It’s hot, it’s humid, and it’s hard to think about cooking dinner. Still, the farmer’s market is brimming with vegetables that beg to be eaten. What cookbook do I find myself reaching for a couple of nights a week? Donna Klein’s The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen. It hasn’t let me down yet.
One of the things that I really like about this book is that it focuses on meals that would be meatless and cheeseless in their original forms: I am not a meat or cheese substitute person, nor am I a tofu eater. At first, I worried it might feel like something was “missing,” especially in the pasta dishes. But Klein’s Ditalini with Cauliflower was so surprisingly zingy with capers and saffron that no one even asked me for cheese. The New Potato and Young Green Bean Salad is our new family standard, no mayo needed. And it tastes even better the next day, if there’s any left.
The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen chapters are broken down by courses: Appetizers, Soups (okay, those will wait until autumn, because no one in my house will eat cold soups), Salads, Breads and Desserts (I am not a dessert maker, but these look light and fruit-based). There are two main course chapters: one on Pasta, Rice, and Other Grains, and another on Vegetables and Legumes. It’s a very comprehensive book, and uses a wide range of ingredients, so I’ve found there’s virtually nothing I can bring home from the market that I don’t already have a good recipe for. That is, of course, if you have the Mediterranean staples around anyway: you won’t get far in this book without basil, garlic, tomatoes, pasta and good bread!
Klein’s Crostini with Pureed White Beans and Sautéed Wild Greens appetizer has become a favorite in my house: cannellini beans pureed with vegetable broth, olive oil, and sage, then topped with garlicky sautéed greens on crunchy bread, makes a fantastic lunch when paired with a tomato and cucumber salad. I’ve modified the recipe for my daughters, using spinach or Swiss chard rather than the dandelion greens or escarole suggested. And I bumped up the flavor of the bean spread with some garlic after the first time I made it. But getting kids to eat greens for lunch is a win in my house anyway you look at it. We even took the bean spread and a loaf of good bread to a July 4th picnic, and it was a huge hit on its own.
For those who aren’t used to cooking complete vegan meals, Klein includes a “Meals in Minutes” section with suggested pairings for Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter, to make the most of in-season produce. The book covers a wide range of cuisines, drawing on recipes from Spain to Turkey, and from Israel to Morocco. The offerings aren’t all light and summery – those just happen to be the recipes I’ve been making lately. I’m looking forward to Persian-Style, Multi-Bean Noodle Soup and Tomatoes Stuffed with Herbed Rice, Provençal Style as soon as the weather turns cooler.
The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen has quickly become one of my favorite cookbooks, and I heartily recommend it, not just for vegans and vegetarians, but for anyone trying to add more vegetable dishes to their repertoire – which is about everyone I know! Klein walks novices through the basics of vegan cuisine with well-written directions and mouth-watering descriptions. But experienced cooks can use the recipes as great starting points for their own adventures in meatless cuisine. Bon Appétit!
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