I'm the kind of person who never buys cookbooks. Sure, I used the ones we had growing up in my parent's house, but it never occurred to me to actually purchase any of my own. I'd just adapt the recipes I had already learned, get new recipe ideas from my friends and family, or just throw together a dish based completely off what I had. Or, later on, find one using the internet. Honestly, I really only ever (and confess...still do) cook one meal a day, usually. I don't eat breakfast (taboo, I know), and lunch is usually leftovers or a few pieces of fruit and yogurt; perhaps with some muesli. Dinner is the only meal I really go prime-time for. Is this normal? What about you?
What I am trying to say is forget all that. I love using cookbooks and have started a shockingly sprawling collection of them...especially for someone who strives for minimalism, such as myself. I always feel a pang of guilt when a new one nestles a home on my shelf. Will I use it enough to warrant it's space? I'm not one to search through a cookbook, find a recipe, then scour said recipe for ingredients I don't have, and go seek out said ingredients to make a dish. However, I've been very grateful that the collection of recent cookbooks I've obtained all have been an absolute delight to pursue through and I hope to make many, many recipes from all of them.
My latest cookbook addition is Simple Ancient Grains by Maria Speck. Here's the truth, I got it because I don't consume a lot grains (besides the use of flour in my homemade bread, let's be real...does that count?). This will make sense in a bit. I mean sure, I use quinoa, millet, and assorted varieties of rice on occasion, but they are hardly what I'd call a staple in my home. Yet, on various blogs I've recently been noticing various grains that I've never seen up here in Alaska (maybe I wasn't looking) or have casually seen but just never picked up, making a prominent feature.
Grains like amaranth, buckwheat, einkorn, emmer, farro, freekeh, kamut, sorghum, spelt, and teff, I'm ashamed to say...have never crossed my lips! We just don't have access to a lot of those hip, unusual grains up here in the Great North it seems. I've seriously been searching for farro for the last six months! Other grains like bulgur and barley, I've had before (I don't live under a rock!) but I admit to never actually buying them (quinoa and millet seem to be adequate substitutes). Even despite my love for all things barley. Fun fact: I was once gifted a bag of dry barley in middle school by my BFF...due to my obvious love of barley and all things food. That should of told me a lot right there. It's okay, I think I gave her a Milkbone presented in a necklace giftbox. That's certainly worse. I would love to get a bag of grains! We were odd children to say the least.
I digress. I chose this book because I wanted to learn all there was to know about cooking with a variety of unusual grains. This cookbook did not disappoint. Maria expands concisely about everything you need to know about emmer all the way to teff. The girl knows her grains. It was neat and helpful that her recipes included how to make variations, how to make them gluten-free or vegetarian, and also showcasing make-ahead options. In her chapter, Ancient Grains 101, Maria gives us a short background on grains in general including a few paragraphs detailing each grain in the book, including it's history, texture, flavor, nutrition bonus, and it's flour profile if it has one. I really enjoyed these little factoids and tidbits, like how millet is among one of the oldest staples of humankind. I also learned that einkorn, emmer, and spelt are all a type of farro (it's no wonder I can't find it...I think I've just been searching for straight-up farro!).
Maria includes everything from how to soak, toast, cook, reheat, freeze, store, and shop for grains, and pseudo grains like millet and quinoa. I found her grain cooking table to be very helpful in learning how much dry grain I'll need to produce a desired amount of cooked grain. She also denotes whether or not soaking is optional, and how long the grain will take to cook. In the back of the book is a chapter of sources; where one can find quality brand names of specific grains, flours, and pastas. It was unfortunate, however, to discover that the index wasn't (at least extensively) listed by ingredient as I've found other cookbooks sometimes are. I found myself with an abundance of cucumber I really needed to use up, but alas had to search through the entire book to find a recipe with cucumber in it.
This is not a vegan, or even vegetarian book. Maria states that many of her recipes are vegetarian or have substitutions when they do have meat. I think I got overly excited about this because it was kind of a disappointment. There were many omnivorous recipes, especially in the Simply Mains and Pasta chapters and many included no recommended substitutions. She also includes chapters such as Breakfast, Slow Mornings, Salads and Sides, Soups and Stews, and Simple and Sweet. Purchasing this book for or as a vegan, you'll have explore some heavy improvising with many substitutions including but not limited to cheese, dairy, eggs, meat, seafood, etc. However, her recipes were all right up my flavor profile alley! She does include some token tofu in a few of her recipes as well. However, I probably wouldn't recommend this book to a newly minted vegan or someone who isn't very comfortable in the kitchen yet, as they'll have to forge their own path in most recipes.
Even with the disadvantage of having to basically entirely recreate many of the recipes, I'd still buy this book. It's a great cookbook if you're new to the wide world of grains (like me) and are looking to do some conscious exploring. I can't wait to make the 50 mile journey to our natural food store in the big city and see if they carry some of the more unusual grains I've been missing in our local grocery store.
I decided to give a go at an adapted version of Mara's Frittata Muffins for Any Grain. It seemed like a good choice since I always have quinoa on hand and I haven't been able to make it into Anchorage lately to seek out some kamut, freekeh, and/or farro. I did implement several changes:
- I used 1 can of sweet corn in place of fresh or frozen green peas.
- I used Daiya shredded mozzarella in place of sharp cheddar and omitted any for sprinkling.
- I simply forgot to add green onions, but somehow managed to work in a handful of chives.
- I used a mixture of parsley and mint for the herbs, but doubled it (mostly by accident).
- I omitted the serrano chile completely.
- I replaced her 7 eggs with my 12 oz container of silken, firm tofu.
- I used Kala Namak salt in place of regular salt.
- I used Kalamata olives as a substitution for green olives.
- I also added turmeric, paprika, nutritional yeast to my adaptation, because those make everything delicious.
I wanted something easy after months and months of grueling recipe testing and developing for my own cookbook (I'm finally done!!!) and this was perfect. The recipe couldn't be easier. For real (unless you already have cooked quinoa on hand).
I combined the entire mixture, instead of pouring the eggs (tofu) on top of everything else in the muffin pan. However, my muffins wouldn't stick together, so I've included directions for using a pan and making a sort of casserole out of it. This was exceptionally delicious and I could definitely see it being a rotating dish in our house. It's full of complete protein thanks to the quinoa and tofu, with a nice dose of veggies and healthy spices, like turmeric.
Frittata Quinoa Casserole
This is exceptionally delicious little dish and will definitely be a rotating meal in our house. It's full of complete proteins thanks to the quinoa and tofu, with a dose of veggies and healthy spices. This recipe also couldn’t be any easier. A great side or breakfast that’s quick, simple, and nutritious.
Yield: 4-6 servings
- 1/2 cup quinoa, dry
- scant 1 cup water
- 1 15 oz can of sweet corn, drained
- 1 12.3 oz box of silken firm tofu
- 14 Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
- ¾ cup shredded vegan cheddar or mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup fresh herb mixture, chopped (I use parsley, mint, and chives)
- ¼ cup large-flake nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp Kala Namak salt or kosher salt
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- a bit of ketchup or salsa, for serving (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a small saucepan, bring the quinoa and water to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cover; cook for about 10-15 minutes then remove from heat and keep covered for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
- While the quinoa cooks, combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir well to combine. Be sure to mash the tofu completely when stirring so there are no tofu clumps and it’s completely incorporated. When the quinoa is done cooking, stir it into the the tofu mixture.
- Pour the batter into a 9x13 inch casserole dish coated with a nonstick cooking spray. Bake for about 30-40 minutes until the top has browned slightly.
- Slice into 12 pieces and serve warm with additional fresh herbs and a bit or ketchup or salsa if you like.
I have the cutest little sous chef!
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
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