-eating fold, but over those years I learned a lot about making main dishes that were both suitably celebratory and free from meat.
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Bookshelf

A French Twist

Beautiful, seasonal cooking from The French Market Cookbook

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TM_BK_FRENCH_AP_001Over the last six or seven years, I’ve become someone who tries to hue fairly closely to the season when determining what’s on the menu. I eat asparagus for a brief period in April and May, go crazy for tomatoes in July and August, and fill my kitchen with acorn and butternut squash once the weather turns cooler.

This way of eating is easier on the budget, always tastes better, and makes the asparagus, tomatoes, and squash feel like a treat. The one problem with eating in this fashion is that cookbooks don’t match up perfectly (particularly if they’re written by authors based in California. They seem to have everything available, all the time).

Happily, finding good, reliable, accessible seasonal cookbooks has gotten increasingly easy over the last few years. One recent addition to my shelf is Clotilde Dusoulier’s The French Market Cookbook.
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One of my fondest fall memories from childhood is that of driving out to an agricultural island near our house in Portland. There was an antique apple orchard on the grounds of an old farm turned park, and visitors were allowed to pick any windfall apples from the grounds.

We’d fill paper grocery bags until they were nearly ready to split open and then head home to make applesauce. I’d help my mom with the peeling and chopping, until we had enough to fill our very largest pot.
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Bookshelf

Vedge Out

Veggie inspiration from the acclaimed vegetable restaurant's new cookbook

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Since it opened in the fall of 2011, Vedge has been one of the most celebrated restaurants in Philadelphia. Chef-owners Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby pride themselves on producing inspired cocktails, dishes, and desserts using only local, seasonal produce. And when I say only produce, I do mean only. No animal products of any kind are used or served at Vedge.

Vedge calls itself a vegetable restaurant, and it has transformed the way this city thinks about carrots, cucumbers, and cauliflower (to name a few). So far, the only drawback to Vedge has been that in order to taste their transformational food, you had to finagle a reservation or lay in wait for one of the few coveted seats at the bar. Happily, now there’s another option.

With the recent publication of Vedge: 100 Plates Large and Small That Redefine Vegetable Cooking, you can now make many of the restaurant’s most beloved dishes at home.
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Viva La Vegan

Rabbit Food Redux

Salad can be a substantial, healthy meal

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As a vegan, I try not to get preachy about my diet. But a certain common exchange makes it hard to hold my tongue.

“A vegan?” someone will ask, scrunching up his nose. “So what do you eat, then? Salad,” the S word uttered with distain.

The truth is that salad gets a pretty bum wrap. And sadly in many instances, its poor reputation is somewhat deserved. Look at any mid-range chain restaurant menu, and you’ll see that most of the dishes in the “Salad” category are just strips of chicken, beef, or fish sitting on an underwhelming pile of lettuce, shaved carrots, and flavorless cherry tomatoes.

In salad’s role as a health food, it receives even less respect. The typical mound of iceberg lettuce topped fat-free Italian dressing may be low in calories, but it fails to satisfy most people, including myself.

If only more people knew how to make a great salad, it wouldn’t have this bad reputation. These are my basic rules for pulling together a hearty, healthy, delicious salad: MORE

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The great American sweet potato. We all recognize it as a staple of any Thanksgiving dinner, and see sweet potato fries now offered as a healthier alternative to white potato ones at almost every restaurant. They’re even showing up more often as a substitute in traditional potato salad recipes. But though the orange-fleshed vegetable is an occasional visitor for lunch and dinner, we almost never see it on our plates before noon.
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Grape tomatoes. Most of year they are readily available and entirely average. But as soon as the hotter days arrive, truly exceptional tiny tomatoes start trickling into local markets. By high summer, it’s a welcome deluge.

I buy a pint or two every time I shop, to have on hand for quick meals. I toss them into salads, scramble them into eggs, and dip them into hummus. I also have a few favorite recipes in which I make repeatedly over the summer months, in order to get my fill before the season ends. MORE

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For the last 11 years, I’ve lived in an apartment without a single square inch of outdoor space to call my own. Most of the time, this isn’t a hardship, as it means no leaves to rake in the fall and no snow to shovel in the winter.

Really, there’s just one thing I miss about having a patch of the outdoors and that’s having the space in which to set up a grill. However, I’ve found that there are even ways to work around my lack of outdoor space. Thanks to a sturdy grill pan, a countertop griddle, and generous friends with backyard Webers, I always manage to get my warm-weather grilling fix.
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“Un pincho de tortilla y un café con leche, por favor.”

It was an almost-daily order. The café near my little casa in Madrid had the best tortilla española around. And with a cup of espresso with milk, I was a happy girl. My options at such cafés were usually limited because I was a vegetarian. I had underestimated how difficult studying abroad in meat-loving Spain would be. I usually had two possibilities: tortilla española and gazpacho. As winter was approaching in my time in Madrid, the chilled gazpacho was not usually served, so tortilla was my go-to dish. MORE

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Green garlic is one of the true joys of spring. It’s immature hardneck garlic, plucked from the rows to give the rest the space they need to grow into heads of garlic that will last through the winter. It’s typically picked before the cloves or their papery layers have formed, and so is entirely edible from top to bottom.

Typically, green garlic is sold in long, grassy stalks with the roots still attached. I like to trim away the leggy roots and use the rest of the vegetable in stir fries, baked goods, salads and pestos.

The flavor of green garlic is bright and mild (compared to storage garlic, at least). It mellows nicely when cooked or roasted. The green tops can be wilted into soups, though do take care to trim away any browning or tough parts.
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