More and more we're finding that today's families are mix-diet oriented with those who will eat meat and those who won't. This puts stress on the cook who has to make separate meals for the omnivores, vegetarians, or vegans in their families. Ivy Manning, a Portland-based chef, food writer and blogger, is an enthusiastic omnivore married to a vegetarian. Drawing on her considerable culinary skills Manning has written THE ADAPTABLE FEAST: Satisfying Meals for the Vegetarian Vegans, and Omnivores at Your Table (Sasquatch Books; ISBN 978-1-57061-538-2) which provides many tasty solutions to feeding your mix-diet family, without resorting to separate recipes.
Manning artfully writes her recipes in the standard way found in most cookbooks but with one difference. "At some point in the instructions while you are chopping, stirring and prepping each meal," she writes, "you'll come across a step or steps marked Vegetarian. The instructions that follow (set in bold type) will be specifically for the vegetarian or vegan portion of the recipe so you will know when you are cooking that something should remain meat-free." I discovered this when I decided to make her delicious Picadillo Empanadas for a cocktail party I recently hosted in my home. In step three, the cook sautes soy crumbles, ahead of her instructions for sauteing ground beef. This can be done in the same pan, because the vegetarian/vegan component has been cooked first. You then proceed with the recipe, using the meat portion for part of the empanadas and the soy crumbles for the vegetarian component. Both versions of the empanadas were a big hit with my guests for their authentic flavors.
THE ADAPTABLE FEAST provides information on setting up a mix-diet pantry, a primer on alternative proteins, before proceeding with the recipes, which offer plenty of choices for every dietary need. I liked both versions of the Spaghetti Carbonara (serving 1 vegetarian and three omnivores) which had plenty of thick-cut bacon added at the end for that familiar Carbonara taste, but also with plenty of tasty vegetables for added flavor. In the Stuffed Chicken Breasts (serves 1 to 2 vegetarians and 3 omnivores), portabello mushrooms hold the stuffing for those not eating chicken providing an excellent version for each eater. There's even a Cassoulet for the Whole Crowd (serves 2 vegetarians and four omnivores).
"It's been five years now, and Mr. Tofu and I are married (against some friend's bets) and cooking mixed-diet meals is now second nature to me," says Manning in THE ADAPTABLE FEAST. "My husband appreciates that I no longer plead with him to try a bit of chicken, and I love that I can have my old familiar favorites with a bit of sustainably raised meat in them. Plus, I've become more open-minded and have learned to love tofu, seitan, and other vegetarian proteins. We're living proof that harmony can happen; it just takes an open mind and an adventurous spirit in the kitchen to make it work." Manning's husband, Gregor Torrence, provided the excellent photographs that illustrate the book.
Of course you don't have to be an omnivore or vegetarian to enjoy this lovely collection, and I'll continue to dip into this beautifully crafted cookbook often. Here's the cookbook with the flexibility to deal with everyone's nutritional needs with great recipes for everyday meals as well as feasts fit for finicky company too!
Ivy Manning, who is also the author of The Farm to Table Cookbook: The Art of Eating Locally, is part of a growing pool of outstanding food talent found to be found in Portland these days. In addition to her food articles for the Oregonian, you'll find more of Manning's entertaining and wise food writing at her blog: ivysfeast.blogspot.com.