Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Vegetarian Cookbooks by Harvard Common Press Review (National Nutrition Month®)

I love vegetables, and gained more of an appreciation for them after taking a nutrition class in grad school. Vegetables are a great way to get nutrients our body needs but don't produce. The only thing is, I wish I could cook them better. My vegetable repertoire consists of stir-fry with an occasional roasting in the oven. Also, I use the same veggies over and over again. I would love to be more creative with vegetables, and I think my family would appreciate that too. Enter, vegetable cookbooks.

About Harvard Common Press
Harvard Common Press is an independently owned trade publisher of parenting books and cookbooks. This Boston-based publisher is the recipient of several awards for its publication of high-quality products, including 2 James Beard Foundation Book Awards.  From vegetarian to US regional to international cuisine, the publisher offers a wide variety of cookbooks that caters from beginners on up. Through its various cookbooks, Harvard Common Press has become highly praised in the US as well as abroad. 

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Where to buy
Harvard Common Press cookbooks are available at brick and mortar stores and online.

I received three vegetable cookbooks for review. I have been blessed that since giving birth, my relatives have provided me with meals. Therefore, I have not had the pleasure of cooking from these wonderful cookbooks, or cooking from scratch in general. But, I have had time to peruse through each of them.

Herbivoracious is probably my favorite of the three books. The only reason is that it has the most amazing pictures. These pictures inspire me and motivate me to cook vegetarian. I look at the pictures and say to myself that I can make that or would love to make it. The pictures truly are eye candy. In my opinion, this book is not necessarily geared for the beginning cook. Although there are recipes simple enough for beginners (i.e. 10 minute chickpea salad with feta and basil), there are some that a beginning cook may get intimidated by (i.e. corn and tomato confit risotto). Regardless, I think this is a great resource for some pretty exotic flavors to add to my otherwise tired repertoire of veggie dishes. My favorite features include the notes about ingredients and cooking equipment, as well as little cooking tips (i.e. how to boil the perfect egg). In addition to appetizers, soups, salads, main/side dishes, and desserts, this book also includes recipes for sauces and condiments. I like that the author suggests alternative ingredients (i.e caramelized apple and blue cheese crostini). It's nice to know that I can use a related ingredient or variant of an ingredient instead of what is listed just in case the listed ingredient isn't readily available or not to your liking.
Image courtesy of Harvard Common Press.

My mother-in-law gave us her old slow cooker years ago which we have used once. I have to unearth it now after reading Fresh From The Vegetarian Slow Cooker (but what I really want to do is buy a new one, shhhh). That's the thing about reading a cookbook, you can get super excited about trying recipes, which is a good thing. The first chapter, Slow Cooker Basics, Vegetarian Style..., is my favorite part. Yes, there are some recipes that I will be trying as soon as my slow cooker is out (i.e spicy black beans and rice with mangoes, peach-blueberry tumble), but I really like how the chapter talks about cooker volume, cooking tips, length of cooking time, and vegetarian ingredients. For someone who did not grow up using a slow cooker, this primer is invaluable. There are 200 recipes in this book and so many of them sound so delicious. I'm particularly excited about the recipes with beans because I would love to use more beans in my cooking; there's a whole chapter just for beans and grains. Clearly, you don't need a whole lot of techniques to cook when using this book. However, you do need to perform some frying to prep stuff. This isn't just a cookbook on stews (although there are recipes for that, too), there are appetizers, snacks, desserts, and breakfast items to be cooked from this book. For someone who wants to try new ways of cooking vegetables, wants to cook from scratch but don't have all the time in the world, or even wants to wow guests at the next potluck, this is a cookbook to try.
Image courtesy of Harvard Common Press.

Grilling intimidates me. I don't know why, but it does. The most I have ever used a grill was in college using a George Foreman, and that's because my roommate had it. Today, my husband does the grilling. Well, not anymore. Now, I have been armed with The New Vegetarian Grill. Like with anything, practice begets confidence, at least that's what I am hoping. Zucchini, eggplant, and corn are the only vegetables I can think of grilling off the top of my head. And to think I used to watch a lot of Bobby Flay on the Food Network. After perusing this book, I can confidently say there are more veggies to be grilled and in so many different preparations. Hello black bean and goat cheese quesadilla! From pizzas, to burritos, to sandwiches, there are so many enticing recipes to try. And yes, there are dessert recipes too, like grilled pear with chocolate sauce and nuts and summer fruit compote. Unlike other cookbooks that I own, this one doesn't call for too many ingredients that are not found in my pantry. Recipe after recipe I kept thinking to myself, "I have that. And that one. And that one." The items not in my staple are things that I wouldn't mind buying just to try out like crème fraîche (although I wonder if sour cream would suffice). The best part, most of the ingredients you need are fresh produce; so you don't have to keep things in the refrigerator or pantry that you would use only once for a recipe and never again. Summer is right around the corner, and this book would be an excellent guide to some fresh summer cooking.
Image courtesy of Harvard Common Press.

Overall, I am looking forward to actually making dishes from these books. I want to spice up my table with some delectable veggies that my family will be hungry for more. The more I read the cookbooks, the less daunting cooking seems. I am a scientist. Cooking is part art and part science, and I have my lab manuals to help me succeed.

A special thanks to Harvard Common Press for generously providing a cookbook to one of my readers.

A book of your choice from Harvard Common Press.

Giveaway is open from May 8-23, 2012, at 12:01 AM EST.

1. Open to US residents, 18 years and older.
2. Enter using the Rafflecopter form below. Comments left on the blog post do not count.
3. Winner will be selected via www.random.org (per Rafflecopter) and notified by email. Winner will have 48 hours to reply back before a new winner is selected. 
4. Winner's entries will be verified. If I can not verify entries, a new winner will be chosen.
5. Harvard Common Press will be responsible for fulfilling prize award to the winners.

For complete rules on giveaways hosted on this blog, visit Giveaway Rules & Policy.

Good luck!

Disclosure: I received a free product to facilitate my review. No other compensation was provided. All opinions expressed are my own.