Meatless Cooking Done Right
I’m a huge fan of public television and even more so of cooking shows on public television. See, as snazzy and slick as Food Network is, the shows on PBS are much more realistic and focused on the cooking, not the hosts. That being said, if I could order just one cable station, it’d be Food Network. Shhh, don’t tell. In any case, when I was asked to review a new cookbook just released by PBS’s Toni Fiore, host of the food show Totally Vegetarian, I was keen to dive into it.
As I flipped through my fresh copy just ripped from its packaging, I had a few misgivings. For me, a good cookbook needs good photos of each and every recipe. That’s the food photographer and blogger in me, I’m sure. After all, I’m a little obsessive about my own photos for recipes here on this very site. Well, to be honest, Totally Vegetarian doesn’t really impress me in the photo category. I might have set it back down in the bookstore, but I’d have been missing out.
After assessing the photo spreads in the book, I delved into the text a bit more. Again, I wasn’t hugely impressed at the outset as a good portion of the book focuses on very basic information about becoming a vegetarian/vegan and how to find appropriate meat substitutes and so forth. Good information if you’re a newbie cook or newbie vegetarian, but not really what I would have personally been looking for in a cookbook. Again, I might have set it back on the shelf at this point, but fortunately for me, I needed to try a few recipes to make sure I gave it a fair review.
Dear readers, when you get right down to the recipes, this book rocks! The dishes I have tried so far are all fantastic and very easy. Ms. Fiore is a cook after my own heart, showcasing fresh vegetables in straightforward preparations that always manage to surprise you just a little bit (in a good way). I’ve already dog-eared several pages.
For instance, take this Roasted Red Pepper Dip/Spread. I’m sure many of you, like me, have had a few versions of this classic party menu item in your life. I’ve never been a huge fan because I usually find them too heavy and really not all that flavorful, at least not in the roasted pepper department. But since I had several large red peppers from the garden starting to languish in the fridge, I figured roasting them was the best way to preserve them. And then once they were roasted, I needed a way to use them and so I turned to my new cookbook.
Totally Vegetarian changes up this classic a bit by using tofu, instead of the more typical sour cream, as the emulsifier and suddenly it’s a whole new condiment! The roasted pepper flavor is at the forefront, and there’s some inner satisfaction in knowing that you’re getting a few grams of protein from your new and improved ketchup replacement. I usually have a sandwich for lunch and I lather this stuff on thick as butter cream frosting on a birthday cake each any ever time. It’s like a whole new sandwich world for me! And it will be for you too when you give this recipe and Totally Vegetarian a try. Look for more recipes from the book in upcoming posts.
Roasted Red Pepper Spread/Dip
Adapted from Totally Vegetarian
14 oz. package of firm tofu, drained and dried on paper towels
1/3 C. extra virigin olive oil
¼ C. lemon juice
1 T. cider vinegar
1 t. salt
3 large red peppers
Fresh parsley for garnish
To roast the peppers, place your oven rack at the top position and preheat the broiler for a few minutes. Place the peppers on a foil-lined baking sheet and slide under the broiler. When peppers are nicely brown and beginning to char, use tongs to turn them a quarter turn. Continue to broil on each side until completely roasted and the pepper starts to collapse. The entire process takes about 15 minutes.
When the peppers are roasted, remove the sheet from the oven and immediately pull up the sides of the foil over the peppers and crimp the edges closed. Allow peppers to rest in the foil for at least 15 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Pull apart the stem and seeds and the skin should slip off easily. Discard. Roughly chop the roasted peppers. They can be stored in a sealed container with a little olive oil in the refrigerator for up to a week.
To make the spread, combine the tofu, oil, lemon juice, vinegar and salt in a food processor or blender. Process until smooth and creamy. Add the roasted peppers and process until very smooth (takes a minute or two). Garnish with the parsley before serving as a dip. Alternatively, spread on hearty breads for sandwiches or spoon over cooked vegetables.
(makes about 2 cups)