Cookbook Club: The First Mess
I can nearly guarantee you’ll feel inspired to bake up one of Laura Wright’s summery desserts, even if the temperature outside is anything but…
After a steamy summer spent avoiding all contact with the stove, the arrival of fall is a huge sigh of relief from the monotony of cold salads. Don’t get me wrong, I love salad, but three months of varying iterations of the same bowl of greens will leave even the most laid-back chef feeling uninspired. So when the cozy-crisp days of autumn finally decide to show up, I suddenly feel welcomed back in my kitchen again, with warming roots and spices just waiting to be put to work (even if it is just in a fall salad – some things you just can’t escape).
But what to make first? Laura Wright’s new cookbook, The First Mess Cookbook, graciously answers that question with over 100 hearty plant-based recipes to eat throughout the seasons. While the book speaks to what’s in season throughout the year, there’s something definitively fall about Wright’s approach. Perhaps it’s the overall coziness of the recipes, or the richness of the photographs, but I can nearly guarantee you’ll feel inspired to bake up one of her summery desserts even if the temperature outside is anything but.
While the book is entirely vegan, non-vegans (like omnivorous me) are welcome here. The ingredients are simple, healthful, and versatile, and each recipe comes with a handy key to quickly see whether the recipe in question is gluten-free, nut-free, oil free, contains no added sugar, or cane sugar-free (or any combination therein). The First Mess Cookbook feels approachable – these are recipes that could impress the most vegan-skeptic, perfect for those looking to incorporate more plant-based meals into their life, or those looking to impress non-vegan parents and friends (the Fennel and Cherry Tomato Gratin would make an excellent Thanksgiving side dish). Case in point? The recipe below for Roasted Chili Basil Lime Tofu Bowls. I made this last week and even my meat-and-potatoes mother was intrigued. Try it yourself, then be sure to pick up The First Mess Cookbook – you’ll be reaching for it time and time again, long after a new season has arrived.
Roasted Chili Basil Lime Tofu Bowls
1 block extra-firm tofu
2 tsp lime zest
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp grapeseed or other neutral-flavored oil
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp chili flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups broccoli florets
¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 cups cooked brown rice
½ cup fresh sprouts
¼ cup toasted sunflower seeds
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a Baking Sheet with parchment paper and set aside
2. Drain the tofu of its packing liquid and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Cut tofu into 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk the lime zest, lime juice, grapeseed oil, garlic powder, chili flakes, salt, and pepper together until combined.
4. Toss the tofu in the lime and oil mixture to coat. Remove the tofu cubes from the bowl with your hands, reserving as much of the lime and oil mixture as possible. Transfer the tofu cubes to the baking sheet. Spread them out and slide the baking sheet in the oven.
5. Roast the tofu for 15 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, and gently flip the tofu cubes over. Toss the florets in the lime and oil mixture, and transfer them to the baking sheet as well. Slide the baking sheet back into the oven. Roast the tofu and broccoli until all edges are lightly browned, another 20 minutes.
6. Whisk the basil into the remaining lime and oil mixture.
7. Serve the roasted tofu and broccoli hot over bowls of brown rice with sprouts, toasted sunflower seeds, and drizzles of the basil-flecked lime and oil mixture.
Find this recipe and more in The First Mess Cookbook by Laura Wright.
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