Wrestling with Recipes – Vegetarian

Sorry about the lack of blog posts the last couple of weeks. I’m finding healing takes up a lot of energy! I am, however, getting a lot of work done on my latest book, so that’s a plus.

But as I get stronger, I am at last cooking again and enjoying it. Getting adventurous. So, yesterday I made this terrific recipe that ended up being more of a pain than it needed to be. (Afterwards, I was a zombie. And it wasn’t the wine I drank that made me a zombie! I guess I need to cook something less ambitious for now.)

Cover of Vegetarian Cook BookI’d bought this book called Vegetarian, over 300 healthy and wholesome recipes chosen from around the world, pubbed by Metro Books with Nicola Graimes listed as the Consultant Editor. (If you click on the link, it’ll take you to Amazon.)

So there’s no one driving Chef force behind the recipes, which may account for the rather randomness of it. And while this is a Vegetarian cook book, they use a lot of dairy and eggs and cheese throughout, which surprised me. Plus there’s NO nutritional information, so don’t go looking for it.

There is, however, a comprehensive introduction and discussion on the basic vegetarian whole food diet, the essentials you need for good health, and over 100 pages on The Vegetarian Kitchen and what to stock and why. Interesting reading, and I’m glad I picked it up in the bargain bin when Borders was going out of business. (Sniff…I miss my Borders!)

Anyway. I’d found this meal in the book called Potato Rosti and Tofu with Fresh Tomato and Ginger Sauce (pg. 312). Since we’re trying to eat a couple meals a week meat-free, and since I have a back yard full of tomatoes, this looked like a good start.

My first hangup? The recipe called for 3 3/4 cups of tofu, cut into 1/2 inch pieces. How do you buy 3 and 3/4 cups of tofu? I went by weight, only later realizing that weight doesn’t equal – well, never mind. I wish they had just said buy one 16 oz block of Tofu. I ended up buying 32 ounces of tofu (two 16 oz blocks) – which frankly was 16 ounces too many (but they were on sale, so I lucked out).

Then the recipe had me marinating the cut-up pieces in a TERRIFIC marinade – but there wasn’t enough marinade, so I had to double the recipe. (I’m finding that to be true very often. Is it just me? Or do recipes tend to skimp on marinade amounts?) After an hour of marinating, scatter on a cookie sheet then bake until crispy, 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Um, let me just say – there is no way, even with turning, that you’ll get crispy tofu in an oven. No way. The only way, in my experience, to get crispy tofu is to fry it. If I’m wrong I’d love someone to explain how to do it! My tofu, after baking, was still soft (and yes, I used extra firm).

The rosti was fun – 2 lbs of potatoes cut in large chunks and boiled, cooled, then grated into shreds. Season with salt & pepper, then form by hand into potato cakes, and fry in a thin layer of oil for 6 minutes per side. This recipe made more than we needed, and we ended up using the leftovers for dinner tonight – but would be spectacular with breakfast, as well.

Then there’s a sauce – you add the marinade to 8 chopped up tomatoes and some olive oil in a hot pan, and cook the heck out of it. The recipe called for me to strain the sauce to get rid of the skins, but by that time I’d been in the kitchen far too long to do such nonsense. (By the way – this is a long slog in the kitchen. Easily two hours, with minimal time to just sit and stare at nothing. This is not a recipe you want to make on a busy weeknight with the kids screaming in hunger.)

Two rosti, a scatter of tofu, and topped with the delish sauce. Add a tossed green salad, and it was a wonderful meal. EXCEPT – when I make this again, I will split a cake of tofu in half width wise, then cut in quarters before marinading. None of this 1/2 inch crap. After marinating, I’ll probably dip it into some – oh darn, forgot the name of it…rice based dry stuff – anyway, dip it in that and then fry it quickly for the crispy.

I might add an egg to the rosti, just to keep the potato cakes from separating so easily in the pan. That was a minor headache.

All in all, the men loved the dish. LOVED it. It was a light and yet filling meal, with an label for Alexander Valley Vineyards ChardonnayAsian flair that everyone appreciated. The hubby and I shared half a bottle of Alexander Valley Vineyards 2010 Chardonnay, regularly $18.00 but on sale for $11.99 at Vons. A terrific addition to the meal, though a Sauvignon Blanc would have worked as well.

This is the first recipe I’ve made out of this book, and I think before I make another one I will read the recipe carefully and see where the traps are for the unwary cook. I’d much rather change something up as I go, than buy ingredients I don’t need.

Wrestle Factor (time + grrr moments):  ~ High ~  
Taste/Likeability Factor: ~ High~
A Remake? ~ Yes, Absolutely, With Variations ~

Do you have cookbooks that you always have to “fix” the recipe? Or are you a slave to how it’s written? AND – What’s your favorite cookbook? With the advent of the internet, I do a lot of last minute “what do I want to make tonight” searches, but I still prefer to skim through a cookbook in my lazy time and think of filling happy bellies. What about you?

~~~

Thanks so much for stopping by! If you like this post, do let me know. I’m thinking about having a regular feature on recipes if there’s any interest. Of course, I may do it anyway, because I’m like that, lol! Cheers, and remember to drink responsibly!

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18 Responses to Wrestling with Recipes – Vegetarian

  1. Yikes, any recipe that takes more than half an hour to prepare is chucked out in my house. I like quick and easy or something I can toss in a casserole dish or slow cooker to produce something magical. The first time I make a recipe I try to follow the directions, but if I make something a second time I tend to improvise and fix things to my taste.

    I like to watch the cooking channel and get lots of recipes from shows like The naked chef, Nigella Lawson etc. It’s good to try new recipes because eating the same thing week after week sucks. I also like to use seasonal produce, which means trying new recipes to stop the boredom factor.

    • Christine says:

      Shelley, I’m usually a fast-meal person but every now and then I love to experiment. The rosti potatoes, for example, will be easy to make and keep for use all week long, but I’d never have found it if I hadn’t gone through the exercise for the total recipe.

      But, yeah. This one just took too much time, which first recipes often do!

  2. Oh wow, you are so much more dedicated to cooking than I am. I hardly ever follow a recipe exactly, I always mix it up some, add subtract, but then my husband complains I can never make it quite the same again. I say “That’s the fun and you’ll never get bored with this dish.” I don’t think I’ve ever made the same soup twice.

    • Christine says:

      Suzanne, I agree, I never make soup the same way twice. I never make lasagna the same way twice, either – but I do like to try to follow the recipe the first time I make it. Sometimes, with a whatever’s-in-the-fridge soup, there is just no way it can ever be replicated. Ah, the joy of cooking, lol!

  3. robena grant says:

    I used to love cooking and trying new recipes. Now I eat fairly simply, so I don’t do much experimenting. My daughter is vegetarian and a fabulous cook. I’m going to tell her about this. Hope you got a good nap or a stretch out on the couch afterward. Or a foot massage. : )

    • Christine says:

      Roben, I’m experimenting while my boys are still here. Once they leave, it’ll be harder to cook for just the two of us, but that will be a different adventure!

  4. Mona Karel says:

    Repeat the WOW you put a lot of time into one meal! I’m on a different dietary track, low carb, and I look for fairly quick and simple recipes. I’m finding I stick to a rotating variety of meals, sometimes having the same thing (zucchini rolled in parmesan and baked) several times a week for a while then not again for a long time. I’ve become particularly fond of where I can go with cauliflower.

    • Christine says:

      Ooh Mona, there are some wonderful cauliflower recipes out there. I’m going to experiment more with it than I have in the past. Regarding the meal, it was a Sunday – the family was all together, which doesn’t happen often during the week any more, and I wanted to do something different. I get the bug to do something “big” a couple of times a month…

  5. I’m gluten-free, so my whole world for the last decade has been fixing recipes. It’s really challenging, too, as GF flour modifications are not 1:1. One flour does not equal another, which can get very pricey. For the most part I just omit, but every now and then I find a recipe that I want to convert.

    Very interesting post! Thanks for jarring my brain to stay adventurous in the kitchen!

    • Christine says:

      Kelley, I’ve recently bought a cookbook called The Gluten-Free Gourmet Cooks Fast and Healthy, by Bette Hagman, who has two other gluten-free cookbooks out. They look fantastic but I haven’t tried any recipes from the book yet. Definitely on my list!

  6. Sarah says:

    OK, my friend, I’m going to try this one, but not in this weather. The very idea of turning on the oven makes me break into a sweat. These days it’s mostly salad and soup (soup made in cooler times and frozen for quick and easy dinners). Even the glass of wine brings the body temperature up.

    They say that when you get old, your circulation is poor, and you’re always cold. I really don’t believe it. We’ll see.

    I’m not as intentional as you are about recipes and cooking. In the morning I think about what’s for dinner, take out something from freezer if needed and then forget about it until about 15 minutes before mealtime. A salad, or steamed veggies, or an omelet take no time at all. When my housemate cooks, it’s more elaborate and I stay out of the hot kitchen, and out from underfoot. I tend to cook whatever is in the refrigerator, freezer, shelves, kind of ad hoc, you know?

    • Christine says:

      Dinnertime at our house, when we’re all there, is something of an occasion. I like to make even simple meals fun and interesting, often using just what’s in the fridge/freezer. But every now and then I long for something different, and use recipes as a way of getting it because Lord knows I can’t afford to go out to eat!

      But when I’m by myself? It’s ad hoc, all the way!

  7. Maria Powers says:

    I love cookbooks. LOVE! They are fantastic reading. I don’t however make much out of any of them because so few are made for single people and I don’t actually know how to cook in small amounts. I will say that I usually try and make the recipe the first time the way it is written, but some recipes are utter garbage. After the first go round, it is play, play, play. In fact, I have one friend and her daughter who we always eat things and try to figure out the spices and come up with new spices or additional ones that might make the flavor better.

    As for the tofu, what about trying under the broiler? Perhaps that would add some crispy.

  8. Christine says:

    OOH Maria, we should make a cookbook – recipes for One! Easily Doubled! All the Flavor, None of the Leftovers! We could so do this.

  9. Laurie Cunningham says:

    One of my cures for insomnia is to look at recipes on the Cook’s Illustrated app on my phone. Weird, but it works! I consider recipes guidelines only. I don’t think I’ve made a recipe in recent times exactly as it was written, but then I’m usually cooking for me, so if I mess up, I can give it to the chickens/turkeys (they’ll eat anything, gladly!). However, I think as one gets more comfortable in the kitchen (ok as we get older…), we are more apt to experiment. I have a friend’s daughter who calls me all the time with questions about how to make something that I threw together for dinner. Um, well, you take…. and then you add… and the cook it until it’s done – She wants amounts and times, and all that good stuff. I’m working to make her a more independent cook – it’s very liberating!

  10. Mel Dawn says:

    I’d like to see more vegetarian content on your blog! Vegetarian meals paired with wine please!

  11. Janie Emaus says:

    I’m a “let my husband to the cooking” type of woman. And he loves it.

  12. Pingback: Wrestling with Recipes ? Vegetarian ? Christine Ashworth ? Wicked … | Animals Matter

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