Friday, July 24, 2009

stretching my wings

I love cookbooks. I have so many that I'm starting to run out of places to put them, so I have the Favorites shelf (near the kitchen) and the I-may-look-once-in-a-while shelf (down the hall). I just got three new cookbooks last weekend, and I have devoted this week's dinner menus to a review of the first one: Vegan Express by Nava Atlas.

When I saw it in the bookstore, I thought it had some unique recipes and liked the flavors I saw when I flipped through. Today, I sat down with a delightful cup of chocolate caramel coffee and paged through a little more carefully, looking for this week's dinner. Chapter 1 is "Speedy, Savory Soups," which really didn't strike me as appealing at the end of July, but will surely lead to another great discovery week in October. Chapter 2 focuses on vegan proteins - tofu, seitan, and tempeh. There were some fun recipes, but I already had a tofu recipe on the menu (more on that later) and my husband is allergic to tempeh. In Chapter 3, "Glorious Grains and Bountiful Beans," I hit gold.

When I was a kid, my father insisted on singing the bean song ("beans, bean, the magical fruit; the more you eat, the more you toot") every time my poor mother included beans in our dinner, so it has taken me nearly a decade of cooking for myself to open up to the many amazing bean dishes out there. I love grains, though, and the combination of the two is texturally amazing (and provides a complete protein). I harvested 4 recipes before moving on to Chapter 4 - pasta. Pasta is way overdone in vegetarian cooking, or at least in non-veg. cooking for vegetarians, so I didn't want to spend a lot of time in that chapter. Fortunately, I didn't have to! I found the final recipe for my week of dinners fairly quickly and closed the book. There are still 5 chapters, but I will provide a second review when I get through the whole book. I was really just on a quest for my grocery list today.

A few notes, though, on the way the cookbook is set up. In addition to quick, easy-to-make recipes, in which the most exotic, hard-to-find ingredient I've seen so far is lemongrass, the author includes some very helpful side notes for each recipe. This is the set-up of each page:
Recipe (with intro); nutritional info per serving, and *drum roll* menu suggestions! I love when people suggest accompaniments to the main course, because most of the time, I barely have time to figure out the entree, much less a side dish, appetizer, or dessert! The most creative accompaniment I've been able to come up with unaided was when I sliced a Granny Smith apple in a thin fan, with a branch of green grapes and some kalamata olives.

Anyway, without further ado, here is my dinner menu for this week - I will let you know how it turns out. All recipes below can be found in the aforementioned cookbook, except the Mandarin Tofu and Peppers, to which I will devote another blog on another day. Enjoy!

  1. Mandarin Tofu & Peppers
  2. Curried Chickpeas with Chutney Bulghur
  3. Polenta with Black Beans & Spinach
  4. BBQ-Flavored White Beans with Sausage & Spinach
  5. Miso-Ginger Red Beans with Broccoli
  6. Pasta Puttanesca


  1. Your menu sounds delicious! Looking foward to more posts. -Rachel

  2. Thanks, Rachel! Check back - I hope to update daily with the results!

  3. The menus look and sound delicious and you obviously find great joy and pleasure in cooking! I loved the pictures...they all looked wonderful! Keep writing and I will keep watching for more posts! Karen