By Anna Dantoni –
Don’t be fooled into thinking that Food: Vegetarian Home Cooking by Mary McCartney, is just another book by a celebrity offspring cashing in on a famous pedigree (her parents being Paul and Linda McCartney and her younger sister, the fashion designer Stella McCartney) because this easy-to-use cookbook is the real deal whether you are a vegetarian or not. It’s just delicious food.
Mary McCartney is both an accomplished professional photographer and has been a vegetarian since babyhood growing up in a family where tempting meatless meals were a central feature of everyday life. She has both the kitchen techniques and a stack of family recipes making her ideally suited to produce a cookbook of vegetarian meals that will appeal to both adults and children. The fact that she took all the photos for this book is a lovely bonus for the reader.
McCartney’s photographs – mostly of finished dishes, fresh vegetables, her famous family and children in farm and garden settings – are beguiling and go a long way in making you want to carry this book into the kitchen and get started. The author also includes stories about the background of many of the recipes in the book and they always include her mother, Linda, who has been her inspiration for many things, food being just one of them.
Food:Vegetarian Home Cooking would make an excellent gift to a young family committed to exploring a vegetarian lifestyle but it’s also a useful manual for the omnivore eater because so many of the soups, casseroles, and appetizers pair well with meat and seafood entrees. Here are four of my favorite recipes from Food. Doubtless, you’ll claim others.
Haloumi Barbecue Skewers
2 small onions or 8 small shallots
2 red peppers
2 medium zucchini
7 ounces haloumi cheese
8 pre-soaked wooden or metal skewers
Make a half quantity of the barbecue sauce. Peel the onions and chop into quarters lengthwise through the root. If using shallots, just peel. Remove the seed from the peppers and discard and cut into 8 pieces. Next, cut the zucchini and haloumi cheese into 8 pieces. Prepare the skewers by alternating the chunks of haloumi with the peppers, onions or shallots and zucchini; 2 pieces of each ingredient per skewer. Brush the assembled skewers with a generous amount of the barbecue sauce on all sides. To cook, place the skewers under a hot broiler for about 10-12 minutes, turning often, until cooked and golden. Alternatively, you can cook them in the oven at 350-degrees for 10 minutes. Or gill them on a preheated grill.
2 cups tomato ketchup
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons mustard, French Dijon
1 ¼ cup vegetable or light olive oil
sea salt and black pepper, to taste
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Either refrigerate for later use or brush on the vegetable skewers.
2 medium/large eggplants
2 tablespoons sunflower oil or light olive oil
1 tablespoon dried mixed herbs
14 ounces spinach
16 sun-dried tomato pieces, marinated in oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted in a hot dry pan
5 ounces sharp Cheddar, cut into 16 slices
pinch sea salt
black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350-degrees. You will need a large non-stick baking sheet. Cut the woody top off each eggplant and discard.. Slice each eggplant lengthwise into 8 pieces about ½ inch thick. Mix the oil and herbs together in a small bowl. Lightly brush each slice of eggplant with the herby oil on both sides. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat and lay as many pieces of the eggplant in the pan as will comfortably fit. Fry each side until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Wash the spinach in cold running water, then toss it in a hot medium dry saucepan until wilted and drain off excess liquid. Now, assemble each wrap by taking 1 slice of the cooked eggplant and placing a little of the wilted spinach on one side then lay a piece of sun-dried tomato on top, sprinkle on a few toasted pine nuts and top with a slice of cheese. Fold the eggplant over to form the wrap, then place on baking sheet. Repeat until all 16 wraps are assembled and laced side by side. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes, until the cheese has melted. Serve immediately.
Asparagus Summer Tart
2 tablespoons vegetable or light olive oil
4 medium red onions, thinly sliced
large bunch fresh asparagus (about 1 pound)
5 ounces good melting cheese such as Gruyere cubed or grated
fresh ground black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 325. Roll out pastry to about ? inch thick and lay it on a baking sheet to fit the edges (about 12×8). To blind back the pastry crust, lay parchment paper onto the rolled pastry and then spread baking beans or rice on top to weigh it down. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the paper and beach and bake again for 5 minutes until pastry is lightly golden but not fully cooked. For the filling, eat the oil in a medium heavy-bottomed pan and fry onions on low heat until soft and caramelized, about 15 minutes. To prepare the asparagus, clean all the spears under cold water and then snap or cut off just the woody ends. Boil in just enough water to cover for 2 minutes. they should be undercooked as they will finish in the oven. Spread the caramelized onions evenly over the pastry crust and then arrange the asparagus over the onions. Sprinkle on the cheese and season with pepper. Bake the tart in the over for about 15 minutes or until pastry is golden and the cheese is bubble. Cut into portions and serve.
Zucchini and Lemon Spaghetti
7 ounces spaghetti
3 tablespoons light olive, plus more for drizzling
2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 ½ teaspoons fresh sage, chopped
1 ½ teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, plus more for serving
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
zest of ½ lemon
sea salt or black pepper to taste
Cook pasta according to package directions to al dente. Drain in a colander, drizzle with a little olive oil and then mix slightly to coat. Set aside in the colander. In a pan pour in 3 tablespoons olive and heat over medium heat, then add the zucchini and sauté for 5 minutes, before adding the garlic and herbs and mixing well. Sauté for a couple more minutes. Return the cooked spaghetti to the pan and heat through, then mix in the cheese and lemon zest and season with salt and pepper. Serve with a little more grated cheese if your wish.
(Food: Vegetarian Home Cooking by Mary McCartney. Sterling Epicure,$29.95)