Big on the basics, vegan meals


Cook's Notebook


The Food You Want to Eat

100 Smart, Simple Recipes

By Ted Allen with Stephanie Lyness

Clarkson Potter / 2005 / $27.50

The Food You Want to Eat is a good choice for people who want to learn to cook or just want a resource for simple, tasty basics.

The instructions are thorough. Ted Allen, the culinary expert on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, doesn't skip details other cooks might consider too obvious to include.

The first chapter includes a section on choosing cuts of steak, and recipes include a wine pairing.

Saucepan Macaroni and Cheese was quicker than the baked variety and got a little kick from mustard. Sauteed broccoli with garlic and Parmigiano was a delicious side dish.

The biggest crowd-pleaser was a roasted butternut squash pie, made with a phyllo-dough crust. It was time-consuming: Roasting the vegetables took 40 minutes, for example. But the steps were simple, and the results were worth the time.

White beans with tomato, oregano and feta cheese took about 15 minutes and was a filling stew. It was especially good with goat's-milk feta.

Cook What You Love

By Bob and Melinda Blanchard

Clarkson Potter / 2005 / $30

This book includes some of the most familiar basics, such as s'mores and lemon squares, and some recipes with a twist, such as Caesar coleslaw.

It shows interesting takes on sandwiches, with grilled Gruyere and olives; and breakfast, with crunchy coconut French toast made from cornflakes and croissants or challah.

The main dishes include tequila shrimp with saffron rice, roasted Thai mussels and cabernet chicken stew.

The recipes are interspersed with stories about the authors' family, and the couple's lives in Vermont and on the Caribbean island of Anguilla.

The Real Food Daily Cookbook

By Ann Gentry

Ten Speed / 2005 / $24.95

This book of vegan recipes by the owner of Real Food Daily restaurants in California emphasizes fresh food and extols the benefits of organic produce and eating with the seasons.

The "Guide to Real Food" at the beginning includes a list of items and ingredients - such as bamboo mats and a citrus grater, and miso and tahini - to have on hand in the kitchen.

In the starters chapter, there's a recipe for a cheddar-cheese substitute made with cashews, and butternut squash, corn and cilantro phyllo rolls.

Soups include asparagus-and-cilantro soup; a heartier miso soup, made with more vegetables than the usual version; and quinoa vegetable soup.

For a main course, the more interesting selections include tofu quiche with leeks and asparagus, seitan tacos, and spinach lasagna with herbed tomato sauce and tofu ricotta cheese.

Saucepan Macaroni and Cheese

Serves 4

kosher salt for boiling pasta, plus 1/2 teaspoon for seasoning

1 pound dried macaroni elbows, ziti or penne

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 cups whole milk

1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1 bay leaf

2 teaspoons prepared Colman's Mustard

8 ounces cheddar cheese, finely grated

2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large, heavy-bottomed pot of salted water (1 teaspoon per quart) to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until it's al dente, more than likely about 8 minutes. Drain it in a colander.

Return the pot to low heat, and melt the butter in it. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute, until the mixture bubbles. Raise the heat to medium. Gradually add the milk, whisking all the time to blend.

Then add the nutmeg and bay leaf and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly particularly at the edges of the pot. When the sauce simmers, it will thicken. Turn the heat down to low, and cook at a bare simmer for 10 minutes; this cooks away the floury taste.

Remove the pan from the heat and discard the bay leaf. Stir in the mustard. Now add the drained pasta and the grated cheese. Put the pan over very low heat, and stir to melt the cheese. Season with 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spoon out into a serving bowl or onto serving plates and serve immediately.

Per serving: 830 calories; 34 grams protein; 36 grams fat; 21 grams saturated fat; 92 grams carbohydrate; 4 grams fiber; 100 milligrams cholesterol; 670 milligrams sodium

From "The Food You Want to Eat"

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