Start Simple, a cookbook review

I know we’re only into February but “Start Simple” by Lukas Volger might end up being my favorite cookbook of 2020.  I know, those are some bold words! But this is the first time in a very long time that I’ve come across a book and I couldn’t find a recipe that I didn’t want to make.

In this book, Volger presents recipes that are realistic for everyday cooking.  Some recipes are for four servings, but there are also a lot of recipes for one serving or two servings to reflect those readers who are not cooking for a family of four.  These recipes are generally great for weeknight cooking. The ingredient list is often 10 ingredients or less, and nothing very exotic.

The book is divided by eleven primary ingredients:

  • Winter squash
  • Tofu
  • Hearty greens
  • Beans
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Eggs
  • Mushrooms
  • Tortillas
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower or broccoli
  • Summer squash
  • Dessert (not a primary ingredient but who doesn’t like a little dessert?)

 

Here is a sampling of recipes:

  • Steel-cut oats with squash and tahini
  • Peanut butter and greens sandwich
  • Spicy beans and greens over polenta
  • Grilled eggplant, scallion, and white bean dip
  • Black beans with scallion-lime vinaigrette, avocado, and spinach
  • White bean, tomato, and dill salad with charred romaine
  • Cold sweet potatoes with spiced seeds and yogurt
  • Sweet potato and tahini soup
  • Broken pasta with roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions, walnuts, and pesto’d Ricotta
  • Cauliflower and kimchi sandwiches
  • Roasted broccoli sauce
  • Savory zucchini beer bread
  • Polenta and pine nut biscotti

 

For my preliminary recipe, I went with the kale-cabbage slaw with quinoa and brown sugar-dijon vinaigrette.  The recipe is pretty easy (to reiterate, nothing in the books seems to be complicated as the author promised in the introduction).  You make some quinoa. You salt and massage the kale and cabbage. You make a vinaigrette. Finally, you mix it all together.

The vinaigrette was very sweet.  I know… that’s a really obvious thing to say when it’s got “brown sugar” as part of the name.  But I’d say start with half the amount of brown sugar, and then add as needed. The amount you want is going to depend on the punch of your mustard.  I was using a homemade mustard (my first attempt at mustard so it could have been better) that didn’t have much punch, so I only needed 4 teaspoons instead of the full 2 tablespoons.

I enjoyed this.  It preps ahead really well.  Because kale and cabbage are really sturdy greens, this slaw made for great work lunches.  But as much as I liked it, I didn’t love it. Which is totally ok! It doesn’t mean that I won’t make it again.  It just means that I’ll try out some of the other salad/slaw recipes in this book before I go back to this one.

I felt compelled to make another recipe almost as soon as I finished the slaw.  Since I had some cabbage left from the slaw (and I happened to have cheese in the fridge), I made the cheesy cabbage and white bean soup.  I’m glad I did too. It was another easy recipe to put together, and perfect to eat on a February day in Boston. It was really cozy and had a lot of good flavor.  (To be fair, since I’m not vegetarian, I was using a homemade chicken broth for it.) I like it so much that this soup is definitely going into the regular rotation.  

“Start Simple” is available as of this week.  Definitely pick up this book whether or not you’re vegetarian.  (Yes, the book is vegetarian but it doesn’t feel like the intention of the book is to necessarily espouse vegetarianism.)  The collection of recipes here are just great ideas for incorporating more vegetables in your everyday diet without being overwhelming or complicated.

 

Disclaimer – I kindly received this book from Harper Wave for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.  

 

Reference Links:

https://www.lukasvolger.com/

https://www.lukasvolger.com/books

http://www.harperwave.com/

 

One Hour Dairy Free Cheese, a cookbook review

I have a weird fascination with faux cheeses.  In case you’re not sure what I’m referring to, I mean products made with nuts and nutritional yeast, and label themselves as cheese for people who are vegan or dairy free.  It might be because, while I like cheese, I am not obsessed with it. I have friends who can eat nothing but cheese for days and they’d be happy.  Me? Not so much. I like mozzarella and queso fresco, but I’m not interested in feta and really dislike goat cheese.

To be fair though, it’s less of an obsession and more of a “how close does this taste like the real thing?” curiosity.  Or maybe even, “could I like this better than the real thing?”  (I would love a goat cheese replacement that I liked.)

I’ve made faux cream cheese and faux grated parmesan, both of which were really tasty and I plan to make again.  But this time around, I thought I’d try a Claudia Lucero recipe.

First of all, Lucero is a cheese maker of the traditional kind.  I didn’t realize until I had a copy of her new book in my hands, One Hour Dairy Free Cheese, that she’s also the author of One Hour Cheese, a book that I’ve been meaning to pick up a copy of (and has been sitting on my Amazon wish list for over a year now).    I won’t lie, her background makes me want to experiment with her faux cheese recipes even more! In my head, I think if a cheese maker can make a faux cheese that she’s proud enough to put into print, then surely the recipe has some merit.

Here’s a quick rundown of the book.  The chapters are divided between:

  • Chapter 1 – The Basics: Equipment, Ingredients, and More
  • Chapter 2 – Wheels, Blocks, and Rounds
  • Chapter 3 – Melts and Dips
  • Chapter 4 – Schmears and Spreads
  • Chapter 5 – Shakes and Grates
  • Chapter 6 – Inst-Cheeses
  • Chapter 7 – Just for Fun
  • Chapter 8 – Make It Yours
  • Chapter 9 – Basic Fermentation
  • Chapter 10 – Bonus Cultured and Aged Cheeses
  • Chapter 11 – Cheese Platter Pairings

One of my favorite features of the book is that every recipe seems to include substitutions, variations, and follow-up recipes.  For example, the ingredients for the Lemon Garlic Feta are listed as blanched almond flour, water or dairy free yogurt, sauerkraut, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, tapioca starch, red wine vinegar, sea salt, garlic, oregano, white pepper, lemon zest, and agar agar.  Don’t have almond flour? Lucero offers ideas for using almond slivers, cashews, macadamia, or sunflowers instead. No sauerkraut? Fake it with onion and lactic acid. No nutritional yeast? Still not a problem, because you can use garlic, tahini, or miso. Then, the recipe variations included are rosemary feta, and kalamata peppercorn feta.  Once the feta is made, you can use it in her recipe for Spicy Beet Salad.

For recipe testing though, I went with the simplest recipe in the book which was the One Bowl Ricotta.  It only has four ingredients and a fifth optional ingredient. I used blanched almond flour, sea salt, lemon juice, water, and miso for my batch.

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Faux cheese on cracker

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In some respects, while the easiest, this recipe could be the worst to start with.  I think for someone who has experimented with faux cheese before, this one might seem almost boring.  I tasted it straight, and I tasted it on a cracker. The flavor was quite mild. It probably would have tasted better with lactic acid and dairy free yogurt, but I didn’t have those on hand.  (And again, I was purposefully going as easy as possible.)  But for someone who hasn’t experimented with faux cheese before, it’s a fantastic beginner’s recipe.

While I don’t think it’s the best faux cheese I’ve made, it’ll probably be the one I’ll end up making the most.  It’s just so easy that I’m not sure I’ll be able to give it up, especially if I’m making something for my vegan or lactose sensitive friends.  It’s also given me momentum to experiment more with faux cheeses, and given me the inspiration to work with less familiar ingredients to make a more convincing product.  I am not saying this lightly.  I even ordered some lactic acid online this week just to make more faux cheese.

So, yeah, I highly recommend this book.  I’m not sure which recipe to test out next though as they all sound good.  (Oooh, maybe I’ll make the Margherita Pizza Melt once my lactic acid arrives at my house.)  If there’s a recipe in particular that you’d like to see me make, just drop me a line with your suggestion!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.urbancheesecraft.com/collections/cheesemaking-books/products/one-hour-dairy-free-cheese

https://www.workman.com/products/one-hour-dairy-free-cheese

Disclaimer – I received this book from Workman Publishing for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.

2018 in review

I have a lot of thoughts about 2018, but since this is a food blog, I’ll keep it to food related things only.

Here are my highlights:

1. Eating bugs with the Nordic Food Lab!

 

2.  Curry biscuit sandwich.  I’m still trying to figure out the right recipe for home re-creation.

 

3.  Ok, this one isn’t food related but it was definitely a highlight – a workshop with Dr. Jacob Harden.

 

4.  This Bon Appétit salad recipe:

 

5.  Finally making Kenji Lopez Alt’s vegan ramen recipe.

 

6.  Meeting Yvette Van Boven.

 

7.  And Kakawa Chocolate House finally opened their MA location in Salem.

 

What were your favorite food memories of 2018?

Summer/Fall 2014

Look!  Pictures as promised!

There are probably more pictures I should upload but this is all I remember.

grilled chicken and stewed okra at Kareem's (Watertown, MA)

grilled chicken and stewed okra at Kareem’s (Watertown, MA)

kale2

tuscano kale in my garden

kale1

red kale in my garden

lobster and peach dish  at Kareem's (Watertown, MA)

lobster and peach dish at Kareem’s (Watertown, MA)

Kareem’s is a place in Watertown that serves dinner on the weekends (otherwise, it’s dedicated for catering and cooking classes).  An entree is typically around $25, but the food is fresh and lovely.  Chef Ahmad is very talented.  He also makes delicious desserts.  Expect the menu to rotate with the season.

let's talk about food festival swag

let’s talk about food festival swag

let's talk about food 2014

let’s talk about food 2014

let's talk about food 2014

let’s talk about food 2014.

I meandered through the Let’s Talk About Food festival by myself this year.  It’s not as fun when you’re alone.  It was smaller this year, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.  I found that having two demo locations last year to be overwhelming.  So, I’m glad that there was only one demo location, but the down side is that it meant fewer demos this year.

I had a lot of homework looming over my head that weekend, so I didn’t stick around for too long.

Farmstead board at the Salty Pig

Farmstead board at the Salty Pig

Salty board at the Salty Pig

Salty board at the Salty Pig

I still love the Salty Pig.  I was there on a Saturday with some friends for lunch.  Menu set up is a little different on lunch, than dinner or Sundays.  We ordered sampler boards instead of the normal charcuterie/cheese a la carte.   The Salty Pig board came with (I think):

Porchetta, SP Kitchen, MA Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder, Fennel Pollen, Rosemary
Stracciatella, SP Kitchen, MA Mozzarella Style Pulled Cheese Marinated Olives
N’duja Rillette, SP Kitchen, MA Smoked Pork, Calabrian Chili, Sea Salt

While I think our Farmstead board was:
Manchego de Corcuera, SPA Sheep, Aged 3 Months, Rich & Buttery
Pont L’Evêque, Normandy, FRA Cow, Washed Rind, Soft & Strong
Vermont Wildflower Honey
Marcona Almonds
Stravecchio, Veneto, ITA 
Cow, Aged 12 Months, Sweet & Nutty

I also ate a Broccoli Rabe pizza with Ricotta Salata, Lemon, Garlic, Chili.  No pictures because we devoured it so quickly, but it was delicious.  Definitely different, but no less awesome.  If you ever have a chance to visit the Salty Pig, I highly recommend it.