Restaurants in this town seem to be ubiquitous (and it's RESTAURANT WEEK, god help me) and they keep getting in the way of life with less food. If I could just stick with the Katzen/Willett diet I mentioned in a previous post, it just might work a little better for me. The food's good, although like any vegetarian-based menu, it's almost deal-breakingly labor intensive.
I'm more willing than the average cook (or mass murderer) to wield a really sharp knife just for kicks, but some nights the prospect of chopping broccoli, onions, garlic, carrots, zucchini, scallions, parsley, cilantro and nuts for the main course and then turning around and toasting pine nuts, squeezing lemon juice, and mincing dill and chives for a whole grain side dish--but wait! That doesn't include the recommended salad and gussied-up vegetable, now does it? How about some broccoli soup or vegetable broth with corn, too? It's a whole lot of great, filling food but occasionally (well, with more and more alarming frequency), it sends me fleeing, with my family handing me my car keys, to Su Casa, where we can order, eat, pay the check and leave, on a good night, in about twenty minutes (truly--I timed it once). And Su Casa has margaritas--neither recommended by Katzen and Willett nor available at my house.
That's not to say that all of the recipes in this book are winners: everyone should avoid the inexplicably vile Broiled Eggplant, Bell Peppers, Onions, and Portobellos on p.113, the McDonald's-esque Honey Mustard Dressing on p. 200, and the Amazing (and nasty) Mushroom Gravy on p. 197. The Mixed Grains with Cashews (p. 243)--grains I had to mail-order from an obscure company via Amazon.com--were the final, fibrous nail in the coffin of the whole grain concept my family reluctantly considered embracing for my sake. I actually thought this dish was my ace in the hole; after all, Katzen told me that "(i)f you want a good introduction to whole grains, this dish it it!" In retrospect, I can only consider that exclamation point there at the end of her statement as a betrayal.
And I can't ever seem to muster up the energy in the morning to make things like the Miniature Frittata with Peas, Mint, and Goat Cheese or even the Scrambled Eggs with Broccoli and Cheddar (what does sweet Mollie think I do all day long, cook for myself? I've got a frickin' family milling around the kitchen looking for their next meal even when the macaroni and cheese has yet to dry on the plate of the last one).
And yet, if you can commit the time and wherewithal, Katzen mostly delivers on her promise of finding "appealing and delicious ways to prepare and present fruits, vegetables, whole grains, good oils, legumes, and nuts" despite a few clunkers. She does sneak in a few dishes that seem to be riffs on recipes from her earlier cookbooks, like the Easy Three Bean Chili, which appears to be a turbo-charged version of the vegetarian chili from The Moosewood Cookbook (Revised) with the bulgur relocated and forced to play the side dish song with some lemon and garlic providing back-up. I forgive her those imaginative shortcuts however, because I liked the new version of her chili a lot, although I went ahead and dumped my bulgur in with the beans in my dinner bowl once I figured out Katzen's trick.
Easy Three-Bean Chili from Eat, Drink, & Weigh Less
2 Tb. olive oil
1 1/2 c. diced onion
1 c. diced bell peppers (mixed colors)
1/4 t. salt
2 Tb. chili powder
1 Tb. minced garlic
2 t. ground cumin
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. dried basil
Big pinch cayenne
1-28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1-15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 c. vegetable broth
1-15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1-15 oz. can garbanzo beans and rinsed
1-15 oz. can light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Freshly ground black pepper
Place a large saucepan over medium high heat and wait 2 minutes. Add the oil, let heat, and then add onion, peppers and salt. Cook stirring often, for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the vegetables soften.
Add chili powder, garlic, cumin, oregano, basil and cayenne; saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Stir in tomatoes and vegetable broth, and bring to a boil.Add all the beans, and bring to a boil again. Reduce heat, partially cover pot, and let the chili simmer from 20 minutes to one hour, adding stock as needed.
Add pepper, adjust salt and enjoy with or without bulgur.