I'm not a vegetarian in any way, shape, or form, but I think they're on to something. The vegetarians I know are all very healthy, certainly when compared to my sick-and-tired self. I like vegetables, if they're prepared well. Nothing turns my stomach faster than soggy overcooked spinach. Pasty canned peas are a no-go. Caprese salad with fresh mozzarella? Give me all you've got. Greek salad with cucumbers and tomatoes? Yes, please.
Three of my cooking heroes have me thinking about vegetables. A few years ago, Mark Bittman introduced the concept of a “less-meatarian” in his book, “Food Matters .” Not vegetarian, just cutting back on the amount of meat you eat. Micheal Natkin, of Herbivoracious, has been kicking up amazing vegetarian fare for years. The awe inspiring Jose Andres has started focusing on vegetables with his new restaurants, hoping to popularize vegetables and make them the “new bacon.”
What's interesting to me, from a faith-based standpoint, is that it falls right in line with the Word of Wisdom. For those who don't know, the Word of Wisdom is the dietary and health commandments that Mormons believe were given to us by God. They're found in our modern scripture set, the Doctrine & Covenants. This is passage I'm thinking about:
Doctrine and Covenants 89:11 - 16
11 Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.
12 Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;
13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.
14 All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;
15 And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.
16 All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground—
My daughter's are on-again-off-again vegetarians. The degree of their vegetarianism varies from hour to hour. My wife is an almost-carnivore. If she could just get by with Mountain Dew and roast beef with ranch dressing for the rest of her life, she would. My youngest is the pickiest, most unpredictable eater I've ever known. Her only constants are sugar and tofu. I'm an omnivore. I'll eat just about anything, as long as it tastes good.
Making dinner that we'll all eat is a challenge. My wife's not too difficult because she hates to cook. As long as I throw some meat her way from time to time, she won't bite me. With younger daughters I've learned to hope for the best while trying to contain my frustration. I spent two hours cooking this, and you won't even try it? Go make your own dinner, then. As for me, it has to taste good or I won't keep eating it. In fact, it's got to taste better than good. As Micheal Natkin might say, it's got to taste freaking delicious.
To that end, I've decided I want to learn to cook vegetables that are freaking delicious. My go-to source for learning to cook delicious food is Christopher Kimball and his staff at America's Test Kitchen. I've learned, over the years, that I can count on them to give me solid advice, solid recipes, and solid techniques. I don't like every recipe of theirs I've tried, but the vast majority are excellent. Some of I've modified to fit my own tastes and situation, but I know I'm not going to go completely wrong with them.
So, I bought their new vegetarian cookbook. A few of the recipes I've already made, getting them from other sources. There's so darned many more it was worth every penny, though. The first recipe convinced me I was right to buy to it, a summer vegetable gratin. Even my carnivorous wife enjoyed it. Their classic gazpacho was amazing, too. I still like the gazpacho recipe I've been using, I just have more variety, now. As I start to work my way through it, I'll be sharing my variations on them. Why? Because I know you, too, want to make and eat food that is healthy, and really freaking delicious.