Wednesday, May 27, 2009

101 Cookbooks and Book Club

I found a new cooking web-site that I just love. It's The photos are gorgeous and the recipes are really unusual (but not to the point where it's impossible to find the ingredients). Apparently the woman who does the site, Heidi Swanson, decided that once she had close to a hundred cookbooks, it was time to stop reading and collecting them and start using them and decided to start blogging about it. Now she has a couple of her own cookbooks. (Maybe she had her first cookbook before that. I'm not sure.) How cool is that? I've already tried several of her recipes, but there are a few others I'm dying to try. There are these really intriguing sounding black bean brownies and these beautiful poppy seed pancakes. All her recipes are Vegetarian, and she has a lot of Vegan recipes as well, but unfortunately these two have both eggs and butter. I've had a lot of success substituting Earth Balance for butter and Ener-G Egg Replacer for eggs, but I've only tried the latter in recipes that only had one or two eggs. I think both of these recipes have 4 (oh wait, I just checked, the pancakes only have two - maybe I'll give those a try). The other thing is that I had made (and eaten) the recipes that I converted before I became a Vegan, so I knew how they were supposed to taste. I'd kind of like to try the brownies and pancakes with the right ingredients first. I'm probably just rationalizing. Anyway, both of those recipes have come the closest to swaying me off of my Vegan path so far. I have a similar issue with the Brioche recipe that's next up in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge. I think making Brioche without real butter is probably just wrong. I think I'll make it, try a bite, then give the rest away. My co-workers might like the treat. Don't know if the kids will like it or not.
Anyway, more on Heidi's awesome recipes . . . I already made the hummus that I mentioned in my last two posts, but I stumbled across her website in the first place looking for Vegan appetizers to serve at my Book Club meeting last week. I found these Sweet Potato Falafel Bites which I just had to make. Here was my menu in case you, too, are looking for some Vegan appetizers:
Sweet Potato Falafel Bites served with store-bought Tsatziki (Yes, I know Tsatziki is not Vegan - I didn't eat that part)
Eggplant Caponata served with my homemade Pain a L'Ancienne from Bread Baker's Apprentice
Morrocan Phyllo Rolls served with Thai sweet and spicy sauce from my sister-in-law. (I made little appetizer-sized triangles. The phyllo dough was not my friend that day! I gave up after I thought I had enough for the party, so I had a lot of filling left over which was yummy by itself. I didn't make the maple sauce but I'm sure it would have been good.)
I was a little worried that there wouldn't be enough and a lot worried that I was using ingredients that people frequently really hate like sweet potatoes, eggplant, and beans. I guess my friends have pretty sophisticated taste because it was all gone by the time the evening was over. Other people brought delicious snacks, too, so there was plenty of food; asparagus soup, asparagus salad, local pork pate, and veggies and dip. The reason for the abundance of asparagus was that our book was Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (which I've mentioned in some of my other posts - if you haven't read it, you must). Asparagus is about the best local veggie you can get around here right now.
Wow, I'm amazed by how much I can ramble about one thing! And I'm not even close to being done yet. On somewhat of a tangent, speaking of local food, we also have rhubarb in our farmer's market right now, so the weekend before last, I made the beautiful rhubarb gallette you see in the picture above. It was quite tart but still my favorite way to use rhubarb. This recipe is on page 702 of The New Basics by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. Definitely a classic cookbook that gets a lot of use in our kitchen.
So the book club was a big success. We have a really nice group of dynamic (a.k.a not boring) people who had a lot to say about the book. For next time we picked An Absolute Scandal by Penny Vincenzi. We wanted a beach read for the summer. I'm on such a reading kick that I already bought it and read it this weekend. It was very entertaining. I've already moved on to one of the other books we almost picked, Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I love it so far, and I already want to go to Italy. Am I the only one who gets this influenced by books I like?
Okay just one more thing about 101 Cookbooks and I'll stop. I made the 5 minute tomato sauce from there last night and it was everything it was advertised to be - fresh, delicious, simple but not boring. Oh yeah, and it really only did take 5 minutes. It was also very spicy, but I can't stop eating it. I had my homemade bagel dipped in the sauce for breakfast this morning. How weird is that? (Can't have cream cheese or butter, I'm all out of almond butter, and couldn't bear to ruin one of my good bagels with Skippy, so it sounded good to me.) Still I think I'll cut back on the red pepper flakes next time.
Few. All for now.

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