Sometimes I love my job: A crop of new vegetable-oriented cookbooks

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been hitting the tofu and arugula pretty hard in the last few months, since butter-laden barbecue shrimp, pie shakes, and Momofuku pork buns hadn’t been doing my cholesterol any favors. (I can’t imagine why!) Despite the fact that I miss butter and cheese like mad (oh, what I wouldn’t do for a hunk of Brie!), I’m actually still feeling pretty chipper about trying to eat healthier.

For the last few months I’ve been channeling my love of good food away from pork butt and toward fish and fennel, which keeps me from feeling too deprived. Though butter and cream undoubtedly make everything taste better, I’m enjoying exploring the whole universe of food that won’t result in a coronary at age 55, and I’m having fun testing the limits of quinoa and kale. (Note: This doesn’t mean that  I’ve completely given up on the occasional decadent treat or a few fun cocktails, mind you, lest you think that from now on this blog will be about nothing but vegan lettuce wraps and flaxseed-infused smoothies. Everything in moderation—even moderation.)

I’m also super-psyched that right now I’m working on not one but two great cookbooks that are offering me lots of great ideas and inspiration. The first is a copyediting job for The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods, which will be published by Ten Speed Press later this year. The author, Sara Forte, has been blogging about healthy cooking at Sprouted Kitchen for years, and the blog is full of stunning photos taken by her husband, Hugh. I hadn’t seen it before I started working on this book, but I’ve become an instant fan, and if you love food blogs, you’d be hard-pressed to find one as beautiful as this. Based on the photos on the blog, I think it’s going to be really lovely (some early design layouts are here). Better than that, it’s in the sweet spot of how I’m cooking right now. Lots of whole grains and vegetables, but not strictly vegetarian. Salads galore. Interesting combinations of unusual ingredients. I haven’t actually cooked any of the recipes yet—I just received the manuscript about a week ago—but there are several I plan to make in the next few weeks.

The second project I’m working on that makes me really happy that I do what I do is proofreading The Davis Farmers Market Cookbook, by Georgeanne Brennan and Ann Evans. I’ve barely cracked the cover on this one—I just got it today—but after a quick look  I’m already marking pages with recipes I want to try.

Sometimes the cookbooks I edit don’t have a lot to do with the way I like to eat, whether they’re about vegan desserts or instructions for making baby food. Other times the books I work on are about something I dearly love but have a blinking “danger” sign attached to them. For example, about six months ago I spent a few weeks copyediting Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones, which will come out in April of this year. Since the ice cream shop where the recipes come from, Bi-Rite Creamery, is only three blocks from my house, I was well aware how dreamy their desserts were before I started working on it, and I spent last August churning out buckets of Strawberry-Balsamic Vinegar and Salted Caramel ice creams, much to the Cocktail Host’s delight. It was a great project, but right now I’m glad I don’t have those recipes for popsicles and ice cream pies staring me in the face each morning when I turn on my computer.

Finally, while I’m on the subject of healthy recipes, here’s a quick little something I’ve been making left and right for the last few weeks. (My apologies for the unappetizing photos. A few posts ago I think I warned you that photos of muddy brown lentils and hippie glop might be making an appearance here.)

Peanut-lime dressing

The Cocktail Host and I love both Thai and Vietnamese food, and we especially adore nuoc cham, the tart-salty-sweet dipping sauce that is typically made with fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and chiles. It’s a bit too thin to use as a salad dressing or to cling to most foods, so I played around with adding vegetable oil. It was good, but I prefer this version, with ground peanuts. I’ve been making it in double batches lately and storing it in the fridge, where it keeps well, as long as you shake it to recombine the ingredients. I couldn’t say exactly how long, because no matter how much I make, I seem to dump it all on salad greens or tofu  before the week is over. I have yet to meet a vegetable that isn’t tasty with a spoonful of this on top.

Here are the ingredients you need. I like to use Thai bird’s eye chiles, but the market was out of them, so here I’ve used Sriracha sauce instead.

peanut-lime dressing ingredients

And here’s the recipe …

Peanut-Lime Dressing

3/4 cup dry roasted peanuts
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup coarsely chopped shallots
1/2 cup agave nectar
5 tablespoons fish sauce
3 bird’s eye chiles, stemmed and seeded, or 4 teaspoons Sriracha sauce

Combine all the ingredients in food processor or blender and pulse until the peanuts are finely chopped and the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Taste and adjust the ingredients, adding more agave nectar if you prefer a less tart dressing, more chiles if you like a hotter one.

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