Monday, December 20, 2010

Support Your Local Library

After spending twenty minutes with the defrosters on full blast, I managed to chisel my car free from the ice and snow. There were a few casualties. The outside door handle on the driver’s side no longer works, the rubber on one of the wipers came loose, and I broke my ice scraper. The neighborhood road that I took was hard-packed snow and quite slick, but I made it to the library! For being a small branch without one Jane Austen novel, they were well supplied with recipe books. I narrowed my choices down to these three:
I was a little surprised to find chicken broth in the listing of ingredients for some recipes in The New Vegetarian Epicure. Of course it lists it as “vegetable or chicken broth” (there’s even a recipe to make your own vegetable broth), but the very mention of chicken broth seems out of place to me in a book that hopes to be the new Bible for modern vegetarian cooks. Still, there are quite a few simple recipes that I would like to try, like the pumpkin flan which had me sold. The recipes are divided into seasons, starting with spring, and multi-course meals rather than just dishes, though, of course, you don’t have to follow it to the letter and may mix and match. You know I will!

The Skinnygirl Dish has a pleasantly chatty tone, and Ms. Frankel shares a number of personal stories that are easy to relate to (snagging a man with baked chicken, for instance). Also included are handy how-tos, such as how to boil an egg, and how to boil water (“seriously,” adds the author). I’m joking around a little here. There are tons of far more useful how-tos and a lot of useful “oops moments” that will probably serve me well. (See my first two blog entries.)

This isn’t a vegetarian cook book, but there are tons of recipes that don’t call for meat, and I could modify a few (though I don’t think I can fake a baked chicken for any one). Like most recipe books I have seen, this one is divided into times of day: breakfast, lunch, dinner. There are also sections on snacking, drinking, and eating dessert. I’m pretty happy with this book. I think it’s going to really help me out on my new cooking excursion.

The third book, The 10 Things You Need to Eat, has me really excited! I don’t want to spoil anything, but I was surprised that couscous didn’t make the list. Quinoa (keen-wah) did, and that is on my grocery list for the next shopping trip. During a tasting at work we once had a great salad made with organic red quinoa, chopped cucumber, diced tomatoes, feta cheese dressing, and crumbled feta cheese because the dressing wasn’t flavorful enough. Delicious! I must re-create this salad.

If you haven’t heard of quinoa, it’s pretty amazing. One of the world’s perfect foods. And I don’t say this because it’s tasty – it’s a complete protein. 10 Things tells us that “one cup of quinoa is packed with about as much protein as four eggs,” pretty much an essential for a vegetarian diet. Further, two cups contains your daily fiber quota. And with a salad like the one mentioned above, it’s easy to eat two cups of quinoa in one sitting.

10 Things isn’t strictly vegetarian, but only one thing on the list used to have blood flowing through its veins. There is just one thing on the list that I have never eaten, and I am anxious to give it a try. Though I have had all of the others, there are some that I really don’t know how to cook with, so the prospects abound and I can’t wait to get started!

But before I make another trip to the grocery store, I need to eat up what I bought last time. This means cleaning out the cupboards time! I noticed that my vegetables were getting a little wilted, so I chopped them all up – orange bell pepper, cucumber, and grape tomatoes – and mixed them in with a pot of couscous tossed with a little Tuscan Italian dressing. Very colorful, and very tasty!

Later, I think I will treat myself with a small dish of pumpkin ice cream. I love the fall!

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