Wednesday, October 19, 2016

My Recipe Review List for: A Modern Way to Cook by Anna Jones

A while back I reviewed Anna Jones new book A Modern Way to Cook.  I absolutely loved her first book, A Modern Way to Eat and had high hopes for this follow-up cookbook.  I decided to do another Recipe Review List  to keep track of my hits and misses as I went through these recipes.

Let me start by saying, this is not a vegan cookbook, but she does provide a lot of substitutes to the egg and dairy in these recipes.  I do feel like this book contains more recipes with egg or cheese than her last book.  Thank God for all the cheese substitutes that are readily available now.

Kale, tomato, and lemon magic one-pot spaghetti p. 24  I made this prior to getting this book.  I had seen it online a while back.  It's one of those super simple but really good recipes.

Lemongrass, peanut, and herb noodle salad p. 63 I had to make a few substitutions, you can read about it here.  I would make this again.  It's easy to put together and packed full of flavor.

Carrot and chickpea pancake with lemon-spike dressing p. 104 This wasn't life changing, but it was good.  Her directions say to "cut the pancakes into slices and top with sprouted seeds...."  That seemed odd.  Did she mean strips like fettuccine?  I don't know.  We just put everything on top of the chickpea pancake and rolled it up crepe style.

Butternut and sweet leek hash p. 114 We used to make potato hash with over easy eggs every Sunday morning, but stopped since going vegan.  That is until I found The Vegg Vegan Egg Yolk.  I made a make-shift egg white out of tofu and used The Vegg to substitute for a regular egg yolk.  I also used sweet potatoes instead of butternut squash.  It was okay.  It was more labor intensive than my usual potato hash, and honestly, I don't think it was worth all the extra work.  Read about it here.

30-minute sweet potato chili p. 117 Anna Jones has a great vegan chili recipe in A Modern Way to Eat that is amazing.  Somehow light but still very filling.  This was good, but not as good as that one. My two taste testers liked it, but not as much as I did.  

Sweet roasted zucchini with crispy chickpeas p. 130 This was a pretty easy recipe.  The directions were a lot of put this on a sheet tray in the oven, now add this and now add that.  It was a great way to use up garden veggies.  I served it with spaghetti.  You can read about it here.

Green bean and chile paneer p. 140 So...I really wanted to like this.  I used pressed tofu in place of the paneer.  It was good, but I think as someone who has eaten authentic Indian food, this was just missing something.  I think this would probably be good for someone used to more bland food, and cannot handle the kind of spice and heat you'd usually find in Indian food.  It's good, but it's not Asian approved.  Well, not by this Asian.

Spinach and lemon polpette p. 152  A polpette is basically a meatball...but without meat.  The spinach polpettes were okay, tasty and flavorful but dry.  Maybe I baked them for too long.  Or maybe substituting Go Veggie Parm was the problem.  I would try it again to see if I could get them right. The biggest surprise was the sauce, almonds, and tomatoes?  Really good!  For the record, if you look at the picture of hers in comparison to mine, they look like two totally different meals.  You can read about it here.

Fragrant herb and star anise pho p. 172 This was good, but it took a long time to make what was, for all intents and purposes, a simple soup.  I also didn't like having to waste all the vegetables after the making the broth.  It was good, but not good enough for me to make again.

Quick-pickled roasted root vegetables, polenta and carrot-top pesto p. 192 I had just picked some beets and carrots from my garden, so how could I not make this recipe.  I made a risotto instead of polenta.  I made polenta over twenty years ago, and I was thrilled by it, so I never bought it again.  I should probably get over it, and give it another shot.  Anyway, the roasted vegetables were great and mixing the carrot top pesto into the risotto was amazing.  

Lentil ragu agrodolce p. 195 This was super delicious!  The Tyrant said it was her favorite Anna Jones recipe.  Honestly, I wasn't impressed while I was making it.  It seemed like a whole lot of nothing.  But when it was done, it all came together in this amazingly rich and filling meal.  This is one of those vegan meals that would satisfy a carnivore.

A modern moussaka p. 217  This is good, but a moussaka it is not.  Where's the nutmeg?!  Grilling the eggplant took forever, if I were to make it again, I would put the eggplant slices into the oven with the tomatoes.  If you half the recipe, still make the full bechamel recipe.  It was an okay dish, but if I want moussaka again, I'll just veganize a traditional moussaka recipe.

Crispy chickpea and harissa burgers p. 220  These were a lot better than I thought they'd be, but way too much work for a veggie burger.  The relish, on the other hand, was very easy to make and delicious!  I've made it again for when I serve store-bought veggie burgers.  And I have to say I liked serving them with humus.  It's a great change from the usual mayo, ketchup, mustard mix.

Ultimate pecan banana breakfast bread p. 236 I have an amazing banana bread recipe, so I almost didn't try this one.  I'm glad I did!  It's dense, but not in a bad way.  I would have never thought that adding caraway seeds would work, but it really did.  If you're the type of person who frequently has a bunch of bananas sitting on the counter getting overripe, I'd keep this recipe dog-earred.  

10 minute-pancakes p. 290 These were a big, wet, sloppy mess!  I wish she'd stop talking about grinding oats into a "scruffy flour."  What does that mean!  I think if I just ground it into a full-on, totally pulverized oat flour, then maybe it would have worked.  I might try it again.  Might.

THE VERDICT:  Now that I've had time to go through many of the recipes in here, I've made a final decision about A Modern Way to Cook.  Most of the recipes were tasty, but very few were amazing. They also felt more labor intensive than the recipes from her first book, A Modern Way to Eat.  Perhaps the problem for me is that I loved A Modern Way to Eat so much that my expectations for this book were too high.  

I would still recommend people buy it.  I like how it's broken down into time increments which makes it easier to pick which recipe to make on a weeknight and which to make on a lazy Sunday.  I also like that the recipes include no plant-based or soy-based meats, and instead rely on the vegetables to speak for themselves.  While this book probably won't be on the heavy rotation list of cookbooks on my shelf, I am sure I will continue to go back and make more recipes from it.

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