Tuesday, October 03, 2006

What's cookin'

When the weather starts to cool down in the fall, I get the urge to get cooking in the kitchen. This season, I've been trying out the newest addition to my cookbook collection, ExtraVeganZa: Original Recipes From Phoenix Organic Farm, by Laura Matthias (New Society Publishers, 2006). And so far, this book is a winner.

The recipes often make novel use of ingredients. For example, the Vegetable Mochi Casserole has a topping of grated mochi. Mochi
, a dense, chewy Japanese food made of brown rice, is usually cut into small squares and baked. It puffs up and gets crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. I would never have thought to use it as a casserole topping - but it is an inspired idea! The seasoned mochi bakes up gooey and crisp -- almost cheese-like but even better -- the perfect casserole topping. The other elements: a garden's worth of steamed vegetables; tofu chunks; and a creamy, cashew-butter sauce - complement it well. A friend said it may be the best thing I've ever cooked.

Now, don't let the mochi mentioned above scare you off. If you don't want to venture into using unfamiliar ingredients, there is still plenty here for you. Fern's Carrot Cabbage Kale Salad makes a colorful, tasty and tremendously healthy side-dish out of readily available ingredients.

It's a good thing that the first part of ExtraVeganZa makes it a pleasure to eat your vegetables, because the second part, called "Dessert Island," is filled with wild indulgences. I started at the beginning, making the Mandarin Orange Spice Cake. It turned out so deliciously that I fully intend to forge ahead, through the Chocolate Lavendar Cake, the Chocolate Red Velvet Cake, the Hazelnut Pear Cake.... As you can see, the flavor combinations range from the traditional to the unusual. Several of the desserts use flower flavors, such as lavendar and rose.

And that leads to the brief but fascinating third section, on "Eating With Your Eyes." Matthias discusses ways to make food visually appealing, including using natural food dyes and edible flowers.

As is fitting for a book concerned with the visual appeal of food, it is beautiful. There are color photos of several dishes, the layout is clean and easy to navigate, and the indexes are accurate and helpful.

More information about Phoenix Organic Farm and the cookbook is available at http://www.phoenixfarm.ca/index.htm


At 9/06/2011 11:33 PM, Anonymous victoria said...

You have a bold view in terms of experimenting an ingredient using an unfamiliar taste to everyone, mochi and mixed it with something very well-known to everyone. Really, a good idea.


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