12 December 2011

Cookbook Review #3: World Vegetarian Cuisine

I know, I know--it's another vegetarian cookbook.  But why am I apologizing?--everyone knows vegetables are more interesting than meat.  Consider it my gift to you--healthy eating in the new year.  And it can be your gift to someone who needs it in your family...

Celia Brooks Brown: World Vegetarian Classics.  Published by Pavilion Books, 2005.

This book was a gift from my sister-in-law, who sampled one of its recipes at a dinner party.  I can honestly say that if she never gives me another gift, I will be perfectly satisfied to have gotten this from her.  It’s that good.

I love travel, but  am cheap. This book sets out to share recipes (entirely executable, despite the daunting task of trying to emulate other cultures) in tandem with some basic geographical and cultural facts, and each section is edited by a chef who claims expertise in that area.  The photography is also beautiful, though being British, Brown uses measurements which occasionally translate awkwardly for Americans (she provides the conversions, they’re just strange amounts).  Almost all ingredients can be easily procured in the local supermarket, and the flavors really open up new worlds of cooking.  Chapters are organized by geographical region: North America, Latin America/Caribbean, Northern Europe/Russia, Southern Europe, Middle East, North and West Africa, Central, East, and Southern Africa, Japan/China, India/Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Australia (who knew they’d have such interesting recipes!?).  This book is not only a great collection of recipes, it’s a fascinating trip around the world.   One of my favorite casseroles comes form here:

From the book:

Photo courtesy of pink-apron.com.  Check her out!

Macaroni Baked in Yogurt (Armenia)

Serves 4-6

Olive oil, for frying and greasing
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
7 oz. dried macaroni or other pasta shapes
2 medium eggplants (about 1 lb. total), sliced into rounds about ¼ inch thick
2 cups plain yogurt
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoons dried dill
1 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
3 large tomatoes, sliced into thin circles
3 ½ oz. feta cheese
1/3 cup slivered or flaked almonds

Grease an 8 x 12 inch casserole dish with olive oil and set aside.  Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Bring a large saucepan of water to boil and salt well.  Cook the macaroni until al dente.  Drain thoroughly.

Meanwhile, heat a large frying pan over medium heat and add a shallow pool of oil.  Add the eggplant slices and fry until soft and golden.  Drain on paper towels.

Beat together the yogurt, egg yolks, fennel seeds, dill, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl.  Stir the pasta through this mixture to coat evenly.  Scoop into the baking dish and smooth the surface.

Cover the pasta with interleaved rows of sliced cooked eggplant and tomato.  Sprinkle the feta and almonds over the top.  Cook in the oven until hot and bubbly and golden on top, about 20-25 minutes.  Serve with a crisp green salad.”