Easy, tasty vegetarian dishes from the shelves of Trader Joe's
My city just got our first Trader Joe's last November, and I've been looking for easy, tasty ways to use the many intriguing finds I'd brought home (masala simmer sauce, mango ginger chutney, spice blends, frozen veggies, etc.). As a vegetarian, I was thrilled to see that Cooking with Trader Joe's Cookbook: Vegetarian was coming out. This cookbook is compiled from the other cookbooks in the series, including Cooking With All Things Trader Joe's Cookbook,Cooking With Trader Joe's Cookbook: Dinner's Done! and Cooking With Trader Joe's Cookbook: Lighten Up!. You'll see many familiar recipes, particularly from the first Cooking with All Things Trader Joe's cookbook, but this is well worth adding to your collection, particularly for vegetarians as all the recipes are in one place (the one recipe I was looking for but missed was the Perfectly Peared Gorgonzola Quesadillas from Cooking With All Things Trader Joe's Cookbook, which were absent). The book is a high-quality hardcover, with heavy, glossy pages that stand up well to frequent use. Chapters are arranged by appetizers, soups and salads, main meals, sides, desserts and drinks, and breakfast. Each recipe features a full-color photo, and you'll also find plenty of whimsical illustrations and photos of ingredients throughout. There are green "tip" sidebars with helpful suggestions, and you'll also find useful info in the recipe intros themselves. Each recipe contains detailed nutritional info (calories, fat, protein, carbs, fiber, sugar, sodium), prep time, hands-off cooking time, number of servings and serving size, which makes this a great tool for those looking to count calories, fat, sugar, etc. Most of my dozens of vegetarian cookbooks are lacking nutritional info, so I was especially grateful to see it here. Recipes that are (or can be made) gluten-free are marked with a red G (the authors also recently released Cooking With Trader Joe's Cookbook: Gluten-Free). I tried several of the recipes over the last few weeks, starting with the olive-stuffed bread, chocolate coffee fudge, lemon-basil cake, and the cheese and chutney mini-rolls. I used TJ's refrigerated herb pizza dough and their black olive tapenade for the olive bread, and the resulting loaf had a fabulous flavor and texture. The next time I make it, I would consider making individual rolls; it would be a little less messy for serving a crowd (and you could freeze the rolls and reheat them one at a time). The cheese and chutney mini-rolls made a great appetizer! The recipe recommends using aged sharp cheddar or cave-aged gruyere, but my new favorite find at TJ's is the Cinnamon Toscano, which marries beautifully with the mango and ginger in the chutney. This would also be good served as an open-faced sandwich / crostini, if a little messy! The chocolate coffee fudge was a great twist on a classic recipe; the boost of espresso really enhanced the chocolate, and the fudge stayed fresh and creamy in an airtight container for several days.
The lemon-basil cake was a revelation; despite containing ½ cup of finely chopped basil (time to break out those chiffonade skills), the basil adds a subtle complement to the lemon zest. The one addition I made was brushing on a lemon syrup made from 1/3 cup water and ¼ cup sugar brought to a boil, then add the juice of two lemons off the heat and let cool. This way, you end up using all of the lemons; the recipe calls for the zest of two lemons, and if you make the lemon syrup/glaze, there's no waste (plus, the syrup helps the cake to stay moist). The next time I make this, I'm going to bake it in my Nordic Ware Lemon Loaf for added visual appeal! This would be perfect as a teatime or brunch offering. All of the recipes I tried were tasty and came together quickly. I've bookmarked several others that I want to try in the near future, including the Indian spinach pizza, quiche, balsamic roasted fennel, anytime Mediterranean pasta (the ultimate pantry staple dinner!), and pasta alla checca. Cooking With Trader Joe's Cookbook: Vegetarian is a cookbook I'll find myself coming back to frequently for its combination of interesting recipes (lots of international influences from India, Asia, Mexico, Italy, etc.), quick prep times, nutritional info, and most importantly, tasty results! (A huge thank you to authors Deana Gunn and Wona Minati for the autographed review copy!)