Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Meatless All Day: Recipes for Inspired Vegetarian Meals by Dina Cheney (2014)

Sometimes, you open a cookbook and think, "This is it. This is the perfect cookbook for me." (Please tell me I'm not the only one who does this!) Reading this book was one of those rare times that I felt that an author's tastes and mine were perfectly aligned and I wanted to make every thing in it that I could. Immediately. And I did, and it was delicious.

Divided into three sections (breakfast and brunch, lunch and light entrees and dinner), the focus of Meatless All Day is on creating meals which are tasty, substantial and meat free. It opens with a bunch of tips for how to make your meat-free ingredients more tasty (drain your tofu, people. It took me years to discover this and it has changed my stir-fry life) as well as a list of power ingredients that add a "meaty" flavour or texture (in this case, meaty means satisfying or fulfilling). Focusing on fresh, flavourful ingredients, none of these vegetarian recipes use any faux meat at all, which is great.

One of the things I liked most about this book was that although the recipes were complete meals, components of the recipes could be switched around. For example, there is a recipe for quinoa-polenta cakes with a roasted red pepper sauce and white bean puree but the sauce could be served with the zucchini fritters with fresh mint and pecorino instead and the bean puree with just about any of the mains. I like cookbooks that facilitate flexibility and allow me to play around with flavours and textures.

The recipes, while tasty, are often a bit time consuming and ingredient rich, so this is not a four-ingredients five-minutes-to-cook cookbook but the pay off is delicious, great-looking food. As always, I would have liked to see information on the recipe about what is suitable for freezing (the constant request of this lazy yet organised cook). That said, I wholeheartedly recommend this cookbook for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.

Ricotta Hotcakes with strawberries and maple syrup.

In the book this recipe is served with a delicious looking berry sauce but cooking one component of a meal is all I can handle in the morning, so I served mine with fresh strawberries and maple syrup instead. These were delicious - light, fluffy and sweet with a gorgeous hit of lemon. I can see them becoming a regular dish in my weekend breakfast rotation.

3 large eggs, divided
2 cups 2% milk
1.5 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2.5 cups unbleached all purpose flouwer
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/5 teaspoons course salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

Oil, for cooking

1. With a hand mixer, whip the egg whites until the form soft peaks.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. In a medium bowl, mix yolks, milk, ricotta and lemon zest until well blended.
3. Stir in the egg-milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined (don't over-mix). Gently fold in the egg whites.
4. Heat oil in a fry pan over medium heat. Use a quarter-cup measure to spoon pancakes into the pan. Flip when then puff up and form lots of tiny holes and remove from the pan when they are cooked the whole way through.
5. Eat!

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