DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!

vegetarian cooking

Jul 10 2015

Embracing the eggplant…er…I think

by Dea Anne M

For a number of years, in my twenties and beyond, I was a vegetarian. I was convinced that pursuing this path was right for me for a variety of reasons although my most compelling concerns were environmental. I actually still believe that limiting our consumption of animal products can be an effective way of living a little more lightly on our planet although I started eating meat again quite some time ago. Certainly the options are much broader now for those choose a vegetarian or vegan diet some or all of the time.  In fact, the opportunities for upscale vegetarian dining have never been better from Dirt Candy in New York City to Cafe Gratitude in Los Angeles to Millennium in San Francisco to Arpege in Paris (which isn’t vegetarian but features a very vegetable heavy menu).

Lately, I’ve felt a yearning to return, at least partially, to vegetarian dining but I don’t want to approach it in the same manner that I used to. For example, a vegan lunch or dinner back then would have consisted of a stir fry heavily embellished with nuts and tofu or maybe a pizza made with soy based cheese.  A vegetarian meal might be rice and beans with a thick garnish of cheese and maybe some sour cream for good measure. A lot of this, cheesy, nutty, soybeany heaviness had to do with a general anxiety, promoted especially by such counter culture “bibles” as Frances Moore Lappe’s Diet for a Small Planet and the original Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen,  that vegetarians must combine the “incomplete” proteins found in grains and legumes or consume dairy products in order to attain a healthy diet. This view has been widely discredited in recent years and current dietary wisdom holds that vegan and vegetarians alike share the same nutritional challenge faced by the majority of Americans namely – eating enough of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. I’ve always been a little surprised at the number of folks I’ve met who practice a vegetarian diet who don’t really like vegetables. To be honest, I was one myself. It has only been in recent years that I’ve truly begun to embrace the beauty and deliciousness of vegetables and fruits. Nowadays, an ideal vegetarian lunch for me is an iteration of the good old southern vegetable plate featuring field peas, sauteed kale with garlic, sliced tomatoes, and corn on the cob with maybe watermelon for dessert. Yum!

Are you interested in exploring vegetarian and/or vegan options in your diet? Maybe you are a practicing vegetarian who just needs some new mealtime ideas. Either way, DCPL has the resources to help.

I’ve mentioned Mark Bittman and his books in other posts but let me, again, vegetarianrecommend his How To Cook Everything Vegetarian. Long time vegetarians and beginners alike will find that this is one book that lives up to its title. From Acorn Squash Stuffed with Wild Rice to Ziti Baked with Goat Cheese and Olives, this volume is comprehensive plus and vegan options abound. This could be the only vegetarian cookbook that you’ll ever need.

Deborah Madison, who opened Greens, the San Francisco everyonefine dining destination in 1979, has updated her much loved, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone to incorporate more modern techniques and ingredients. The result is The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and boy is it a stunner. Not everything here is “quick and easy” – or cheap for that matter – but every recipe is positively sumptuous. Try the Tangerine Pudding Cake with Raspberry Coulis if you don’t believe me.

“Umami” is a term that gets thrown about in a lot of circles – including some of meatlessmine – but what does it really mean? Well, it is a Japanese word that roughly translates to “pleasant taste” and is meant to describe a certain savoriness in food that results from our taste receptors picking up a substance called glutamate. Asian fish sauce and steak are held up as prime examples of umami carrying foods but other foods are rich in umami as well including mushrooms and tomatoes. Dina Cheney’s Meatless All Day: Recipes for Inspired Vegetarian Meals is something a little different in vegetarian cookbooks. Cheney incorporates 45 “power ingredients” into her recipes to boost umami. Some of these include parmesan cheese, miso, and caramelized onions. Whether or not meat eaters will “never miss the meat” is debatable and the recipes are a bit heavy on cheese and eggs but overall this is a worthy addition to your vegetarian cookbook shelf.

cottageFinally, let me highlight two well-written and beautifully photographed cookbooks that will appeal to anyone – vegetarian or not. River Cottage Veg: 200 Inspired Vegetable Recipes comes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who is probably best known as Britain’s leading exponent of “nose to tail” eating but he is actually a champion of sustainable cuisine in general and these days declaims the viplatertues of a more plant based diet. Written in a comfortable, chatty style River Cottage Veg is just plain fun to read and the recipes are fantastic. Asparagus Pizza anyone? Mollie Katzen’s (she of the previously mentioned Moosewood Cookbook) latest offering is The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation, and it is a beauty. Katzen’s aim here is to “layer” flavors for a more sophisticated dish. Examples are Orange Rice and Black Beans and Kale and Grilled Bread Salad with Red Onions, Walnuts and Figs. Just reading about Farfalle and Rapini in Creamy Walnut Sauce makes me want to get in my own kitchen and cook!

Vegetables rule…although I have yet to find a recipe for eggplant that I’ve really been satisfied with. How about you? Are you a vegetarian or interested in exploring those options? What are some of your favored cookbooks? Let me know and if you happen to have a good eggplant recipe to send my way, please feel free.


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Nov 24 2010

Beyond Turkey Day

by Joseph M

Of all the things affiliated with Thanksgiving, the most ubiquitous association is the turkey, so much so that many folks refer to the holiday as “Turkey Day”. But not all of us indulge in consumption of the infamous gobbler; in some families, other foodstuffs take center stage. In fact, the wide variety of traditions, culinary and otherwise, are one of my favorite things about Thanksgiving. One book that explores this positive conception of diversity is the juvenile picture book Duck for Turkey Day by Jacqueline Jules, which reminds us that different families celebrate in different ways. If you’re a vegetarian, like myself, or are working with some other type of dietary restriction, the library has numerous cookbooks to help you prepare a meal suitable for your requirements; a good example is The Flexitarian Table by Peter Berley. And if you’re curious as to how the turkey came to be so supremely conflated with the Thanksgiving holiday, check out The Turkey: An American Story by Andrew F. Smith.

Happy Thanksgiving, whatever your particular traditions!


Jul 21 2010

In Case You Need a Break From BBQ

by Joseph M

Vegetarian cuisine may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Atlanta’s dining scene, but it appears that local restaurateurs are doing a brisk business feeding those inclined to avoid meat products. According to a recent article from the organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Atlanta ranks as number 4 in a list of the top ten most vegetarian-friendly big cities in the US. The ranking is based on the number of vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly restaurants per capita, as well as input from PETA supporters. Atlanta ranked higher than such notable metropolises as San Francisco and New York City; the top three slots in the list were taken by Washington, D.C., Portland, OR, and Albuquerque, NM. While Atlanta is still home to a thriving culture of meat eaters, the increase in alternatives is good news, whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, or an omnivore who just craves more variety.

Despite all the great restaurants, it’s rarely feasible to eat out every day, and the library has a wide selection of vegetarian and vegan cookbooks for when you’re spending mealtime at home. Two titles I’ve had good experiences with are Vegan with a Vengeance and Veganomicon, both by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, and both chock-full of tasty recipes that will satisfy a variety of different tastes.


Nov 6 2009

Stir it once, stir it twice

by Lesley B

Just about the last thing I want to do in the summer is fire up the oven, but in cooler weather soup sounds better to me than salad.  There’s always my thrifty Surprise Soup – want the recipe?  Look in the refrigerator, see what’s left over, add chicken broth and if it’s good, surprise! Occasionally I want to make soup that’s a little more, ah, planned. Looking in our catalog for ideas, I found:

Love SoupLove Soup: 160 all-new vegetarian recipes from the author of The Vegetarian Epicure

A collection of soup recipes, many vegan, from a renowned vegetarian cook. According to the reviews, it includes a pickle soup recipe. I’m not sure I want to eat that but I do want to read the recipe.

exaltation soupAn exaltation of soups: the soul-satisfying story of soup, as told in more than 100 recipes

This book comes from a fascinating blog (formerly a website) called SoupSong. Patricia Solley has been writing about soup online for more than 10 years, mixing soup history and local culture in with the recipes. Want to make a soup that’s a little out of the ordinary? Try Yemen’s saltah or a Turkish balik corbasi.

Closer to home, you could head to Buckhead to eat at Souper Jenny, recently featured in the AJC . The article includes some of Jenny Levison’s recipes and we’ve got her cookbook at the Library.

And while you stir, you can sing:

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