Thursday, March 10, 2011

Clean Start for Spring!

I didn't think twice before saying yes when the publisher of Terry Walters' new cookbook, Clean Start, asked me to review the full-color, hardcover tome. I'd once borrowed (and delighted in) a co-worker's copy of Terry's first book, Clean Food, so I knew her second work would be equally awesome. And I was right.

Terry emphasizes eating whole, plant foods based on what's in season. As far as I can tell, she never uses the word "vegan" in her books, but there's no animal products in her food. It's a clever way to reel in the locavore omnis. Even totally un-vegan Chef Mario Batali offers this praise for Clean Food on the book's jacket: "Clean Food is the most exciting book based on fresh produce and simple recipes I have used in years. Yum!" Haha! I love that Mario Batali ends that statement with "yum."

Anyway, Terry's recipes are super-simple and rely solely on vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and the occasional protein (like beans or tempeh). My only complaint is the book can be a little too gourmet for my budget. For example, I spent about $20 to make this Festive Quinoa with Apricots and Orange Zest from Clean Start's Spring chapter:

The only brand of red quinoa at Whole Foods was fair-trade and cost $7 a bag! The pine nuts were $5 for 1/2 cup (the recipe called for a whole cup, but I don't have that kind of money). The dried apricots cost $5 for a container, and I could only find organic fennel for $3.49. Honestly, when I glanced at the recipe, I knew it'd be sort of costly, but damn. I didn't expect all of that. I was just eager to cook with red quinoa and try fennel for the first time. Turns out, I don't hate fennel after all.

Would I make this quinoa dish again? It's doubtful. But it was tasty. Just way too expensive. A much cheaper option from the Spring chapter was this soothing bowl of Roasted Cauliflower and Garlic Soup:

Oh my gawd, y'all. This soup stole my heart. I adore roasted garlic and roasted cauliflower, and this soup relies on both to bring a rich, almost-caramelized taste that I just adored. I wish I had, like, five more bowls of it. And since it only called for a few pantry items, plus fresh garlic and cauliflower, it was more economical to make.

My very favorite recipe so far from the Spring chapter has been this Polenta Pizza with Chard and Parsley-Walnut Pesto:

Doesn't that just look fancy as all hell? The crust is made from herbed corn grits that have been cooked up polenta-style, cooled in a pie pan, and then baked in the oven. The topping is a parsley pesto made with walnuts (better than those expensive-ass pine nuts) and sauteed Swiss chard and red onions. I topped each slice with sriracha (of course!) and Parma and served with a green salad.

I can't wait until summer gets here, so I can move on to the Summer chapter. There's a Peach Gazpacho with Heirloom Tomatoes and a Chilled Chickpea, Tomatillo, and Avocado Soup that are just calling my name.

19 comments:

Brian Woz said...

Sounds like a great addition to my kitchen library. Is it available in stores or just online?

Kari said...

Haha, I don't understand the anti-coconut either.

Why why why are pine nuts so completely unaffordable? I wish my med student budget could actually support my culinary desires. I'm going to start asking for grocery store gift cards for holidays. That polenta pizza looks dang good.

BlissfuLife said...

Mmm...roasted cauliflower and garlic soup? Peach Gazpacho? Damn....I might have to go buy this book now.

Ricki said...

They all look great to me (though yeh, that is pretty pricey!). I am most impressed by how you got your polenta crust out of the pan in one piece! :D

T said...

Oooh peach gazpacho, yum'! Those dishes look great, I might have to try that quinoa dish. (All those items are cheap here!) Looks like a great tome.

Allie said...

That Polenta Pizza with Chard and Parsley-Walnut Pesto looks so amazing!

Was the roasted cauliflower soup soy-free by any chance? Yum.

I'll have to get to those recipes immediately!

Allie said...

PS - If it's okay, I've just added your link to my personal blog. It's not a vegan blog, but it's one friendly to intolerances so I often find myself looking up vegan recipes! I'm glad I found this.

Erin said...

I've been ogling Clean Food and Clean Start on Amazon lately, nice to see a good review! The polenta pizza looks awesome. I like how it's organized by season, would make it easier to use stuff from my CSA deliveries.

laceylovesfood said...

Dang, that's a crazy price for red quinoa! The WF here sells it in bulk for $3.99/lb; but honestly, even though the red is pretty, I just buy 5 pound bags of the regular variety at costco for $8. The rest of that stuff I would have gotten at Trader Joe's because fun ingredients get so expensive!! Is there a TJ's in Memphis yet? I'm a cheapskate though; I probably would've used walnuts lol.

vegan.in.brighton said...

Mmmm yum the salad & the soup both look really delicious. I love apricot & orange in salad.

Leslie R. said...

Saw this book on a blog yesterday and it is definitely on my wishlist!

aimee said...

Beautiful photos! Sounds like an excellent cookbook!

Michelle said...

Sounds like another book that needs to be added to my collection. :o)
I'm with you on the whole budget thing though.
That pizza....OMG it does sound and look delish!

Kris said...

I keep hearing about this book, I'm going to have to pick it up. It sounds great.

My own little frugal tip- quinoa in bulk is always WAY cheaper than prepackaged. Also, if you belong to Costco or have a friend who does, you can get 8 lb bags of organic and fair trade quinoa for $12. That's the way I usually buy it because we go through so much of it.

SarahByng said...

I've never even tried roast cauliflower, i will now! I love the sound of that soup!

Dianne said...

I just picked this book up at the library! Your polenta pizza looks just as beautiful as the one in the book!

foodfeud said...

Yeah, I love her fresh recipes. Too bad about the price tag, but I'm sure you can work sub magic with some of the ingredients. I had to buy pine nuts for a test recipe I was doing and was a little grouchy about it but I bought in bulk and now I'm looking to use them up any way I can! Maybe I'll try the quinoa dish.

iheartvegetables said...

Ahh I hate when a recipe ends up costing more than if I had just gone out to dinner! As much as I love cooking, I want to be able to stick to my grocery budget, you know? It does look good though!

Eric said...

Ahh im behind on reading blogs! Anyways need to try the pizza and for sure the soup. Both look great!