Cookbook: Straight from the Earth by Myra Goodman & Marea Goodman
Overall Impression: I thoroughly enjoyed the flavorful and healthful vegan recipes in this cookbook.
Myra Goodman is seriously passionate about organic food. She’s the co-founder of Earthbound Farm, and for her fourth cookbook, she’s collaborated with her daughter Marea. Together, they’ve created a collection of recipes influenced by Myra’s love of seasonal produce, Marea’s quirky and worldly vegan palette, and a shared desire to create healthful meals that satisfy full-time vegans and omnivores alike.
Recipes I Tried
- Peanut Butter-Banana Smoothie
- Cumin-Roasted Cauliflower and Carrots
- Early Summer Sauté
- Sesame, Orange, and Hazelnut Cookies
Cooking From Straight from the Earth
Marea Goodmans’ recipes take me straight back to Berkeley in the early 2000s. Still in high school at the time, I spent a lot of my weekends at Lothlorien (I know, I know), the vegetarian co-op where my brother lived for three years.
All of the residents were on a rotating chore schedule, one of which was preparing vegan dinners for the 50-or-so people who ate there every night. Their commercial kitchen was like heaven to me — it was the first place I got to use a Robot-Coupe and a Hobart mixer, not to mention the easy access to copious amounts of nutritional yeast and Earth Balance Buttery Spread. Chopping side-by-side with my brother (who happened to be the co-op’s farmers market buyer), I picked up a lot of great vegan recipes and techniques. Those hippie vegans knew how to cook and eat well.
It’s no accident that Marea Goodman also lived (and cooked) in a vegetarian co-op in Berkeley. And just like my brother, she’s traveled extensively in South America. So it happens that, oddly enough, her quirky mix of influences makes me feel right at home. In the intervening years since my brother was at the co-op, coconut oil seems to have been swapped for all that margarine, but the flavor combinations, liberal spicing, and mixing of different ethnic ingredients all feels uncannily familiar.
I had a lot of fun thumbing through and deciding which recipes to make. For starters, I was drawn to one of the simpler side dishes, Cumin-Roasted Cauliflower and Carrots. An oven temperature of 400ºF meant that the vegetables roasted fairly slowly — my usual M.O. is to set the oven to 425ºF or even 450ºF and just let ‘er rip. I felt impatience creeping in as the cauliflower refused to brown after 45 minutes, but I served it up anyway. Despite the lack of golden-brown caramelization, the generous amounts of cumin and coriander made for a very flavorful dish of vegetables. I will definitely make this again, but I’ll up the oven temperature next time for sure.
Next up was another side dish, the Early Summer Sauté. Though the title implies a very seasonal recipe, this isn’t some hoity-toity, California-centric melange of ramps, sorrel, and fennel pollen that you can only make during two weeks in late May to early June. In fact, I found everything I needed at my local Trader Joe’s. Zucchini, sugar snap peas and asparagus are sautéed with shallots, then tossed with fresh basil and a squeeze of lemon. It’s a great-tasting combination, and all of the green vegetables look so pretty together on the plate, too.
I’m always looking for quick breakfast recipes, and Myra’s Peanut Butter-Banana Smoothie certainly fit the bill — it comes together as fast as you can throw the short list of ingredients into your blender. It’s sweetened with dates, so if you’ve got a less than stellar blender, the smoothie might have a slightly gritty texture.
Having grown up loving the Date Shakes from Hadley’s in Palm Springs, I didn’t mind it one bit. Peanut butter and bananas are also as classic a combo as it gets, and this nutritious and decadent smoothie started off my morning on a tasty note.
Vegan baking is a tricky affair, so I knew I had to try out one of the cookie recipes in this book to see if it’d pass muster. The Sesame Orange Hazelnut Cookies sounded like a good dessert treat, as well as something to munch on as an afternoon pick-me-up snack — they’re calorie dense but nutritious, with generous quantities of sesame seeds and chopped hazelnuts.
The instructions called for rolling the dough into balls, but the dough I made was very crumbly. Rather than rolling, you have to sort of nudge each 1-ounce portion into a ball, then press it back together once you’ve flattened it on the cookie sheet. By the grace of a) a “flax egg” for binding and b) a whole lot of brown sugar, the cookies hold their shape well once they’re baked. They’re crunchy and unique. I loved the burst of flavor from the zest of a whole orange. Next time, I’d make these half as big as the recipe called for — since they’re so sweet, I was on taste bud overload before I could finish a whole cookie.
What Could Be Better
With a couple of the recipes, I had tiny tweaks to make the next time around — I definitely want to roast the cauliflower and carrots at a higher temperature and make the cookies half the recommended size. Occasionally, the instructions for the recipes can be a little bit open for interpretation (What does it mean to chop nuts medium fine? Perhaps if I'd chopped my hazelnuts more finely, my cookies would have stayed together better as I was rolling them?).
If you're looking for vegan recipes that will appease eaters of all stripes, you'll find some very good ones here! This charming mother-daughter duo has come up with solid dishes in every category from soup to nuts, with easy-to-find ingredients to boot. Their quirky Californian kitchen style is at once familiar and inspiring.
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: Straight from the Earth by Myra Goodman & Marea Goodman
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