Lately I have been interested in eating a more sustainable diet. I’m not as informed as I’d like to be on this topic. I don’t know much about the carbon footprint of my food, or which types of fish are sustainable and which are not, and I’ve always liked the idea of joining a CSA (community supported agriculture, click here if you have not heard of them) but have always hesitated to do so because I tend to be whimsical with what I choose to cook. So I decided to look into cookbooks that focus on sustainable food. Finding one that intrigued me, I reserved it at the library, with the idea that I would buy it if I liked it after testing the recipes.
What to Expect:
This is a vegetarian cookbook and most of the recipes have instructions on how to make them vegan. The recipes are good, but this isn’t merely about the recipes. It’s about looking at how you prep your meals and how to minimize waste in the kitchen. It tells you how to eat in season and do package free shopping. There are meal prepping tips that encourage you to cook up a pot of grains and a pot of beans each week to create a simple base for your meals. One section encourages you to use parts of the fruit or vegetable you would normally discard: pie recipe that uses the citrus peel along with the fruit, a beet hummus that uses the greens and stems. There are even recipes devoted to cooking with your scraps: making baked potato chips with your potato peelings or making vegetable stock with veggie scraps (with a table that shows which scraps are/are not usable). The sections are as follows:
- Work Smarter, Not Harder: a chapter on meal prep
- A Lot with a Little: 5-ingredient recipes
- 10 Under 10: meals that can be made in less than 10 minutes
- Waste Not, Want Not: zero waste recipes
- Clear Out: making use of your pantry and freezer ingredients
- Live a Little: healthyish treats
- Let’s Raise a Glass: plant based drinks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic
- The Preservation Society: pickles, jams, nut butters, and more
- Bread and Butter: lots of breads and two butters
As for the recipes, these are simple everyday recipes with short ingredient lists. This isn’t dinner party food. It’s the food you cook on a random Tuesday when work runs late and you have 20 minutes to get dinner on the table. Approximately half of the recipes have accompanying photographs.
Cacio e Pepe Socca: From the Bread and Butter section. Socca is a pancake or flatbread made with chickpea flour. Made as written, this socca was too salty but showed promise. On a whim, I made it again with less than half the salt recommended, and it was amazing. In full disclosure, I was out of parmesan when I made it the second time so I used what I had in my kitchen, which was goat cheese. Perhaps not a proper “cacio e pepe” when using goat cheese, but delicious.
Verdict: Would make again with reduced salt.
Miso Ramen Noodles: From the A Lot with a Little section. I made this one because the ramen, miso, butter, and kimchi combo sounded delightfully weird, like something that might so weird that it’s surprisingly perfect. I expected it to be a lot funkier than it is, given that it contains a cup of kimchi in it. Instead it’s mellow, rich, and creamy due to the miso/butter combination. It’s delicious, but not what I expected.
Verdict: Would probably make again, but I’m thinking of reducing the butter and using sauteed mushrooms in place of the kimchi.
Vegan Cream of Tomato Soup: From the 10 Under 10 section. Once I saw that this vegan tomato soup contained hummus, I knew that it would be good. Several years ago, I learned from the Oh She Glows blog that adding hummus to marinara adds a creamy flavor as well as protein, but I’d never thought to add it to tomato soup. This is an extremely easy recipe, as you blend up everything in a food processor and then heat it. After the cacio e pepe socca fiasco, I reduced the salt in half, but I really shouldn’t have. This one is perfect as written (or I assume, having added more salt after cooking). Since I am not a virtuous vegan, I had this with a swiss and cheddar grilled cheese. It’s possible that this recipe might be slightly too tangy if you are not eating it with something cheesy. If that’s the case, a bit of either sweetener or a pinch of baking soda should fix it.
Verdict: Would definitely make again. Since this has the option of using canned or fresh tomatoes, I’ll definitely try it in the summer with garden fresh tomatoes.
Baked Oatmeal: From the Clear Out section. I’ve been making baked oatmeal ever since Heidi Swanson started the baked oatmeal craze with her cookbook Super Natural Everyday. This is pretty similar to Heidi’s original recipe except it uses a mashed banana in place of a sliced one (a definite improvement in texture) and whatever fruit you have in your freezer. As I am the type of person who makes a smoothie for breakfast every day for a month, only to forget that smoothies exist for the next four months, I always have random odds and ends of fruit in the freezer. I used a peach and blueberry combo for this one, and I was slightly concerned as my peach looked somewhat frostbitten, but it turned out delicious with just the right amount of sweetness.
Verdict: Will definitely make again.
Whole Beet Dip: From Waste Not, Want Not. I skipped the seedy crackers that you were supposed to make it, as that was too granola even for me. This dip is essentially a beet hummus, only it uses the full beet with the leaves in a pesto topping and the beet and stems in the hummus. The hummus was a fairly basic beet hummus but the beet green pesto added freshness and acidity that elevated it.
Verdict: Not sure if I’ll make this again. I liked it but I hate how beets turn your kitchen pink. I’m a person who buys precooked baby beets at Trader Joe’s to fuel her Greek salad obsession.
Verdict on Overall Book:
While I haven’t purchased this yet, having cooked from a library copy, I am planning to do so. I am particularly intrigued with some of the recipes I didn’t try, as they weren’t in season.
I would recommend Plant + Planet to home cooks who:
- Are looking to eat more plant-based foods
- Are concerned about sustainability
- Like simple recipes with minimal fuss
- Prefer to eat seasonally