Last night we had a glorious feast of Middle Eastern flavors. I think Middle Eastern cuisine is one of my favorites. I love how many veggies and spices and flavors and grains there are... and there are so many dishes that are authentically vegan. I was sent a copy of "Modern Flavors of Arabia" to review - and as soon as I opened the package, I was already in love. The whole layout and look of the book is absolutely gorgeous. Each recipe has its own page - or there are 2 to a page if the recipes are short. There are ample pictures, the font is beautiful, and the whole thing is just a feast for the eyes.
However! This is NOT a vegan book. It's full of recipes that are vegan (or quite easily veganized), but also has lots of meaty/fishy recipes. So if that's a deal-breaker for you, be forewarned. Personally, I really like expanding my culinary horizons beyond the world of all-vegan cookbooks - and as you'll see, I already veganized a meaty recipe from this book with great success.
Check out this hummus!!! Can you see how the hummus is so velvety smooth, it's absolutely amazing?? Smoth enough to make grown men burst into tears of joy. This hummus recipe called for two things I've never put in my hummus before - ice cubes and yogurt (I used unsweetened soy) - and the end result was the creamiest smoothest hummus ever to hit my mouth. The flavor is mild and delicious, and I loved the suggestion to save some chickpeas to put on top.
Next up was the Roasted Cauliflower with Citrus Tahini Dressing. I know this isn't really the best picture ever - but the dish itself was quite stunning. You slice a whole cauliflower head into a few thick slices, roast them, and then drizzle on this amazing sauce. The richness of the tahini and caramelized onions, with the fresh citrus flavors, and the earthy almost-neutrality of roasted cauliflower was an excellent combo. I'll definitely make this again!
I also make the Roasted Beet & Purslane Salad with Citrus Dressing.Except where's the purslane? I'm wondering too! When I went to the farmers' market on the weekend, the purslane man wasn't there, and I came home empty handed. Shucks. None the less, the roasted chiogga beets with lemon-orange-garlic dressing were absolutely fabulous. Mr. Vegan Eats & Treats loves beets so much... there were no leftovers!
Further in the book, there is a recipe for Spicy Chicken Wings - which obviously isn't going to happen around here. But the spices and flavors in the sauce seemed like they'd make a great tofu marinade, so I made Spicy Baked Tofu. I wasn't disappointed! I modified the recipe a little bit - reducing the heat and reducing the sweetener (agave & pomegranate molasses) - but basically I followed the recipe and just substituted tofu for chicken wings. Viola! These were absolutely delicious, and full of warming spices - cinnamon, cayenne, garlic... and also a touch of sweetness from the pomegranate molasses. All in all, a great success!
Also, it's worth noting that this cookbook inspired me to buy an ingredient that i haven't bought in YEARS: pine nuts. Oh yes, I did. After my horrible pine mouth experience, I have probably only eaten pine nuts 3-4 times - alway in social situations that required my good behavior. But finally, I overcame my fears (and double checked that my pine nuts weren't from China) and made the purchase. So far, so good - though it can take a few days for pine mouth to set in. Fingers crossed!
When I asked for doodle ideas on Facebook, someone suggested I draw little Stevie Wonder keeping me company in the kitchen while I cook dinner. She lies on the floor, exactly in the spot between the cutting board and the stovetop ... so that I have to constantly step over her. Of course, I don't mind, because she is the sweetest little love bug ever. Sometimes Snoopy hangs out with me in the kitchen, but that's just because he is hoping to score some scraps... whereas Stevie just hangs out because she actually loves me. She is an excellent little dog.
Final Book Thoughts:
I made 5 recipes from this book last night - and every single thing was delicious. Pretty much the only change I made was reducing the olive oil in pretty much every recipe. I'm sure everything would be all the tastier with an extra 2-4 tablespoons of olive oil, but I just don't roll that way. The recipes were well-flavored, easy to follow, and absolutely delicious. There are SO MANY more recipes in this book that I can't wait to make - many of which are naturally vegan - and there are a bunch more that I look forward to veganizing or using as an inspiration point for vegan dishes.