Here we go – it’s The Best-Ever Vegetarian Cookbook. Wait, hold on there…what makes you, the cookbook author, the one to self-proclaim that?
If it’s going to be the “best ever” then:
- I want full color photos of not only the finished dish, but in-between steps, too.
- I also want full color photos of vegetables and ingredients so I know exactly what a enoki mushroom, a kaffir leaf and spelt look like.
- I want easy instructions that result in beautiful looking dishes that taste great.
- I want not only cooking tips but tips and advice on how to purchase ingredients and nutritional information.
- I want a variety of recipes from various nations using a variety of cooking techniques.
- I want to know the health benefits of each recipe.
- I want an index that has both reference to recipe titles and ingredients (both name and type).
- And, finally, I like when a cookbook lays flat on the counter…
Oh, wait, I think I just described The Best-Ever Vegetarian Cookbook so perhaps the title is correct. My edition is from 1999 and is edited by Nicola Graimes. (She was an editor for Vegetarian Living magazine.)
My one criticism of this “Best Ever” cookbook is minor. It is that the description of the dishes, while informative, are not very personal. As in, “I tasted this dish in a small Parisian cafe and knew I had to have it.” Instead the descriptions read, “This recipe is featured in Parisian cafes…” Sure that’s a picky detail so the cookbook can keep the “Best Ever” title…
The recipe I chose for my cookbook challenge is Eggplant, Smoked Mozzarella and Basil Rolls. These packets of warm eggplant were filled with an ooey gooey cheese that melted in your mouth. Fresh tomatoes and basil picked from your garden send this recipe beyond just a “normal dinner”. They are easy to make but do require you to heat up the kitchen with the broiler (on a hot summer night you might not want to do that). But, I can see these being made easily on the grill. (I also strayed from the original instructions at putting the aluminium foil directly on the baking rack, I instead used a baking sheet to hold the aluminum foil and eggplant. I know my abilities to create a mess out of nothing…so it’s better safe than sorry.) And, although the recipe says that the balsamic is option. Don’t kid yourself – it brings this recipe from a 9 to a 10.
Eggplant, Smoked Mozzarella and Basil Rolls
The Best-Ever Vegetarian Cookbook
- 1 large eggplant
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling (optional)
- 6 ounces smoked mozzarella cheese, cut into 8 slices
- 2 plum tomatoes, each cut into 4 slices
- 8 large basil leaves
- balsamic vinegar, for drizzling (optional)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cut the eggplant lengthways into 10 thin slices and discard the two outermost slices. Sprinkle the slices with salt and leave for 20 minutes. Rinse, then pat dry with paper towel.
Preheat the broiler and line the rack with foil. (Note: I put the foil on a baking sheet.) Place the eggplant slices on the grill rack and brush liberally with oil. Broil for 8 – 10 minutes until tender and golden, turning once.
Remove the eggplant slices from the broiler, then place a slice of mozzarella and tomato and a basil leaf in the center of each eggplant slice, and season to taste.
Fold the eggplant over the filling and…
broil seam-side down until heated through and the mozzarella begins to melt. Serve drizzled with olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar, if using.
(Health benefits: Eggplant are low in calories but frying will dramatically increase their calorific value. Salting the eggplant first not only draws out any bitter juices, it also makes the flesh denser, so that less fat is absorbed during cooking. Eggplant contains bioflavonoids, which help to prevent strokes and hemorrhages.