Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen Dinner Night

Vine and Dine was canceled for this month. I had already found a couple of interesting vegan wines, so we decided to do our own Vine and Dine night. I am a multi-tasker, so along with vining, I pulled out another of my cook books that hasn't seen the light of my kitchen in what seems like years.

A long time ago, I checked out Donna Klein's The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen from my local library. I don't remember what I made out of it at that time. But I do know that I spilled stuff on the book and ended up having to buy the library a new copy. So my copy had the library labels including the Dewey decimal code on it.

I have to say that this book collects a lot of dust. This is not a reflection of the quality of the recipes, because what I have made has been pretty good. I have been reflecting a lot on why some books get more use than others. What makes me pick up a cook book? What makes me want to make something out of it? What inspires me? These musings have become a more serious matter to me these days. I am getting close to having the number of recipes I feel good about for my own book. Now I need to figure out what will make readers want to really use my book when it is published.

Historically I have not been a reader of cook book introductions. I usually dig right in to the table of contents, recipes and of course the gorgeous pictures. Pictures really make a cook book jump out at me. I think this may be the reason this book gets neglected. For all of its rustic and solid recipes, it is just plain boring to look at. There is not one picture inside the cover. What is inside the cover is some very simple and healthy Mediterranean fare.

I made two dishes for our dinner the other night:

Gratin of Macaroni, Tomatoes, Basil and Olives (pg. 111) and Cauliflower with Capers in Herbed Vinaigrette (pg. 144). Fred is a big lover of pasta/tomato dishes of many types. That's why I chose the first dish. My good friend and fellow gardener, Robert, gave me this big beautiful head of cauliflower. See the pretty hint of purple in the florets?

For the gratin I used quinoa pasta, not so much for the gluten free aspect, but more because it is what was in my pantry. The bread crumbs took care of the gluten. Actually if you use GF breadcrumbs this could be a very nice addition to the GF kitchen. This dish is a case of the whole is better than the parts. It has very simple ingredients that come together in a very homey satisfying dish. The saltiness of the kalamata olives works nicely with the creaminess of the elbow macaroni and the beans. Tomato anything makes us happy usually, and they were a great addition to this dish. The basil pull it all together with it's fresh summery flavor. The breadcrumb gratin never really seemed to get that firm golden brown I love in a gratin. But perhaps I didn't let it cook long enough. The recipe made a lot. We will probably get 3 meals out of it for the two of us. 

We served it with the Cauliflower with Capers in Herbed Vinaigrette. I puffy heart this dish. It is loaded with fresh basil, parsley, chives and capers. The white wine vinegar pulls it all together. I let it sit for about an hour. Oh man was the flavor incredible. It was quite delish the next day as a cold dish as well. If you want a refreshing way to use up some cauliflower, I highly recommend this recipe.

My adorable el Fredo getting his Vine on.

We chose the Duckpond Chardonnay for our Vine tonight. Duckpond is one of Fred's favorite vegan wine makers. This particular selection has a lot of tropical fruit notes; pineapple, mango etc. It would be a nice selection for a caribbean or latin dish that has a bit of heat to it. Sadly, it was a mismatch for this meal. The mellow and more delicate spices in the food made the wine taste almost sweet and not in a good way. I think a Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris or a nice dry Sauvinon Blanc would have been a better match in this case.