Cooking from a book

If theres one thing Im addicted to, its definitely buying cookbooks. I love the feeling of coming home from the store with a fresh new cookbook, sitting down and being immersed in the recipes, flavor profiles emerging and beautiful photos (photos are essential) dancing in front of my eyes. Its magical.

However, usually soon after I buy the cookbook, I place it on a shelf, along with countless others where it sits, until I decide I want some new inspiration. Which doesnt strike too often- usually Im busy digging through my CSA bag or figuring out what to do with the new ingredient I picked up at the health food store to even open a cookbook.

So my beautiful cookbooks stay, in all their glory, on one of the three shelves I have devoted to them in my tiny apartment. Well, until now at least. Ive decided to make an effort to cook from a cookbook at least twice a week from here on out; to try something new and maybe gain a little inspiration.

This week, I cooked. Many vegans, vegetarians and omnivores alike maintain this is the vegan bible. The cookbook that beats all others in size, variety and success of recipes. I myself find myself looking at it often for inspiration. Unfortunately, I have only cooked out of this cookbook a handful of times. The recipes I have cooked (most often the Pineapple cashew quinoa stirfry and vegan cornbread) have been incredible; so I thought this would be a great book to dig into for my first week of cooking from a book.

The first recipe I made was a Shitake Udon Noodle with kale dish. Packed with earthy mushrooms and lightly wilted kale, this recipe is not for the healthy faint of heart. But I loved the lucious fullness the mushrooms brought to the bowl, the deep flavor of the dark miso and the smooth noodles to balance it all out. I used brown rice udon noodles, which worked beautifully. I also doubled the amount of mushrooms and added some sprouted tofu on top; simply because I wanted to.

My hubby enjoyed this dish as well, even though hes not a huge mushroom fan. He left a few of them, and I happily gobbled them up while he finished off my noodles. Its why we work. 😉

The second dish I tackled was tamarind lentils. The first thing I thought when I saw this dish was, yum-lentils! the second thing I thought was, what the heck is tamarind?

The tamarind is native to tropical Africa and grows wild throughout the Sudan. It was introduced into India so long ago, it has often been reported as indigenous there also. It is extensively cultivated in tropical areas of the world

The 3 8 inch long, brown, irregularly curved pods are borne in abundance along the new branches. As the pods mature, they fill out somewhat and the juicy, acidulous pulp turns brown or reddish-brown. When fully ripe, the shells are brittle and easily broken. The pulp dehydrates to a sticky paste enclosed by a few coarse stands of fiber. The pods may contain from 1 to 12 large, flat, glossy brown, obovate seeds embedded in the brown, edible pulp. The pulp has a pleasing sweet/sour flavor and is high in both acid and sugar. It is also rich in vitamin B and high in calcium (source)

Interesting, huh? Its used in a lot of Indian and other south east asian dishes (pad thai, anyone?), but I had never seen it in a store. So I went searching for this elusive tamarind paste.

For those in Toronto, I found it at Qi natural foods 🙂

I served up a large serving of these sweet and sour lentils with some spicy cauliflower with sesame from one of my favorite fellow cookbook lovers, Heidi Swanson.

The flavor of these lentils is almost indescribable. Simply calling them sweet and sour doesnt do them justice. The tangy sweetness from the tamarind paste paired with a hint of spice from cayenne and an Indian flavor profile provided by Garam masala resulted in a beautifully unexpected combination of flavors. I had never tasted anything like it. The flavor was almost addicting as it hit every single desire: sweet, sour, tangy, salty, savory, bold. I know for sure this is a recipe I am going to make over and over again.

I think Im going to like cooking through my cookbook collection.

Do you collect cookbooks like me? Do you use them often? Cmon, I know I cant be the only hoarder around here 😉