Book: The Very Best of Recipes for Health by Martha Rose Shulman
Publication date: 2010
Summary: The Very Best of Recipes for Health by Martha Rose Shulman are selected from a popular feature on the New York Times website, Recipes for Health. These are reader-tested recipes with healthy but easily located ingredients, pointers on any preparations that might be new to the average home cook, and lots of tips for making ahead or using leftovers. The recipes are printed with nutritional information and certain criteria (like Vegetarian or Gluten-Free) are highlighted in the text as well as included in a special dietary index. There are photos but the emphasis is very much on the text of the recipes which are attractively laid out with plenty of white space and sidebars with extra nutritional information or instructions.
Thoughts: This cookbook charmed me from the introduction of the first chapter where Martha Rose Shulman explained the importance of making salad dressing. I have been making salad dressings since I took up the challenge by Alanna Kellogg, food columnist and fellow Kirkwood blogger: never buy salad dressing again. When I became aware of the importance of the reduce part of the reduce-reuse-recycle campaign, I added a corollary: never throw away or recycle a salad dressing bottle again.
Making salad dressing has changed the way I cook. After reading Alanna’s tips and making a few salad dressings from recipes, I was quickly able to reach a point of making salad dressings on the fly by grabbing a few ingredients from the fridge and pantry and whisking them together to suit my mood and the food being served. My favorite invention is a dressing made from freshly squeezed lime juice, extra virgin olive oil, dijon mustard, and local maple syrup.
It didn’t take long to make the leap from salad dressings to marinades and dips and eventually to tomato sauces for veggie pasta dishes and to Asian-inspired sauces for stir-fries. Now, no matter what is in my CSA box, I can invent supper, freeing myself forever from slavishly following recipes as if they know more about how to cook in my kitchen with my ingredients than I do.
In that spirit, I haven’t yet made a recipe from this cookbook, but I was inspired by the Grilled Eggplant Panini (p. 98), a grilled veggie panini that I had at a restaurant yesterday, and a recipe in the cookbook that came with our Griddler, Jr. We don’t have eggplant yet, but the CSA box had zucchini and tomatoes and my garden had spinach, so I invented my own veggie panini, using the Oven-Roasted Tomato recipe that I posted last weekend.
Grilled Veggie Panini
1 Oven-Roasted Tomato (scroll down for the recipe)
1/2 of 1 zucchini, sliced the long way into 1/4 inch slices
10 spinach leaves
1 tsp pesto mixed with 1 tsp mayo
1 Tbl soft goat cheese
4 thin slices of bread (I used my homemade sourdough rye, but any whole grain would work well I think)
Following the instructions on the Griddler, Jr, grill the zucchini slices on the open grill pre-heated to high, 2 minutes per side. Turn the grill down to medium and close to the panini grill mode. Assemble the two sandwiches in this order: pesto mayo, tomato, zucchini, and spinach. Spread the goat cheese on the top slice of bread and complete the sandwich (cheese on top lets it melt through the other ingredients). Toast in panini grill for three minutes.
Sorry, I don’t have a photo because we ate it too fast! It was better than the restaurant sandwich I had yesterday.
I do intend to actually follow some recipes from this book:
- Hot and Sour Soba Salad (p. 60) when we get cucumbers in our CSA box
- Caponata (p. 144) when the eggplants finally show up
- Spanish Romesco Sauce (p. 29) which I’m thinking might make an interesting panini ingredient in place of the condiment or even the cheese, for a vegan sandwich
Appeal: The Very Best of Recipes for Health is a surprisingly good basic cookbook with instructions for hard-boiling eggs and making a pot of rice. It’s not a reference book like The Joy of Cooking, but it isn’t nearly as overwhelming either. I think this would make an excellent apartment-warming or wedding gift for people you know are health-conscious and has a place in any healthy kitchen, especially for cooks that utilize Farmers Markets or CSA boxes and need quick proven recipes to use those fresh ingredients.
Challenges: I will add this to the cookbook section of the Foodie’s Reading Challenge. There are currently 62 cookbook reviews linked there — check them out!
Take a look at this week’s Weekend Cooking post at Beth Fish Reads. It looks like we’re having a big cooking party there this week.