The Essential Plant-Based Pantry. Photo by Sarah Jane Sanders from The Essential Plant-Based Pantry by Maggie Green. Provided courtesy of Indiana University Press.

The Essential Plant-Based Pantry. Photo by Sarah Jane Sanders from The Essential Plant-Based Pantry by Maggie Green. Provided courtesy of Indiana University Press.

Maggie Green, a Louisville-based chef and dietitian who has written several cookbooks of her own, has had the distinction of editing that trusted American classic The Joy of Cooking. But when she cooks at home, she wings it: “Without ever referencing a cookbook or printed recipes, I can create a menu for the week, write a grocery list . . . and shop for ingredients.” The secret, she says, is her well-stocked pantry.

Green generously shares her secret in the new IU Press release The Essential Plant-Based Pantry (and its companion book, The Essential Pantry). The recipes are not strictly vegan: Green uses honey, for example. Rather than trying to persuade you to adopt a particular diet, she aims, as her subtitle explains, to teach you how to “streamline your ingredients and simplify your meals.”
Her recipes rely on about 50 pantry staples supplemented by fresh produce. She begins with a shopping list that includes dry herbs and spices as well as basics like rice, beans, and nuts. She expands on those with canned, frozen, and refrigerated goods like capers, vegetable broth, tofu, and corn. For the brand-new cook, she even includes a list of valuable kitchen equipment.

Next, Green presents clearly written, easy-to-follow recipes ranging from sips and small plates, soups and salads (like the refreshing blueberry lemon quinoa salad below) all the way on to suppers and savory bowls. She holds the reader’s hand so reassuringly throughout the meal prep that one (almost) doesn’t mind that she forgot to include any dessert recipes.

Red Bean and Mushroom Jambalaya (serves 6)
• 1/2 cup brown rice
• 1 cup water
• 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
• 1 green or red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
• 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
• 3 ribs celery, chopped
• 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
• 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
• 1 teaspoon dried thyme
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• One 15-ounce can red beans, drained
• One 15-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
• 2 cups vegetable broth
• Hot sauce

Combine the uncooked rice and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir, cover, and reduce the heat to low and let cook for 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit for 5 minutes before opening the pan. Fluff with a fork.
In a skillet, brown the all-purpose flour over medium-low heat. Stir the flour frequently for about 25 minutes to turn the flour a shade the color of peanut butter. As soon as the flour has reached this color, remove it from the skillet into a bowl to stop the cooking and prevent burning. The flour is now ready for use in the jambalaya.

Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, green pepper, celery, and garlic. Cook for about 8 minutes until the onion and other vegetables are softened. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 6 minutes until the mushrooms release their juice. Stir in the paprika, thyme, salt, and cayenne pepper to coat all the vegetables. Add the red beans and tomatoes. Stir and heat for about 5 minutes.

Whisk the vegetable broth into the browned flour until it forms a smooth paste. Pour the flour paste into the bean and mushroom mixture. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Add the cooked brown rice and serve with hot sauce.

Quinoa Salad

Quinoa Salad

Blueberry Lemon Quinoa Salad —Gluten Free (serves 4)

For best results, toss the salad with the vinaigrette just before serving. One cup of any cooked grain, such as brown rice, can be used in place of the quinoa.

• 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
• 1 cup water
• 1 cup fresh blueberries
• 2 cups baby arugula
• 2 tablespoons lemon juice (from about 1 lemon)
• 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
• 1 tablespoon honey
• 4 tablespoons olive oil
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

To prepare quinoa, place dry/uncooked quinoa in a fine mesh strainer. Rinse under cold water for 1 minute to remove a coating on the quinoa that can cause stomach upset or bitterness.
Place the rinsed quinoa in a small saucepan and add 1 cup water. Over medium heat, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered until the water is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cover. Let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and move to a plate to cool.
Meanwhile, wash the blueberries and thinly slice the arugula. 
In a serving bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, honey, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Gently fold into the cooled quinoa, blueberries, and arugula.


Eggplant Dip

Eggplant Dip

Smoky Eggplant Dip (makes about 2 cups)

1 large globe eggplant, washed
1/4 cup chopped roasted red pepper
1/4 cup tahini
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Optional: chopped fresh parsley

Place a small baking rack over the gas flame of a stove or preheat a grill to medium high. Wash and dry the eggplant. Place the eggplant over the gas flame. Use a pair of tongs to turn the eggplant periodically during cooking until the eggplant is soft on the inside and blackened on the outside. This takes about 20 to 25 minutes depending on the size of the eggplant.

Move the eggplant to a bowl and cover with foil. Set aside until cool enough to be handled without burning your fingers, about 15 minutes. The eggplant will continue cooking and will be even softer and mushier when the foil is removed.

Meanwhile, place the red pepper, tahini, garlic powder, olive oil, red wine vinegar, smoked paprika, salt, and red pepper flakes in a bowl and mix well.

Cut the eggplant open, scoop out the eggplant pulp, and put it into the bowl with the other ingredients. Mix well, stirring vigorously until the dip is smooth with chunks of red pepper and eggplant. The eggplant may remain just a little stringy, but the dip should be creamy in consistency. Serve warm or refrigerate and serve at a later time.

Cincinnati Lentil Chili

Cincinnati Lentil Chili

Cincinnati Lentil Chili (serves 6)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
One 15-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes with their juice
One 15-ounce can tomato sauce
5 cups water
3/4 cups lentils
One 15-ounce can red beans, drained, or 1 1/2 cups cooked red beans
12 ounces spaghetti

Optional toppings:
Frank’s RedHot sauce
chopped avocado
finely diced onion

In a soup pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook for about 6 minutes or until starting to brown. Add the garlic, brown sugar, cumin, smoked paprika, cocoa powder, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and salt. Cook for about 1 minute until the garlic is softened and fragrant. Add the tomato, tomato sauce, water, lentils, and red beans. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, over low heat for about 55 minutes or until the lentils are soft and the chili thickened.

Cook spaghetti in a large pot of boiling water. Drain and rinse with hot water.

Serve the chili sauce over hot cooked spaghetti topped with optional ingredients.

Mac and No Cheese

Mac and No Cheese

Mac and No Cheese (serves 6)

1 cup raw cashews
2 cups water, plus more for soaking
2 cups rotini or other twirly pasta
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Place raw cashews in a glass or other heat-proof bowl. Cover with 1 inch of hot water. Cover the bowl and soak overnight or at least 8 hours. This softens the cashews and makes them easy to blend.

After the cashews have soaked, proceed with cooking the pasta and making the sauce.

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the rotini for about 9 to 10 minutes or until just tender. Drain in a colander, rinse with hot water, and return to the pan. Some may argue that rinsing the pasta removes the starch from the pasta surface—in this case, that’s true and desirable. If not rinsed, it may be hard to mix in the cashew cream sauce.

To make the cashew cream, drain the cashew soaking water. Using a blender, mix the cashews and 2 cups water on high speed for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and process again until smooth and creamy. Add the mustard, turmeric, onion powder, cayenne pepper, and salt. Process again to mix well. Add the sauce to the pasta and stir to coat well. Turn the heat to medium-low to gently heat the pasta and the sauce.

Ginger Coconut Carrot Soup—Gluten Free (makes about 6 cups)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 carrots, peeled and sliced (about 4 cups carrot slices)
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger root or ginger paste or 1 1/2 teaspoons powdered ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon honey
3 cups vegetable broth
One 13 1/2 ounce can regular or lite coconut milk

In a saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes until lightly browned. Stir in the garlic and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 more minutes until the carrots start to soften and turn brown. Add the ginger, salt, and cayenne pepper. Salt well to coat the carrots in the spices. Add the honey, vegetable broth, and coconut milk. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes until the carrots are soft.

With caution due to the heat of the soup, use a blender or immersion blender to purée the soup until smooth. Serve hot. Garnish with thinly sliced green onion tops and a drizzle of honey if desired.

Ginger Sesame Vinaigrette (makes about 1/3 cup)

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger root or ginger paste
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon reduced-sodium soy sauce or tamari
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk the ingredients together until smooth.