"Bacon is the candy of meat."

Friday, February 22, 2008

By the book

Like many people who like food and cooking, I have way too many cookbooks, a large number of which I've never/barely cooked from. So my chow friends and I decided to take on a little project -- we're going to take a book a week off the shelf, in whatever order we keep them, and cook one thing from it (something we've never made), then post about the results. So far what this has taught me is (a) we have too many vegetarian cookbooks from Mr. Gateau's vegetarian years, and (b) some of these are not very good.

In Week 1 I cooked from The Vegetarian Epicure, which is a classic, in part due to its very 70s entertaining advice about how nice it is to cook an extra post-dessert course "if grass is smoked socially in your home." I made the Blonde Lentil Soup, which is a little unusual for lentil soup, in that it is flavored with lemon and basil. I think it would be nice in early spring, but it needs some tarting up to be more flavorful.

In Week 2, I was faced with a horror -- the Meatless Gourmet Low-Fat Vegetarian Cookbook. Even finding an appealing recipe was difficult, as much of it was recipes like "Easy Mexican Cheesy Bean Bake" and so forth. I finally tried a strawberry jam-oatmeal cereal bar recipe, which looked OK in concept (and looked nice in the pan) but which tasted like overly sweet clumps of newspaper. I plan to give this book the old heave-ho.

Because I was so dispirited about the whole thing, I decided to make another recipe from The Vegetarian Epicure. I picked a curried lentil salad that was strange but oddly appealing -- the lentils are tossed with a spice mixture (cumin seed, mustard seed, turmeric, cayenne, coriander, salt) cooked in butter, and then mixed with cubed pineapple and tomato, and the whole thing tossed in a mustard-garlic-white wine vinaigrette. You're supposed to serve it in a hollowed-out pineapple shell, but the hell with that. It's got a really nice and unusual tangy-spicy-sweet blend of flavors, and I think it would be nice over greens as an entree salad. I picture this as the kind of thing a French lady would make for a picnic.

Oh, and for dinner I also made that lemony red lentil soup I posted about before. I'm on the verge of a root canal, and soup is pretty much the only thing I'm comfortable eating right now. Pray for me.

1 comment:

Jeffrey McManus said...

Isn't "Mr. Gateau's Vegetarian Years" the title of the new Bridget Jones sequel?