A Vegetarian Cookbook Review in January?
“In My Kitchen: A collection of new and favourite vegetarian recipes”
It’s January and I’m writing about vegetables. Being a bit of a contrarian, I usually end up writing about baking when everyone is trying to stick to their resolutions. But when vegetables are good, it can be satisfying to eat them even in the cold dark Toronto winter. So here we are.
Deborah Madison is arguably the queen of vegetarian cooking. Usually her books are tomes, the A to Z of cooking without meat. This one is a little different. Madison has been writing cookbooks for a long time, but this is a curated collection of about 100 recipes. I find this to be more approachable, although I understand if someone would prefer more volume for their buck. The book includes new recipes and updated old favourites, paired with pretty pictures.
Speaking of A to Z, the book is organized completely alphabetically rather than by category. So Oats with Dried Cherries, Raisins and Toasted Almonds is followed by Olive Oil, Almond and Blood Orange Cake which is followed by Onion Pickles. I’ve never seen that before. Maybe Deborah Madison is a contrarian too?
The dairy-free olive oil cake was excellent. I love me some olive oil cake. The fruitiness and bitterness of both the oranges and the olive oil paired very nicely. I couldn’t resist the Breakfast Bread with Rosemary and Lemon because I like rosemary in sweet dishes. The rosemary, honey and butter gave this easy quick bread great flavour.
Madison made the point that winter vegetables don’t have to be drab. One night I served bright orange Carrot Soup with Smoky-Spicy Butter, followed by Warm Red Cabbage Salad with Togarashi Tofu Crisps. The beautiful colours enhanced the meal for sure. But more important was the taste. The carrot soup was creamy and warm on a winter night, spiced with cumin, coriander and smoked paprika. The butter, made with the same spices plus jalapeno and lime, really enhanced the soup. The cabbage salad was a winner too. The vegetables were still crunchy, and the tofu was crispy and salty and the whole dish came together with an easy Asian dressing and aromatics like ginger and onion. I didn’t have Togarashi, a Japanese spice blend, so I substituted a mix of salt and pepper.
I couldn’t resist Kale and Walnut Pesto with Roasted Winter Squash even though it was a bit of work for a side dish. The pesto could easily be tossed with pasta, or potatoes or rice. I love strong flavours and this bright green garlicky crunchy pesto fit the bill.
Cooking vegetarian using this book was no hardship. If there was anything heavy missing from the recipes I couldn’t tell. A great way to start the new year.
Naomi Bussin is a lawyer, mother of three and accomplished cook. Food is her favourite subject and she reads cookbooks in her spare time.