Refresh by Ruth Tal looked very promising when I took it off the shelf at the library. It’s a restaurant based cookbook from the Fresh Restaurants in Toronto, Canada. It has a lot of good ideas in it, but it also has a lot of recipes with difficult ingredients to track down. Unless you have access to a really well-stocked natural foods market, you may have the same difficulties that I did locating components such as durum flour, Engevita, lemongrass, Chywanprash, Spirutein, and the large number of herbal extracts – Royal Jelly, Osha root, etcetera – that these recipes require. Because I didn’t have access to these more obscure ingredients, this severely limited which recipes I could try out of this cookbook.
The pictured Cuban chickpea and potato soup was an easy enough recipe. The results were delicious and there was enough soup to keep me fed for days. The soup is made from onions, celery, garlic, red bell peppers, cumin, fennel, thyme, paprika, cayenne pepper, veggie stock, potatoes, chickpeas, and lemon juice. It was simple enough to put it all together and it made a quite satisfying meal (or 5 meals…)
I had less luck putting together other dishes from the book. There are a wealth of smoothie recipes in the book, which I wanted to try, but had difficulty tracking down the required contents. I also tried to make a recipe called Dragon Rice Bowl, but it required a sub-recipe for Miso gravy which I absolutely failed at making when my substitutions for certain ingredients just tasted freakin’ awful. Spit it out and pour it down the drain awful. I ended up just eating the rice and veggies from the rice bowl recipe with plain soy sauce and rice vinegar. My pathetic failed attempt is not pictured.
Overall, my sense of frustration with finding ingredients and the failed-at-substituting attempt made me not love this cookbook. If Nature Mart or Erewhon were not special trips for me, I might have like it better.
Verdict: Shelve it.
Exceptions go to those who have super awesome well-stocked natural markets in their neighborhoods – those people should definitely check it out.