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Archive for the ‘Cookbook review’ Category

Caramelized hazelnuts for my "Sweet Winter Slaw"

This past weekend, we held our 3rd potluck for our book club.  This time we selected the cookbook  – Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes From London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi.

Quinoa salad with lime prepared by Angela

I received a copy of this cookbook for my birthday last year and it has easily become one of my go-to cookbooks.  I’ve made a number of dishes out of it and when company is coming it is the first cookbook I pull off my shelves to plan with.  The quality the recipes produce are consistently delicious and pretty.

The day of the potluck all the dishes were amazing.  While there were minor complaints about the clarity of the cookbook there were no disasters and very few people needed to adjust their recipes.  My friend Sarah who hosted, set up her dining room so it was like a big buffet table and her home was a welcoming place to share a meal.  The group not only talked about food, but also about family, travel, and summer plans.  We also discussed the new gourmet doughnut shop, Suzy Q, that just opened in Hintonburg.  The feeling of community is one of the great things about being together and sharing a meal like this.

How did the cookbook fare in our conversation?  Overall, everyone seemed to like this cookbook.  Some people even mentioned buying a copy if they didn’t already have one.   Below I break down some of my likes and dislikes:

Stuffed peppers prepared by Anna (from Ottolenghi's recipes on the Guardian's website)

What I liked about this cookbook:

  • Great flavour combinations – if I was cooking for someone who was not a vegetarian I could use pretty much any recipe in this cookbook to impress them.  Also, as someone who has been cooking vegetarian for many years I’ve seen a lot of standard flavour combinations:  white beans and kale, mozzarella and tomato, etc).  Ottolenghi adds something strange to these standard flavours and the recipes end up working in his favour.
  • Home-cooked versions of the recipes actually look like the photos in the cookbook!
  • The recipes are organized by vegetable which is really handy if you do your shopping at a farmers market and pick up random beautiful vegetables intending to improve with them!

Roasted cauliflower gigli with pine nuts and currants prepared by Katrina

What I disliked:

  • This cookbook is written for someone who really knows their way around a kitchen.  While the instructions are well written they could be a little more detailed. A novice cook might become overwhelmed or worse yet start a kitchen fire with Ottolenghi’s instructions on how to caramelize.  Ottolenghi admits in one of his headnotes that he forgot an important step in one of his recipes that appeared in the Guardian. He forgot to write that you need to stab an eggplant with a fork before roasting it to let the steam out. He received many complaints from people who had eggplants explode in their oven!  That being said, with the recipes I’ve made so far out of the cookbook I’ve been okay.
  • My friend, Angela said this cookbook should be called “Plenty of Time” because the recipes take a long time to prepare.  Also, the recipes do not include an estimated time to prepare which is pretty standard in a lot of cookbooks now.  It’s true without a sous-chef the recipes will take some time to prepare but it just means I wouldn’t use this cookbook for a weeknight.
  • Many of the recipes will not make a whole meal and there are not a lot of menu suggestions.  So, you need plan your menu wisely.

Highly recommended to buy!

Surprise tatin prepared by Cara

Title: Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes From London’s Ottolenghi

Authors: Yotam Ottolenghi

Publisher: Chronicle Books; Reprint edition (Mar 9 2011)

ISBN: 9781452101248

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Cookbook review: Quinoa 365

Raspberry cream cheese muffins

This past weekend, we held our second potluck for our book club.  For these potlucks a group of us get together and cook various recipes out of a pre-selected cookbook.  This time we selected, Quinoa 365 by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming.

Stuffed mushrooms prepared by Carli

This book seemed to be everywhere this past year. Costco was selling it, random co-workers recommended it to me and tonnes of blogs reviewed it.  As we discussed at the potluck, these authors published this book at the right time and place – it seems they tapped into something that was brewing under the surface for a while now.  The book was so popular at the library I was afraid that we wouldn’t all have a chance to look at the cookbook before the potluck (luckily the library ordered an extra 30 copies or so).  At the potluck we tried to decide why this would be so popular – because many recipes are gluten-free?  Because eating whole grains has suddenly becoming trendy?  Or maybe it’s the idea that cooking healthy is as simple as including one more ingredient in your regular food?  We  settled on this last idea – many of the recipes ask you to add a couple of tablespoons of quinoa instead of building a whole meal around it.  Which actually worked for our potluck.  Beforehand I worried we would be eating quinoa in every dish and maybe that would get a bit boring.  But actually, this potluck was more a meal than an all-you can eat buffet – there were appetizers, a soup, entrees and then desserts.  And, all of the dishes were delicious.  So if you are looking to add more quinoa to your diet, pick up this book.

Quinoa tabbouleh by Sarah

Vegan "Cheeseball" cooked by Brigitte

What I liked about this cookbook:

  • This is the type of book that I could give to my mom with confidence that she would use it. Besides the occasional recipe that asks for quinoa flour, most of the recipes call for readily available ingredients and the recipes are easy to cook for people who are used to “meat and potato” meals.
  • The recipes worked. They did not require a lot tweaking to get the tastes right – the testers did a great job with this cookbook!

What I disliked:

  • As a vegetarian I already tend to eat a lot of quinoa so I was hoping for inventive ways to incorporate more of this food into my diet.  There are some great recipes in this book but nothing earth shattering in terms of innovation.
  • A lot of the dishes called for low-fat products (sour cream, cheese, etc.) — great if you are trying to be healthy but most of time I would rather eat full fat to get a better flavour.

Stuffed shells prepared by Julie

Tasty tuna casserole prepared by Angela

Recommended to borrow from your library or to purchase if you are looking to incorporate more quinoa into your diet.

Title: Quinoa 365 : the everyday superfood

Authors: Patricia Green & Carolyn Hemming

Publisher: Whitecap, c2010.

ISBN: 9781552859940

Carmel Apple Cheesecake prepared by Chris

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A couple of weeks ago I was lucky to host my first book club, well specifically, my first cookbook book club!

Intrigued?

Palmiers with olives cooked by me.

Well, the idea is that a group of people who love cooking will get together and choose a cookbook for the ¨book club.¨ Then everyone chooses a recipe for a potluck where the group discusses the cookbook, the recipes, their likes and dislikes about the cookbook and general food related topics. I actually first read about this type of club on the Tea and Cookies blog and luckily, they have a great post on how to start one). So, I put the idea out there on facebook a few months ago and was overwhelmed at the interest!  We organized our first meeting and picked our first cookbook.

For our first selection we wanted to pick something that could be easily obtained at the Public Library so the group chose Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home.   Moosewood cookbooks are pretty famous in the vegetarian community and most of us had a least one of their cookbooks but no one owned this one.  This would give us all a chance to try something new.

Pad Thai cooked by Carli

The day of the potluck I spent my time making the palmiers pictured here, cooking a Portuguese white bean soup, and figuring out how to fit all the food and people arriving into my apartment.  It was a wonderful afternoon – people brought some amazing dishes and we all agreed one of the highlights of a club like this is trying recipes that you wouldn’t normally make.  For me this was the risotto – I always have good intentions when it comes to risotto recipes but never seem to make them in my daily cooking.  We all had lots to say about the cookbook but we also talked about up-coming food related events in Ottawa, good tv, and craft shows.

How did the cookbook fare in our conversation?  Well, like Rebar, this cookbook was released many years ago in 1994 but unfortunately, unlike Rebar, it has not held up over time in my opinion.  For a cookbook that is based on a restaurant’s menu (especially one so well known in the vegetarian community), I felt this cookbook just did not live up to my expectations.  Below I break down some of our likes and dislikes:

What I liked about this cookbook:

  • Great quick meals for after work — most of the recipes I tried out were quick to make and did not require a lot of ingredients which is exactly what you want on a night that you are rushing around.
  • Most of recipes called for simple ingredients – no rushing out to a specialty store to track down tempeh bacon or a particular dried lentil.  So, not only are the recipes quick to prepare they are quick to shop for.
  • The cookbook would be easy to use for someone new to cooking in a vegetarian manner.

    Eggplant Mykonos by Carolyn

  •  It has great menu suggestions.  Nothing bugs me more than a vegetarian cookbook filled with side dishes (what are they supposed to go beside?) — This cookbook has a lot of side dishes but it actually tells you how to build a healthy meal out of them.

What I disliked:

  • The dishes tended to be bland, this could be because of the simple ingredient list and the easy prep but the soup I made for the potluck could have benefited from another clove of garlic or two.
  • The dishes reminded me of those vegetarian-cafeteria style restaurants and while this made for great potluck food I would not want to cook out of this cookbook if company was coming over.
  • The recipes made smaller portions of food — I’m used to cooking a big pot of soup and having leftovers in my freezer for a week – if you want that with this cookbook you will need to double or even triple the recipes.
Cake

Chocolate Cake by Angela

Recommended to borrow from your library or to purchase for new vegetarian cooks.

Title: Moosewood Restaurant cooks at home : fast and easy recipes for any day

Authors: The Moosewood Collective

Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 1994.

ISBN: 0671879545; 0671679929 (pbk.)

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Cookbook review: Rebar

So I’m a little late reviewing this cookbook – a quick Google search shows there are plenty of positive reviews already out there.  It won a Canadian Culinary Book award in 2002.  And, there is even a blog where the authors tried to cook their way through the book from 2009.  All that I can say is that ten years later this cookbook still holds up.  It is a cookbook that I use often and always feel inspired after cooking from its pages.

The pasta and entrée sections of my cookbook are littered with checkmarks and words like: “amazing” and “make again”.  This is where you get your money’s worth from this cookbook.  Some of my favourite dishes are the border paella, the savoury bread pudding, the pad Thai and the Santa Fe pasta salad.  Sure, some of these recipes require a lot of work and can be quite time-consuming but they make great company dishes.  A good example of this would be the recipe for the Parmesan corn risotto cakes – there was so much prep work it took me two nights to make them but they were beautiful and delicious!

So that being said, my least favourite part of the cookbook is the lunch section.  These recipes often take just as much prep as the entrées but the results are less rewarding.  The drinks section is also underused in my home but I’m certain that is because I don’t have a juicer yet.  One of my go to recipes when I’m getting sick is the Liver Quiver much to Mike’s disdain (It contains raw garlic).

Overall this is easily one of my favourite cookbooks with recipes that I cook frequently. I’ve not yet been to the restaurant nor have I been to Victoria but it this cookbook is any indication of how tasty the food will be there I will plan to try this place the next time we make it out West.

Highly recommended for vegetarians!

(Want to buy this from a local bookshop – try Octopus Books)

Title: Rebar Modern Food Cookbook

Authors: Audrey Alsterberg, Wanda Urbanowicz

Publisher: Big Ideas Publishing, 2001

ISBN: 0968862306; 9780968862308

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