If there were cooking personality types (which I’m sure is a quiz somewhere), I would come up as a hybrid of the nerd and the improviser. I love to read recipes and figure out their structure so I can adapt it to what I have on hand or what I’m willing to get that will fit with my pantry and how I normally cook.
What is a recipe structure? It’s the recipe bones, the foundation, the load bearing walls of the house. If you strip everything else away, you can’t make the recipe fit its name without these core things. Once you know what these things are, you know how you can play with the flavors and ingredients of a recipe for your taste or what you have on hand.
I usually figure out recipe structures with the nerd cooking personality, by looking at several recipes of the same dish from different people and seeing the similarities. I love it, and also know it’s not for everyone, studying recipes. Luckily, I’ve found I’m not the only one with a love of play and recipe structure.
Heather Crosby of YumUniverse, a blog I’ve been following for ages, just released her second cookbook, Pantry to Plate, which has the subtitle “Improvise Meals You Love from What You Have!” So. In. I’ve loved reading Heather’s blog for years because it plant-focused (and you know how much I love veggies) and now, even more because it’s gluten-free. Her books are the same way, which feels like such a sigh of relief. I can cook anything I want from this book without a huge amount of modifications.
Pantry to Plate is an amazing cookbook for other improvisers and people who want to mostly cook from their pantry. She gives a comprehensive pantry guide in the front and sticks to that throughout the book, with the idea that if you stock your pantry with these ingredients, you can easily cook anything in this book. I love that, because too often I’ll be looking around in my pantry and run across a barely used item because I only used it for one recipe and didn’t put any energy into figuring out how else to use it (#reallife).
The first part of the book has the pantry list, as well as a great list of mother sauces to make and flavor profiles you can use throughout the book. If you’re newer to healthier cooking, there are also good resources to wrap your brain around that as well. Also, which I enjoy as someone who doesn’t stick to one kind of diet, Heather is very open to saying if you eat meat or dairy, to add that in as you see fit. This is so refreshing to me, since most specific diet books aren’t as open to acknowledging other kinds of eating.
The book is broken up into categories, starting with breakfast and moving its way through the day, with appetizer friendly foods, a wide variety of main dishes (including something called a ‘Banzo bake which I’m curious to try), and sweet treats.
At the beginning of each section, she provides the recipe structure with SO MANY options on how to make it your own. She lets you know what needs to stay as is and then how you can add on and customize. This has to be my favorite part of the book. The options! The play! The nerdy structure! It marries all of my cooking personality types into one, empowering place.
She provides a few recipes for each section too, to give you some ideas of where to take it, but doesn’t go on and on with ideas. That’s for you to decide, again, which I love. The recipes are not complicated and fit on one page, which is approachable and perfect.
In flipping through the book, this Hearty Chickpea Stew caught my eye. I’m all about soup, and this particular soup really live up it’s name. Packed with chickpeas, kale, carrots, and wild rice, this soup can stand on its own as a meal, which I love. The recipe also calls for fresh thyme and cinnamon, which gave it an extra layer of flavor to this comforting soup that was new and enjoyable.
Another thing I loved about this soup, it was very easy to put together, making it a great meal to make on any night. Heather gives some suggestions to make the soup even more you own.
If you’re looking for gluten-free, produce-packed recipes, this is a great book for you. If you’re new to eating and cooking more this way, Heather makes it easy to grasp and try. If you want to learn more about how to play with recipes, this is the book for you, and even if you just want to play a little bit, this book is also for you.
Basically, this cookbook rocks and you should really check it out.
Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book to review by The Experiment, the publisher of YumUniverse Pantry to Plate: Improve Meals You Love from What You Have. All opinions about the book are by own.
- 1 tablespoon unrefined coconut oil
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
- 1 cup (15 g) lightly packed stemmed, chopped kale
- ¼ cup (60 ml) dry white wine (optional, I didn't use any)
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon grated lemon zest
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 5 cups (1.2 L) low-sodium vegetable stock
- 3 cups (495 g) cooked chickpeas (roughly 1 cup/200 g dry)
- 1 cup (165 g) cooked wild rice, cooked (roughly 1?2 cup/80 g dry)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
- Fresh-cracked black pepper
In a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, add the oil and saute? the onion, celery, carrots, and thyme for 7 to 10 minutes, until softened and browning.
Add the kale; saute? over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the wine (if using), lemon juice, bay leaf, cumin, coriander, turmeric, paprika, zest, and cinnamon; stir for 2 minutes, then add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 to 7 minutes.
Fold in the chickpeas and wild rice—cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in the salt and then transfer 2 cups (480 ml) of soup (make sure the bay leaf stays in the soup pot and not in the measuring cup) to a blender and pure?e until smooth. Return the pure?e to the soup to add bulk, and stir. Reduce the heat to low and season with more salt if you like and generous pepper.
Simmer for 10 to 20 minutes to infuse flavor even more—serve warm and enjoy how the flavors develop every day you have any leftovers.
Recipe from YumUniverse Pantry to Plate © Heather Crosby, 2017. Photographs copyright © Heather Crosby, 2017. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold. theexperimentpublishing.com