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Goodcooking.com Cookbook Review---

Cover of Meat Lovers Cookbook

Title: The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook
Author: Kim O'Donnel
244 pages; Softcover $18.95 US/$24 CAN
Publisher: DaCapo/Lifelong Cambridge MA 2010
Reviewed by, Ana Susi, November 2010


The review---

Many people, for various reasons, choose to limit or cut meat entirely out of their diet. I tried my hand at this as well, lasting 7 years before finding my iron and energy slump at an all time low and a diet so boring and carb laden, I was starting to wonder if food would ever fulfill me and excite me the way it had in my pre-vegetarian days. With Kim O’Donnel’s cookbook, The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes Carnivores will Devour, I found excitement and inspiration for cooking sans meat using vibrant, seasonal vegetables and, surprisingly, not wanting to slip in a piece of meat or cheese somewhere to give the recipe some much needed oomph. Not only were the recipes fulfilling and quite healthy, they had me preparing tofu and vegetables in ways I had never eaten before and will definitely be eating over and over again.

I prepared the Pepita-Crusted Tofu, Dino-Mash, and the Black Bean-Sweet Potato Chili. I was expecting the tofu to be interesting, but the heat, spice, and texture of this dish was simply addicting. The suggested accompaniment to the tofu, Dino-Mash, was smooth, comforting, and delicious. This meal lives up to the book’s title and makes for an impressive, healthy meal for any vegan foodies you may be entertaining. Being a huge sweet potato fan, I found the chili hearty, vibrant, and balanced compared to a more fattening meat based chili.

Kim O’Donnell’s cookbook reads like a Food Network show sounds, with Kim being the friendly, easy going host that writes with novices and experienced chefs in mind, making you feel as if she’s right there with you, guaranteeing you a successful meal. The recipes can easily be altered to suit your vegetable preferences and tastes and use ingredients you’ll be able to find easily and affordably. This cookbook creatively puts produce in the spotlight and will more than satisfy the appetites of all who attempt these well thought out choices.


 

Recipes Tested!

Pepita Tofu

Pepita-Crusted Tofu
Makes 4 servings

Although a high-protein flavor chameleon, tofu is typically a hard sell with the meat set. I'd be lying if I told you it tastes like chicken, and its squishy marshmallow-like texture takes some time getting used to. But a meatless cookbook without tofu? That just didn't seem right.

As a culinary writing fellow at the Writer's Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, I dreamed up this dish with the tofu-reticent in mind. The magic flavor element is a pumpkin-seed pesto seasoned with garlic and cilantro, an irresistible combo that delivers both herby tang and nutty richness. As for the texture kinks, the tofu is sliced into thin "cutlets," which facilitate a toothy crust when baked in the oven. The result: the "most chickeny" tofu that did ever pass my lips.

Do try it with the Dino-Mash, my take on colcannon, the classic Irish mashed potato and cabbage dish, updated with Lacinato (a.k.a. Dinosaur) kale.

Kitchen Notes: The first thing you should do is roast the garlic for the Dino-Mash, as it will take 50 minutes.

Ingredients

1 (14-ounce) package fresh extra-firm tofu, preferably organic
1-1/2 cups raw, unsalted pepitas
2 to 3 cloves garlic, peeled
3/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped roughly
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 fresh chile pepper of your choice, seeded and chopped roughly
(I like things on hot side, so I use 1/4 habanero)
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Cornstarch, for dredging
Vegetable oil, for brushing
Here's What You Do:

Drain the tofu: Remove from the package and place on a dinner plate. Place a second plate on top of the tofu and weigh it down with a something heavy, such as a can of food. Allow to sit for about 20 minutes. (While the tofu drains, you can make the pesto.)

In the bowl of a food processor or wide-mouthed blender, place the pepitas. Pulverize, using the "pulse" button. Do not puree into a paste; you're looking for texture.

Add the garlic, cilantro, salt, and chile pepper, and continue to process, using the "pulse" function.

Taste and smile. This stuff is really good, and if you're not careful, you could end up eating it all and forget about the tofu. Transfer to a shallow mixing bowl.

With a sharp (serrated is even better) knife, cut the tofu into 1/2-inch cutlet-like slabs. (You should get eight to ten pieces.) Transfer to a dish deep and wide enough to accommodate all the slabs in a single layer.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Pour the soy sauce and sesame oil, if using, over the tofu and allow to marinate for at least 15 minutes, making sure you turn the tofu once to ensure even coverage of the marinade.

Place about 1/4 cup of cornstarch in a small, wide bowl. Dredge a tofu cutlet in the cornstarch. Dust off any excess.

With a silicone or pastry brush, apply oil to both sides of the cutlet. Place in the pepita mixture, and with your hands, press on both sides of tofu. The pepita mixture will adhere and look a bit like a mosaic.

Transfer to a baking dish large enough to hold all the tofu in a single layer, being careful of the pepita crust. Repeat these steps for the remaining tofu cutlets.

Bake for 30 minutes, carefully turning onto the second side with a spatula or tongs after the first 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prep the Dino-Mash. Remove from the oven and serve hot or at room temperature.

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