Creative Vegetarian Cooking

4 luscious vegetarian dishes, Leslie created for Nutiva

I’ve always been crazy about the great taste and wholesome goodness of organically grown foods. To me, there is nothing more appealing and delicious than fresh, locally grown vegetables and fruits. And with Mother Nature as my ever-present guide, it’s easy to go wild in the kitchen, adapting to the bounty of the season while conjuring up new and exciting dishes, as well as reinventing old family favorites.

For example, yesterday I made a (winter) curried coconut vegetable soup with red lentils, butternut squash, onions and yams. For a variation you could swap a different lentil or use chick peas. Try a different combination of vegetables: carrots, potatoes, and cauliflower. Same with the spices, use an organic curry powder, or cook the lentils with spices: turmeric, cinnamon sticks, cumin, coriander, cayenne, fenugreek, and when the lentils and veggies are soft, chop up and add a fresh bunch of cilantro for color and flavor. I love cilantro. How about you? Another variation could be make the soup without a legume. As the seasons change, you can change the combination of vegetables and herbs, too. To me, cooking is a creative sport.

Sharing the skills and excitement of creative vegetarian cooking with you is my greatest wish. And whether you are a novice or experienced cook, I would love to help you stretch your culinary capabilities and show you just how easy, fun, and deliciously satisfying this cooking style can be. Improvise! Come to one of my cooking classes and I’ll show you how to adjust recipes according to the seasonal availability of ingredients, and venture beyond standard organic beans, grains, and vegetables to incorporate foods like wild greens and roots, edible flowers, and ancient grains into your meals.

Believe me, there isn’t a recipe I prepare that is etched in stone. And although you can make the dishes in my cookbooks as presented, they really work. I encourage you in my classes to use my recipes as springboards for creating your own unique variations. Rely on your instincts and imagination to make use of whatever ingredients are at hand or in season. Never be afraid to add, omit, alter, or substitute. Always, taste before serving. Adjust the seasonings, if you like,

Creative vegetarian cooking can be a means of self expression.

Leslie teaching cooking at Esalen

Photos by Tracey Eller

Excerpted and adapted from Leslie Cerier’s cookbook, Going Wild in the Kitchen

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