Even though my husband and I were vegetarians long before my daughter was born, I really didn’t give much thought to what we ate. We were both working outside the home, so most meals were pasta-based, with lots of cheese and a side of bread. Whatever was quick and inexpensive, but between us, I’m shocked neither of us got scurvy (but there’s vitamin C in tomatoes, right?!). At any rate, when my daughter was born, I knew we needed an overhaul of our daily menu. What I’ve come to realize over the years is that eating vegetarian doesn’t mean it should be expensive or cooking it be complicated. And the cookbooks I favour are the ones that use ingredients that I can easily source, which is why I’m drawn to Alexandra Daum‘s new cookbook, Occasionally Eggs.
In the introduction Daum shares her journey — why she created her website and how her cooking evolved from there. She tells us that its about “eating what makes you feel good instead of what other people tell you to eat.”(2) So, in the beginning she ate mostly vegetarian meals (no dairy, no sugar) to feel relief from her eczema/skin issues, bloating, headaches, anxiety, and depression. And, while most of those symptoms are gone thanks to the food she was making and enjoying, her depression has lingered, which is why Daum continues to eat veg-based meals. The recipes within Occasionally Eggs are focused on seasonality as well as regionality. She centers her cooking around fruits, vegetables, and pantry staples such as legumes and grains. Honey and eggs are enjoyed occasionally and, instead of white flour she uses spelt, rye, and buckwheat in her baking. I appreciate that she has added icons to the recipes throughout the book to indicate which recipes are Gluten-Free (GF), Nut-Free (NF), Sugar-Free (SF), Contains Eggs (CE), or are Year-Round (YR), making it easy for home cooks to find recipes that suit their dietary needs or preferences. Daum’s recipes aren’t precious, so that if a recipe looks good to you but doesn’t fit with your way of cooking, she encourages home cooks to adapt recipes to suit their needs and situations.
The recipes are organized by season, with each chapter — Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter — offering recipes that reflect the produce available in those seasons. There are also chapters — Fermented and Staples — that give home cooks recipes that are useful year-round and provide a complement or counterpoint to the seasonal recipes in the earlier chapters. While the recipes in Occasionally Eggs are perfect for my vegetarian family, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book to my non-vegetarian friends or family who are looking to integrate more produce into their diets. Meatless Mondays are a thing, and this book gives lots of inspiration to get home cooks started.
I love how Daum thoughtfully integrates vegetables into her recipes in such delicious ways. For example, her recipe for Spring Pesto Pizza combines spring produce in a way to make this green pizza feel fresh without feeling overwhelming. Getting started — the spelt crust only takes an hour to rise after the initial kneading and the resulting crust is soft and chewy. The pesto is made from basil and spinach, which becomes the base of the pizza. Then the pizza is topped with mushrooms, leeks, zucchini, asparagus, and spinach. I wasn’t sure if my husband and daughter would comment on the cheese-free state of the pizza, but I think it was beautiful and delicious so that the cheese wasn’t even missed.
With my husband and I both home for lunch these days, I am always on the lookout for recipes outside the typical sandwiches or soups I normally serve. A few favourites from Occasionally Eggs that we enjoy are: Persian Herb Salad, Chickpea Apricot Grain Salad, and the Yoga Bowl. The Persian Herb Salad is great to make if you’ve got lots of herbs in the fridge that you’d like to use up — thinly sliced red onion, a mix of chopped herbs, and beans are seasoned and mixed with lemon juice and olive oil. I served this for lunch with some crusty bread which was just the thing. On to the other salads — I usually don’t buy apricots but I was intrigued with the idea of sautéing them to add to a salad. Such a great idea! Sweet and a little tart, not only do they add a little flavour and colour to the Chickpea Apricot Grain Salad, but the texture is nice when combined with the freekeh and chickpeas. This recipe was an excellent reminder that fruit isn’t necessarily a snack but can hold its own on the dinner plate. Such is the case with the Yoga Bowl. Here, strips of mango are plated alongside lentils, roasted curry chickpeas, spears of cucumber, and spinach. Served with a dairy-free version of the South Asian Raita (made with a coconut-based yogurt) and Naan this dish is a very hearty meal.
My daughter and I are the “occasionally eggs” people of the family, so I made a point of making us the recipe for Leek Asparagus Frittata. Not as fussy to make as a quiche, I appreciate the versatility of the frittata. For Daum’s spring-inspired version, she uses leeks and asparagus for the filling and, what I love most about frittata is that it’s a great dish for leftovers. So, I can make a pan for breakfast and then there’s enough for Katie and me to enjoy the next day for lunch.
A recipe that’s become a staple in my pantry is the recipe for Maple-Walnut Granola. I like that it’s a granola made with a short list of ingredients and, that’s lightly sweetened with maple syrup. No dried fruits, just oats, walnuts, and chia seeds, this granola gets baked up, then jarred for later use. While I love granola as a topping for my breakfast oatmeal or yogurt parfaits, my daughter and husband prefer it to snack on. A recipe that can be made, kept on hand and will suit many different dining preferences is a great one to bookmark.
Alexandra Daum’s Occasionally Eggs is full of delicious, seasonally based produce-centric recipes that are suitable for many different dietary needs and preferences. I really appreciate Daum’s approach to whole food cooking and, love that she encourages home cooks to eat the things that make them feel good. The recipes are practical and can be altered to suit your own needs and, since the recipes don’t rely on trendy ingredients that guarantees you’ll either have what you need already stocked in your pantry. By taking fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes, Daum shows how beautiful and delicious veg-based eating can be.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Appetite by Random House for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.