Whatever my neighbor is cooking next door today smells delicious – but not meatless! Though we are lapsed vegetarians, we eat meatless meals on Fridays so I still use a lot of vegetarian cookbooks, which I have mentioned before. The Best 125 Meatless Mediterranean Dishes by Susann Geiskopf-Hadler & Mindy Toomay is another old favorite from the shelves that is now out of print. I got this cookbook as a gift from a sister many years ago. At first I didn’t use it that often, probably because the kids wouldn’t care for this style of food – lots of vegetables, vinaigrette dressings, garlic, olives, and feta cheese. Now, though, I can flip through it and immediately find several meal possibilities for my husband and me.
The one recipe I have used for years, ever since we started growing our own basil, is the one for Basil Pesto. It is described as “Almost Instant”. I guess it is (once you’ve got the two packed cups of basil leaves ready, the six cloves of garlic peeled, and a hunk of Parmesan cheese grated) because you basically just throw everything but the olive oil into the food processor and drizzle the oil in as it’s going. The smell of this pesto says SUMMER, but I try to make this into the fall, weather permitting, and freeze some (minus the Parmesan, if I remember) for later use.
Last Friday, we had fresh green beans ready to pick in the garden and a craving for salade Niçoise (or, at least, the anchovy-less, possibly inauthentic, Americanized version we’re used to.) I turned to The Best 125 Meatless Mediterranean Dishes to find the recipe (which we added tuna to) and I have to laugh now, seeing that this recipe is also described as “Almost Instant” and thinking about how late dinner was that night.
I know I’m a slow, easily distracted cook, but I thought this would be a simple salad meal and I had already hardboiled the eggs. Ha! I guess I forgot the time it would take to get the 2 tablespoons of fresh-squeezed lemon juice (wash the lemon, cut it, squeeze the juice out, strain the juice to keep out the seeds, and clean up the mess) and the 1/4 cup of “fresh basil leaves, chiffonade” (pick basil, make sure it’s clean and dry, create tight rolls of leaves, and slice the leaves paper-thin.) Not to mention the time it took for washing and drying lettuce; picking, stemming, and steaming green and wax beans; and cleaning and chopping the other vegetables.
Almost instant. Riiiight.
The copyright date on my softcover cookbook from Prima Publishing (now an imprint of Random House?) is 1997. I haven’t been able to find information on whether the authors are still writing now, but apparently Susann Geiskopf-Hadler & Mindy Toomay published several other cookbooks in this series – The Best 125 Low-Fat Fish and Seafood Dishes; The Best 125 Meatless Italian Dishes; The Best 125 Meatless Main Dishes; The Best 125 Meatless Pasta Dishes; and The Best 125 Meatless Mexican Dishes – as well as 15-Minute Vegetarian, The Complete Vegan Cookbook, The Vegan Gourmet, and maybe more.
There are a few black and white line drawings throughout the book, but there are no photos or other graphics. At the end of each recipe, the authors list the calories, protein, fat, dietary fiber, carbs, sodium, and cholesterol contained in a serving. (I just noticed that now, while writing this post, so I guess I don’t pay attention to that stuff when choosing recipes. Whoops!)
Some recipes are pretty basic. For example, Tomato and Mint Salad with Feta Cheese is another “Almost Instant” recipe that I’ll be making this summer, and you can pretty much make this or a variation on this without a recipe. But there’s a wide variety of recipes in this cookbook, ranging over the seasons and including appetizers, soups, salads, side dishes, and main dishes. Most have an emphasis on vegetables as a main ingredient, but non-vegetarians could easily use these recipes as an accompaniment to a meat main course or a mainstream meat-free alternative.
With the Mediterranean diet so popular, it’s probably easier to find good-quality ingredients for this type of cooking now than it used to be. Slimmer: The New Mediterranean Way to Lose Weight by Harry Papas was reviewed in a Weekend Cooking post on The Novel Life not too long ago; it might be a more visually appealing cookbook than this one. Also, although the recipes in 125 Best Meatless Mediterranean Dishes seem pretty nutritious and include plenty of low-fat options, the authors probably go heavier on dairy and carbs than a diet book would recommend, as cooks tended to do back in the carefree ’90s.