I’m so excited to talk bit about Heather Crosby’s new cookbook Pantry to Plate today. When I received my copy and took a scan from cover to cover, I was immediately blown away by the way this book kindly invites the reader to be both spontaneous and practical in the kitchen by working with the ingredients that are already on hand. With thirty clever recipe templates, Heather demonstrates how to improvise your way to delicious, plant-based meals. For example, Dense Veggies + Protein + Herbs + Binder + Spices = Vegan Meatballs (or Veggie Burgers)! The templates specify the required amount for each component, as well as which components are a must and which ones can be skipped altogether. In addition to the templates, the book is full of other useful tools that help make intuitive cooking a breeze: besides a regular recipe index, there is a cook by ingredient index, as well as mini-templates for creating flavor with aromatics, a whole bit on pairing spices, and a dressing and sauce section that has pretty much every staple sauce recipe you’ll ever need. If you don’t have a particular ingredient for a recipe, chances are you have something on hand that could act as a substitute, and there is a whole chart of interchangeable mix-and-match ingredients in the book to help you work through that.
I’m quite terrible at sticking to recipes myself, since I always want to play, add, subtract and find alternative ingredients, so it’s as if this book was made for me. How Heather managed to define freestyle cooking in such clear, comprehensive terms, will remain a mystery to me :) Some more sections/recipes I’m most excited about: Coconut Yogurt, Dairy-Free Milks, Probiotic Cream Cheese, Veggie Fries, Cheesy Comfort Food, Hand Pies, Sneaky Brownies, Nice Cream. YUM! Onto the (not) meatballs.
These Italian-style veggie meatballs come from the Veggie Burger section of the book and can be easily shaped into burgers or sliders, as Heather points out. They get their substance and ‘meatiness’ from lentils and portobello mushrooms, and a bit of sweetness from carrots and onions, while herbs like oregano, parsley and thyme, and spices like fennel and pepper give them that characteristic Italian flare. We enjoyed them two ways, the first day with zucchini noodles and pesto (pictured here), and the second day, a bit more traditionally, with real pasta and tomato sauce. Both were equally delicious. Heather also suggests to serve the meatballs in a sub roll, or even as an appetizer, along with some tasty sauce.
Whether you live and breathe freestyle cooking, or you want to learn a bit more about being intuitive in the kitchen, check out Pantry to Plate, I have a feeling it will earn an important place on your bookshelf :)
- 2 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil, grapeseed oil, or avocado oil
- 2 cups (260 g) diced carrots
- 1 cup (70 g) chopped portobello mushrooms
- 1 cup (160 g) diced yellow onion
- 2 cups (400 g) cooked green, brown, or French green lentils (roughly ¾ cup/140 g dry)
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons ground psyllium husk
- 2 teaspoons rough-chopped fennel seed
- 1 teaspoon fresh-cracked black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- In a skillet heated to medium, add 1 tablespoon of the oil and sauté the carrots for 20 minutes, until easily pierced with a fork but firm, not mushy.
- Add the mushrooms and onion and sauté over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until softened and browning a bit. Transfer to a food processor with the remaining ingredients. Pulse together 30 to 35 times, until just broken up and sticky with texture and bits of color intact. Taste—if needed, season with more salt or seasonings. Pulse or stir to incorporate.
- Form 1½-inch (4 cm) meatballs with your hands. Heat a skillet to medium and add the remaining oil. Slow-cook the meatballs, rotating often, for 10 to 15 minutes, until browned on all sides. Serve warm.