Vegetarian Nights: Fresh from Hawaii by Bonnie Mandoe is one of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks. The recipes are inventive and full of interesting flavor combinations. Indonesian Tempeh, Banana Chutney, and Green Chile Pesto are just a few examples. Mandoe’s recipes often bring together Hawaiian and East Asian ingredients with more commonplace ingredients.
Mandoe dedicates the beginning of the book to explaining various cooking techniques, and writes about her own considerations and inspirations surrounding her food. She describes how the weather and your mood can affect your cooking. This section of the book really helps give readers a foundation for cooking.
The recipes are divided into the following categories: Soups, Salads, Salad Dressings, Dips & Condiments, Sauces, Hot Pasta, About Rice and the Other Whole Grains, Vegetables, Entrees, Desserts, Baking Bread, and Breakfast. The variety in these categories is amazing! The salad section includes recipes for French Salad, Kalamata Coleslaw, and Curried Rice Salad.
It’s clear to me that Mandoe cares about building flavors. Her recipes all have a unique flavor profile, yet are still connected somehow. She writes extensively about the intricacies of different seeds and green herbs, and how they can enhance a dish.
Perhaps my favorite part of this book is the Salad Dressings section. I usually wouldn’t say that about a cookbook (salad dressings, really?), but Mandoe’s are so unique and so tasty that I have to. The Olympian Dressing is made by blending extra-virgin olive oil, water, tofu, soy sauce, lemon juice, garlic, and kalamata olives. I never would have thought to blend olives into a dressing.
The Sauces section includes Tahini-Miso, Ten-Minute Mushroom Stroganoff, and Chinese Brown Sauce. The variety in this book is a major highlight for me. Plus, none of these recipes are that difficult. A lot of the dressings and sauces are made in a blender.
The variety of vegetarian recipes here is so special. Each entree is filled with unique proteins. The Spinach Lasagna has TVP (textured vegetable protein, also a primary ingredient in the Costco emergency food kit) hidden in the sauce. The Mushroom Burger recipe has mushrooms, walnuts, and brown rice. There’s even a recipe for Tofu Mock Chicken and Gravy.
The desserts in this cookbook are just as inventive as the other recipes. There’s even a Cottage Cheese Frosting (though I’m a little skeptical of it).
My favorite recipe that I’ve made from Vegetarian Nights is the Chile Relleno Cornbread. It’s essentially a basic buttermilk cornbread recipe, with cheese stuffed whole green chilies baked on top! It was gone pretty quickly after I made it.
Vegetarian Nights: Fresh from Hawaii is one of the most unique cookbooks I have. These are recipes I haven’t really seen anywhere else. They are healthy, full of flavor, and just a lot more interesting than some vegetarian recipes I find. Sadly, this cookbook is out of print. I found mine at Goodwill, but there are plenty of used copies on Amazon!