I am endlessly fascinated by America’s Test Kitchen’s magazines and cookbooks. I love that they detail the process of recipe development and not just, “Hey, here’s a recipe! It tastes good! Enjoy!” While baking is more of a science than cooking, there is still a science to cooking and it’s interesting to read exactly why frozen peas are better than fresh for most recipes or how different types of potatoes result in different textures in gratins.
The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook is exactly what you’d expect from an America’s Test Kitchen cookbook. The recipes are tried and true and each starts out with a paragraph explaining why it works. There are 700 recipes in this book (YES! Seven-hundred!) and they range from dishes that are naturally meatless, like this polenta casserole, and dishes that are traditionally made with meat, made vegetarian (we’ll be sharing one of those recipes next week). There are cookbooks based on gimmicks and trends that you buy, make a few recipes from, and set aside, and there are cookbooks that you’ll be cooking from 20 years from now—this is the kind of cookbook that’s destined to be a staple in your kitchen.
I received an advance copy of the book several weeks ago, so I’ve already had the chance to make quite a few recipes from it and this polenta casserole is one of my favorites. It tops a batch of creamy Parmesan polenta with a layer of meaty mushrooms and chard cooked in tomato sauce. The thing I love about polenta casseroles is that while they’re filling and hearty and everything you love about comfort food, they’re actually not that heavy—eating a serving of this casserole doesn’t make you feel uncomfortably full and weighed down like eating a serving of lasagna might. I should also note that we had this for dinner 3 nights in a row; the leftovers kept well in the fridge and they were just as delicious as the first day I made it. While the recipe does take a little bit of time that first day, the subsequent days of leftovers (woo hoo, no cooking!) made up for it.