Fallen into a food rut and can’t get out? In desperate need of inspiration for your next meal? That was me.
But not anymore. Not after receiving Bryant Terry’s latest cookbook, The Inspired Vegan for review. More than a mere collection of recipes, Bryant shares what influences him in his life through stories, music selection, art and of course, food.
Divided into Basics, Interlude and Menus – each section builds upon the next. From the Basics which covers prep and cooking techniques as well as simple recipes for use in other recipes, I made Basil Pesto (page 13).
Besides the recipes, there’s also helpful tips on swapping out different ingredients, serving and storage. For the pesto, I sub almonds instead of pine nuts as I already had almonds. I’ve made pesto before but this is by far the best one. Perhaps it’s the addition of miso that puts it over the top.
Also from the Basics, I made Caramelized Onion Relish (page 17), Marinated Beets (page 29) and the Garlic-Ginger-Sautéed Beet Greens (page 30). I normally just sauté beet greens plain but with the garlic and ginger it gives it a little bit more of an Asian flavor.
The Interlude simply lists the recipes in the next section. The Menus include recipes for drinks, main dishes, sides and desserts, organized by seasons and begins with the inspiration or influence for that particular menu.
Being of Asian descent, I was immediately drawn to the “Winter in Hong Kong” menu. As Bryant’s wife is Chinese-American, he’s naturally influenced by her cooking and the combining of different food cultures.
I tried the 2-Rice Congee with Steamed Spinach and Other Accompaniments (page 164) and the refreshing but not too sweet Kumquat-Tangerine-Meyer Lemonade (page 163). The congee or jook in Cantonese, is familiar yet different; I never thought to try greens or caramelized onions as toppings.
Moving out of my comfort zone, I made Rustic Johnny Cakes with Caramelized Onion Relish (page 55) – it’s an easy to make flat cornmeal cake. Pan-fried in coconut oil and topped with the onion relish, it’s a delicious savory breakfast. Oddly, I didn’t like it as much when I tried it with just maple syrup.
With the marinated beets, I made the Red Beet Tapenade Crostini (page 78). A great twist to the usual tapenade, this beet-based version has a beautiful, vibrant color with a sweet-tangy taste.
One of my favorite things from Bryant’s previous cookbook Vegan Soul Kitchen is the method of roasting tofu cubes. I’ve experimented quite a bit with that recipe. Imagine my delight to see another variation, Saag Tofu (page 69).
After being roasted with Indian spices, I could eat the tofu as is right out of the oven. They’re actually meant to go in with the creamy spinach and eaten with Yellow Basmati Rice (page 71). Either way, I’m one happy camper.
I haven’t made this many recipes out of one cookbook in a long time. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, there’s many more recipes to try. Especially when Spring and Summer arrive and local seasonal ingredients are at their peak.
4 to 6 servings
1 pound extra-firm tofu (1 large cake)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
3/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
Coarse sea salt
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds fresh spinach, washed and trimmed
1 small yellow onion (about 1 cup), chopped finely
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
2 small green chiles, seeded and minced
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups unflavored rice milk
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Place the tofu cake on its side and slice in half. Lay the tofu down flat, keeping the layers together, and slice it, widthwise, into three even slabs. Slice each of those slabs into quarters widthwise, leaving you with twenty-four cubes. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl combine 1/2 teaspoon of cumin, 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon of mustard seeds, 1/4 teaspoon of fennel seeds, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and mix well with a fork. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and mix well. Add the tofu cubes and gently toss to coat with the mixture.
Gently transfer the tofu cubes to a parchment-lined baking sheet in a single layer.
Roast of 30 minutes, gently turning with a fork after 15 minutes.
While the tofu is roasting, combine 3 quarts of water and 1 teaspoon of salt in a large pot and bring to a boil. Add the spinach and blanch until softened, about 1 minute, drain in a colander, and chill under cold running water. Squeeze the water out of the spinach with a clean kitchen towel, then chop coarsely and set aside.
In a medium-size saucepan, combine the onion with the remaining olive oil and the ginger, chile, coriander, and black pepper, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin, 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric, 1/4 teaspoon of mustard seeds, 1/4 teaspoon of fennel seeds, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Sauté over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables are soft and browning. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
Add the spinach and the rice milk to the saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat, covered, for about 15 minutes, until the spinach is creamy. Add eight to twelve tofu cubes to the spinach, avoiding overcrowding the spinach with tofu, and simmer for 5 more minutes (reserve the additional tofu for later use in another dish). Season with additional salt if necessary. Serve hot.
From the book The Inspired Vegan by Bryant Terry. Excerpted by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright (c) 2012. www.dacapopresscookbooks.com
Disclosure: I received the book free of charge from the publisher to review. The opinions and experience with the book expressed herein are my own. There was no pay to say.
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