The most important cooking (and eating) holiday of the year is less than two weeks away. If you've been trying to eat less meat, or are vegetarian already, the traditional Thanksgiving menu provides many challenges. As Kim O'Donnel writes in her latest cookbook, most holidays and celebrations throughout the year have a menu centered on some sort of "roast beast." For her latest book, The Meat Lover's Meatless Celebrations, O'Donnel set out on a quest for a "feast without the beast." She used the same approach she did when she began cutting meat from her diet, by approaching recipes with a "delicious first, meatless second" philosophy.
This cookbook is more than a how-to for holiday meals. Chapters are divided by seasons, so whether you're cooking for Thanksgiving or just a Sunday night dinner, there are recipes in the Fall chapter for autumnal dishes using in-season vegetables like sweet potatoes, squash and Brussels sprouts. The Winter, Spring and Summer chapters continue this theme. You can easily flip within each chapter to find a tasty recipe for any meal or event. But O'Donnel has also created menu suggestions within each chapter for everything from Superbowl parties and Cinco de Mayo to Easter and New Year's Eve.
Many vegetarian cookbooks fall back on soy-based meatless substitutions. O'Donnel doesn't take the easy way out, she has created recipes with flavor and texture provided by real ingredients--whole grains, beans, vegetables, seasonings--to create dishes that are as wholesome as they are delicious. Her "meatball" sub--perfect for gameday parties--uses rice, lentils and seasonings to create a flavorful and filling meal. Recipes for various "meat" patties mix chickpeas with herbs and spices for tasty vegetarian burgers. And onions are stuffed with a mixture of chard and pumpkin puree, roasted and topped with root vegetable gravy for an elegant dish perfect for any harvest celebration meal.
In the introduction of The Meat Lover's Meatless Celebrations, O'Donnel introduces you to the staples of her pantry--grains, spices, vegetables, and condiments that can easily be found at any well-stocked supermarket. There are some dairy products and tofu, but very few nuts, which is refreshing because many vegetarian recipes rely heavily on nuts. The book's appendix includes information on canning, with recipes for jam, pickled peppers, and tips on how to throw a preserving party.
Recipes throughout this cookbook include kitchen notes with advice for making-ahead, storage, substitutions, and other tips for success. The instructions are written more conversationally than some other cookbooks, peppered throughout with visual clues or other steps that make it feel like O'Donnel is in the kitchen with you, coaching you throughout the process. Whether you're cooking meatless everyday or just some days, there's no better coach to have on our team.
Kim O'Donnel with be signing her book November 14 at Book Larder in Fremont from 6 to 8 p.m., and at Click! Design That Fits in West Seattle November 15 from 5 to 8 p.m. Information about other events around Seattle, including cooking demos can be found at kimodonnel.com.