Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cooking From My New Cookbooks

I recently got four new cookbooks from a bargain bookstore.  The only books I buy are cookbooks, for everything else, I'm perfectly happy to go to the library.  So now, the goal is to cook from them all.

That's going to be rough for the book The Conscious Cook by Tal Ronnen.  You know I love to cook from books, and at this point, I'm pretty good at understanding what all the ingredients called for are, or at least what I can replace them with.  I mean, I can remember when I first started seriously cooking, and how I used to struggle.  Like, I had the book Vegan with a Vengeance, and I decided to make the (absolutely incredible) Coconut Heaven Cupcakes from it, and it called for "1 cup unsweetened coconut" and, I'm not going to lie, do you know what I did?  I went to the grocery store and I bought a coconut!  I remember struggling to break it open and cutting out the fruit before I was like, you know?  This cannot be right.  Eventually, I think it occurred to me that it must mean shredded coconut.  What's even funnier about it is that I HAD shredded coconut on hand, because I had bought some to make Nell's Coconut Rolls, which I first made very early on in my journey into vegan cooking.  But that had clearly called for shredded coconut, and this didn't.  My inexperienced mind was confused in a way I'd pretty much never get confused now.  A friend of mine, who decided to make seitan for the first time recently, texted me to ask if  "vital wheat gluten flour" was the same thing as "vital wheat gluten."  Indeed it is, I told her!  And I could totally see where she was coming from, being confused. 

But anyway, yeah, The Conscious Cook is going to be a struggle to cook from.  So many recipes call specifically for Gardein brand "chicken scaloppini" and crap like that.  I've never even heard of Gradein brand anything because, you know, I like to make stuff, not buy it.  And the recipes are really expensive.  So many call for this cashew creme he uses in everything, which contains a bunch of raw cashews.  And, hey, I like to splurge on cashew goodness from time to time, but it's a bit much.  Or, he'll call for, like, a cup of champagne grapes.  Come the fuck on, dude!  Why are you trying to make my life difficult?  But, OK, I'll admit, the book seems seriously gourmet, and many of the sides sound amazing and not impossible.  Like, for instance, the Grilled Artichokes with Caesar Dressing.  I'm totally down to make that for company.

Since my last blog post, I've cooked two things from two of the four new books.  We'll start with dinner before moving onto dessert.  From Quick Fix Vegan, I made the Black Bean Sunburgers.  I liked that it had sunflower seeds in it.
It tasted OK, but I have to admit that I started to put a bunch of sriracha hot sauce on it because it was a little boring.  I think it should have more onion in it than it does, and probably some garlic too.  Wanna see it more up close?  This next picture is awesome because, while I was bicycling home from work right before I took it, the chain came off my bike.  So I stopped and put it back on, no big deal.  And then I came home and washed and washed my hands, but that grease has a will to live!  So you can totally see it on my hand.

Then, from my newly purchased book Party Vegan, I made the Cherry Pecan Bars.  Long-time readers know I love me some cherry, and this didn't require me to buy anything from the store.  Who, pray tell, has both cherry preserves and also dried cherries ON HAND?  This girl, that's who.  I love me some cherry, what can I say?
This is such an amazing desert treat, although I do think it might be harmful to teeth.  It is chewy and sticky.  It's mostly made from Earth Balance (vegan butter, for you non-vegan readers), and when you first take it out of the oven, it's, like, boiling.  Once it stops bubbling and cools off and you can cut it, it's got this great crispy bottom and is completely chewy through the rest.  Oh my god, it's what they'd serve you in heaven, where you need not worry about the well-being of your teeth.  I generally will go the extra mile and make the "optional" things in a recipe, and this one has an optional glaze to drizzle on top -- you know, a normal confectioner's sugar and non-dairy milk glaze.  I decided I'd taste it before I made any glaze, and I'm glad I did, because as long as I'm not making this for a party, the glaze is really not necessary.  The book is called Party Vegan, though, so kudos to Robin Robertson for including some fiendish embellishment.

The last new book I got was Holiday Vegan Cooking, which is a gorgeous book, and I cannot wait to cook from it, holidays or no.  Mostly, I look forward to cooking from the section "Jewish Holidays."  I'm not Jewish -- my mother was a gentile, and my father converted to Christianity before I was born and much later sort of reclaimed Judaism, although without any seriousness.  However, I've been to my fair share of Seders and Hanukkah parties with my dad's side of the family.  And then, my step-mother (whose incredible cooking inspired me to start cooking myself more than anything else did) has a natural flair for Jewish cooking, as I think all Semitic amateur chefs born and raised in New York City tend to.  Her food actually changed my tastes, and now, looking through Nava Atlas's book, the Jewish Holiday section is the thing that really makes me go "Mmmmmm."  So I'm excited about this book!

Oh, hey, you know what I did recently?  Normally, I pack my lunch, but I've been casually seeing a nice young man who asked me if I'd want to go to The Franktuary, which is very close to where I work, for lunch one day.  So he came to meet me during my lunch break, which my good-for-nothing ex never did, and he willingly, without my asking him at all, got the same thing I did, which was the Chicago-style veggie dog.  That's kinda nice of him, don't you think?  Anyway, here's a picture of the dogs we got.  The bread might not be vegan, I didn't ask, but it's definitely vegan other than that.
Pretty tasty!

7 comments:

  1. That burger... looks so.. good..
    Also- I love, love love, franktuary! I'm pretty sure the buns are vegan..

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  2. What's your favorite style of veggie dog they sell? It's too expensive for me really, but since this young man was paying for me, it was good for one day's lunch.

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  3. I am really lax about asking restaurants about bread. I've been lucky enough to have some servers who just know right away that their buns aren't vegan, but I'm sure I've had a few non-vegan breads recently... And I don't know what I would have done without your help on the vital wheat gluten thing! :)

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  4. Did your seitan turn out well? I've used a lot of different recipes for seitan, but now I'll only make the one in Terry Hope Romero's book Viva Vegan!, ommitting the cumin from it, because there truly is no better recipe for seitan out there.

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  5. I just got the chicago when I was there- it IS really expensive- we had a groupon when we went. :)

    Just bought "Vegan Lunchbox around the World" !! Gonna have to make some sweet packed lunches from here on out!

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  6. Do you have an issue with buying cookbooks uncontrollably? Because I do.. and I'm probably going to buy the books you mentioned in this post...

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  7. Not uncontrollably, but I do want the new cookbooks that seems actually good. I'm not interested in a lot of other cookbooks, and I've given away quite a few I didn't use, like the Moosewood, and some others.

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