This month’s cookbook is missing some vital sections. That said, it is a Julia Child Cookbook Award winner and Book of the Year from the same organization, probably for 1997 if copyright date is any indication. It is also has an award from the James Beard Foundation. Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison sat on our bookshelf collecting dust for some time because… yeah. It’s hailed as a benchmark book by the dust jacket. In fact, the dust jacket is quite the fan, going on and on for nearly two columns about “entree salads” and “creative dishes using grains.”
For those ready to congratulate me for joining the vegetarian corps, slow down. This is to broaden, not limit, my repertoire. I look forward to trying all manner of meatless dishes, but even the casual reader of this site must realize that the second time I make any of these recipes I’ll likely add bacon.
We jumped right in last night and made the Tomato and Red Pepper Tart, page 492 (it’s a big book; 700 plus pages as 1400 recipes.) To me, it was incredibly easy to make. Turn on basketball game, open beer, watch game. To my wife, who actually made the dish, it was considerably harder. Dice red onions finely and saute, grill and peel red peppers (we used green peppers because that’s what we had), score tomatoes and flash them in boiling water before peeling and de-seeding. Add the peppers and tomato to the onions with saffron and anise seeds, salt and pepper and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring every so often. Correct for salt and add basil.
That’s a big investment in time. After chopping you still have 40 minutes over the stove top stirring and otherwise fussing over it and it still isn’t done. It was at this point that my wife said, “This had better blow my mind. Not just good. Blow my mind.” You can see where this is headed. Next put the sauteed mixture into a tart crust and top with a lattice of red pepper strips that I should have mentioned to set aside earlier, and place olives in the spaces in between. Cook for 35 minutes and serve.
It was okay. The saffron was lost, the anise seed was dominant, and cooking vegetables for over an hour dulled any sharp flavors that might have saved the recipe. Not horrible, just not that great and certainly not worth your time unless you are drinking beer and watching basketball.
It wasn’t all bad. My wife had the idea to use the tart filling in calzones with a little garlic, mozzarella, and tomato sauce. Her exact words were “I want to take the filling out, put it in a calzone, throw the tart crust in the trash, and laugh at it for being inadequate.” That’s pretty much what happened. The anise still came through a bit, but with the tomato sauce and mozzarella it reminded me of sausage.
Verdict on the first dish from the new cookbook: a resounding meh unless you cover it in melted cheese and spicy marinara sauce.
I almost forgot to mention the standard disclaimer on the monthly cookbook. Yes, I am well aware that you cannot copyright a recipe, but someone did some work on this book and deserves to get paid, so no. I will not be giving measurements on these. A nod toward intellectual property is good for the soul.