Mastering The Art of Vegetarian Cooking

Day 46: Millet & Chickpea Pilaf, Carrots with Herb Butter, Cauliflower with Bread Crumbs

Planning the menus is so time-consuming; that’s something I hadn’t really anticipated. I can sit down with the book, my notebook, and the shopping list program on my phone and spend a couple of hours planning three day’s meals. Yikes. That’s why I’m so behind on the blogging (sorry)– the planning and cooking take up so much time!

On Monday November 23 (can I really be two weeks behind?), I decided to go with a millet dish. I hadn’t made millet for the family before, and I had a feeling Madeline would object to the texture (she doesn’t like quinoa), but I’ve committed to cooking everything, so… It turned out fine, though it was too tomato-juice-y to really be a favorite of mine. I’m not sure why, but I don’t really liked the taste of tomato juice in recipes (or canned tomatoes either, for that matter). I was right about Madeline, but the rest of the fam liked it fine. The carrots were good, with “herb butter and olive oil sauce.” I managed to remember to get the butter out ahead of time, something I am historically terrible at.

The cauliflower with bread crumbs is deceptively simple, but really good. One of the things I’m learning from this project is to remember there are infinite ways to spice up (well, not literally spice up, but you know what I mean) plain, steamed vegetables. I also made a saffron vinaigrette for some arugula; it was a happy accident that it went with the pilaf that also had saffron in it.

One little plug: My darling friend Emily introduced me to Penzey’s Spices in Arvada. They have a location in Old Littleton, too, though I haven’t been to that one yet. (I think I need to work there.) I have been using mostly fresh herbs, and I had already filled in (or replenished) my spice rack from the grocery store and Whole Foods, but I sure wish I’d found Penzey’s at the beginning of this project!

Millet & Chickpea Pilaf with Saffron & Tomatoes, p. 532; Carrots with Herb Butter and Olive Oil Sauce, p. 51; Cauliflower with Bread Crumbs, p. 354; Arugula with Saffron Vinaigrette, p. 188.

Coming: Skillet Asparagus, Pinto Bean Soup, Spoon Bread


Days 39 & 40: Winter Squash Gratin, Wheat Berries with Chickpeas, Lentils and Tarragon, and much more…

I’m playing catch-up here. My sincerest apologies to anyone who’s actually checking in; Thanksgiving and its lead-up kicked my ass. I’ve still been cooking; it’s just the blogging I can’t seem to find time for!

Way back on Day 39 (which was actually Nocember 16!), I made Butternut Squash Gratin with Onions and Sage, Rice with Spinach, Lemon and Dill, and Red Lettuces with Radish Sprouts. The gratin was good, though not terribly cheese-y (it only contained a half-cup of Fontina). The cubes of squash were floured and fried before they were baked in the gratin, which made them extra tasty. The kids were dubious, even though it had a breadcrumb topping (usually a slam-dunk with them); Sophie complained that it was too sweet, and Baxter was put off by the texture. Under-10 tastebuds notwithstanding, though, it was delicious. Jon and I both loved it.

The rice suffered from the latest batch of Basmati I bought… I’m not sure what is wrong; at first I thought its slightly mushy texture was because I first cooked it in the pressure cooker (even though the pressure cooker doesn’t usually do that to rice), but this time I cooked it conventionally and it still had a mushy feel. The dish was good, though; I did have to back off on the lemon juice to keep Jon from thinking it was too sour.  The salad was good, too, though the sprouts were mix between radish (which were delicious!) and alfalfa. I wish I could find radish sprouts by themselves. Between those and the Braised Radishes, I’m a radish convert.

On Day 40, November 17, I made one of my favorite dishes so far. It contains wheat berries, which I rarely make but always love when I do.  It also has chickpeas and lentils, two of my other favorite ingredients. I used the little green French lentils (also known as “Lentils de Puy”), which retain their shape and give a nice resistance when you bite them. I am not usually a huge fan of tarragon, but I liked this dish very much. The kids enjoyed it, too, though they were not quite as enthusiastic as Jon and I were.

The only other dish that night was Spinach and Tomato Salad with Walnut Dressing, which was maybe my favorite salad so far. That’s because it had more stuff in it– onions, mushrooms, tomatoes… Yum. And, remarkably for this nut-hating girl, the dressing was even fine. Madeline loved it, the other two kids liked it okay (Sophie deconstructed it, picking out the mushrooms and tomatoes), and Jon ate it happily. (He only despises spinach when it’s cooked.)

This was a delicious meal, despite only containing two recipes!

Butternut Squash Gratin With Onion and Sage, p. 287; Red Lettuces with Radish Sprouts, p. 139; Rice with Spinach, Lemon and Dill, p. 541; Whole Wheat w/Chickpeas, Lentils and Tarragon, p. 559; Spinach & Tomato Salad with Basil-Walnut Dressing, p. 147

Up next: Broccoli & Scallion Puree, Baked Tofu in Mustard-Honey Marinade, Barley Risotto, and Sauteed Peppers

Day Six: Potato/Chickpea Stew and Baby Zuchini

Jon says I’m slacking because I only made two recipes on Wednesday… But really, I made three, and the big news is: Romesco Sauce ROCKS.

Have you ever had this stuff? It’s delicious– you must make it. In the interest of introducing Romesco sauce to all my readers (both of you), I’m going to vary from my usual format and reproduce it here for you. I hope Deborah Madison does not mind this; the idea is that you will love it so much that you will rush to buy the entire book (link in sidebar–I get a commission) and cook like a madman/woman.

Romesco Sauce, from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, p. 70

  • 1 slice country-style white bread (I used sourdough)
  • Olive oil for frying
  • 1/4 cup almonds, roasted
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts, roasted and peeled
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons ground red chile or red pepper flakes to taste
  • 4 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp parsley leaves
  • Salt and freshly milled pepper
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 red bell pepper, roasted
  • 1/4 c. sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 c. plus 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, preferably Spanish

Fry the bread in a little olive oil until golden and crisp. When cool, grind the bread, nuts, garlic and chile in a food processor. Add everything but the vinegar and oil and process until smooth.  With the machine running, gradually pour in the vinegar, then the oil. Taste and make sure the sauce had plenty of piquancy and enough salt.

I made it to top my Potato and Chickpea Stew (made with delicious mixed fingerling potatoes, which Jon says are more valuable than gold, due to their cost). You can also “spread it on garlic rubbed croutons and cover with sliced green olives and parsley for a delicious appetizer,” top chickpeas or large white beans with it, or there’s a recipe (p. 165) for Composed Winter Vegetable Salad that uses it, too. Yum.

So we loved the stew. Well, Jon and I did, and the kids ate it but Baxter and Sophie complained it was too “spicy.” They meant it was too seasoned, though, because it wasn’t spicy-hot at all. I also made a Warm Green Bean Salad, but I ended up substituting Baby Zuchini (or Petite Courgettes, as the package charmingly put it) because Whole Foods didn’t have green beans and I’d walked right by them at King Soopers, hoping for higher-quality beans. The Zuchini was not great, and, in fact, has been bitter every time I’ve tried to cook it. Which is weird, because it seems like baby vegetables should be delicious. Alas.

The stew was delicious-- the zuchini not so much.

The stew was delicious-- the zuchini not so much.

Tomorrow, an ambitious menu: Simmered Tempeh, Buttered Spinach, Roasted Fingerlings with Garlic, and Beet Salad with Ricotta Salata.