Cookbook review: The New Middle Eastern Vegetarian by Sally Butcher
If you are tired of your go-to vegetarian meals, try a visit to "Veggiestan."
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But can a funny cook also be a good cook? I invited three friends over to test her recipes. Our menu: Swooning Imam, Persian Magazine Spinach balls, and Chilled Yogurt and Saffron Soup.Skip to next paragraph
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It took more time than just tossing together a salad or making a pizza, but it was easy enough to coordinate friends to do the sous chef jobs as I worked on the soup (recipe reprinted below). I felt inspired to add and mint where the recipe calls for just dill. The instructions were mostly clear, though I did have to look up what it meant to “score an eggplant.” (Where I come from we dice and chop and blend and microwave – “score” is a musical or sports term.)
After we supped, I asked my friends what they thought about the meal. One commented on the delicate flavors of the eggplant, another on how much she liked the Persian spinach, which we topped with Parmesan flakes, and another remarked how perfect the chilled soup was for a hot summer night. Then she said, “this food makes me feel loved.”
It’s clear that Butcher’s meals are meant to be savored with friends and family – like you would on vacation – instead of rushed and thrown together. Indeed, this is a cookbook that informs and delights the reader even as it surprises and enchants your dinner guests. And it's perfect for cooks who are tired of their go-to vegetarian meals.
“Veggiestan” may be a made up country, but once you get there, you will want to visit over and over again.
Recipe reprinted with permission from “The New Middle Eastern Vegetarian: Modern Recipes From Veggiestan” by Sally Butcher (Interlink Publishing, 2012).
Katyk Shurua va Zafaran or Chilled Yogurt and Saffron Soup
Makes a pleasant change from the delicious but rather more commonplace yogurt and cucumber soup. Serves 4.
3 cups (25 fluid ounces) plain yogurt
1/4 teaspoon ground saffron, steeped in a splash of boiling water
4 hard boiled egg yolks
2 teaspoons grainy mustard
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 bunch of radishes, washed and diced real small
1/2 cucumber, washed and diced real small
2-3 scallions, sliced
1 large cooked potato (waxy is best)
2 tablespoons fresh (or dried) dill (or use other fresh herbs of choice – mint, parsley, cilantro)
salt and pepper
The yogurt should be of a fairly runny pouring consistency: you will need to dilute it with cold water, whisking vigorously, until it is well, soup-like.
Add the saffron, and mix well. Next mash the egg yolks with the mustard and vinegar, and beat this mixture into the yogurt. Put all the other ingredients in a bowl, and pour the yogurt on top, mixing thoroughly.
Season to taste, and then cover and chill well. Serve over ice cubes (optional – but great on a hot summer night) garnished with a sprig of fresh dill.
– Jenna Fisher is the Monitor's Asia editor.
Note: The UK version was published in 2011 and is titled “Veggiestan: A Vegetable Lover’s Tour of the Middle East.”
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