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Cooking vegetarian at home: Not (just) your mother's Moosewood

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  • Dan Brook
    The Independent Weekly, FEBRUARY 6, 2008 Cooking vegetarian at home: Not (just) your mother s Moosewood BY SHERYL CORNETT
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 7, 2008
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      The Independent Weekly, FEBRUARY 6, 2008

      Cooking vegetarian at home: Not (just) your mother's


      "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." ┬ŚMichael Pollan,
      In Defense of Food

      When Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation reached the public a
      few years ago, rumor had it that a wave of overnight
      conversions to vegetarianism took place. Whether this is a
      passing panic, an enduring movement or even true, is
      debatable, but forms of vegetarianism are ever more
      mainstream. ... Even conscientious carnivores can benefit
      from centering meals on plants (especially in-season,
      locally grown plants) and reducing their meat intake.

      There are as many ways to be a vegetarian as there are
      vegetables, grains and meatless proteins. Take the
      religious approach, for example, as in Zen vegetarianism,
      or Hindu vegan cooking. How about the uniquely Asian or
      original Mediterannean and African (East, West, North and
      South) approach? Or the "locavore" angle, in which we don't
      eat anything that isn't produced within a 100-mile radius.
      Whatever form, a little help is always welcome.

      To newcomers and seasoned cooks alike, vegetarian cooking
      can seem like an overwhelming full-time job... So where to

      Below is a sampling of handbooks and cookbooks to get
      started or help along the way. The choices reflect a mostly
      American core (recipes built from ingredients that are both
      familiar and available), with plenty of global flavors, an
      emphasis on simplicity, and can-do, how-to information. For
      people who like to read cookbooks even before they plunge
      into trying out recipes, all the titles make good reading.
      Some address the history, some the current state of
      vegetarianism. The titles come to me by way of experience
      (as a vegetarian wannabe and via my history of sowing
      bigger gardens than I can maintain) and recommendations
      from expert home cooks who are full-time vegetarians (and
      also have jobs, like the rest of us).

      How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes
      for Great Food by Mark Bittman(John Wiley and Sons, $35)

      My friend Daun, an avid, skilled cook, owner of an enormous
      cookbook library, and a longtime vegetarian, says: "This is
      the best and most significant cookbook I've bought in
      years." I can see why. Bittman, who writes "The Minimalist"
      column for The New York Times, has authored many cookbooks.
      This one is very friendly to beginner cooks and new
      vegetarians. In this 1,000-page collection of 2,000 recipes
      that "just happen to exclude meat, poultry and fish," he
      also gives guidelines for converting to veganism.
      Informative sections on getting started (equipment, terms,
      techniques, ingredients, substitutions) remind me of the
      reference work-with-recipes scope of the Joy of Cooking.
      "Fast Tomato Sauce" can be made fresh in the time it takes
      the pasta water to boil; his suggestions on varying
      vegetables used in quiche injects this mainstay with new
      color and life.

      Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison(Broadway
      Books, $40)

      Madison's books seem wildly popular with semi-vegetarians,
      vegans and everyone in between. The tome is encyclopedic,
      with 1,400 recipes. Her authoritative experience as chef
      (founder of Greens vegetarian restaurant in San Francisco),
      home cook and local produce activist is present throughout
      her writing. See also Madison's The Vegetarian Table:
      America (Chronicle Books, $23). This second small volume is
      great for beginners who are visual learners: Inspiring food
      styling is lushly photographed. Savory "Corn Pudding" makes
      a hearty winter (you froze corn last summer, from the
      farmers' market bumper crop, right?) or summer (right off
      the cob) main dish.

      Laurel's Kitchen: A Handbook to Vegetarian Cookery and
      Nutrition by Laurel Robertson, Carol Flinders, Bronwen
      Godfrey and new edition contributor Brian Ruppenthal (Ten
      Speed Press, $22)

      This classic is philosophical, influenced by Robertson's
      spirituality (Quaker by birth, Hindu by choice) and
      commitment to eating with earth-minded integrity. This
      thorough guide has been in print since the mid-'70s, valued
      not only for its recipes, but for its researched
      nutritional tables (backed up by a Berkeley professor), and
      entries on "Purchasing Whole Foods," "Politics of
      Transition" and "Nutrition for a Meatless Diet." The
      section on introductory bread baking is excellent for

      Simple Vegetarian Pleasures by Jeanne Lemlin
      (HarperCollins, $24)

      In this sunny cookbook, the author streamlines techniques
      and equipment use and pep-talks us through time-saving
      tricks. The layout is reader-friendly: uncluttered pages,
      bold large-type headings to recipes. (One of six Lemlin has
      written; Quick Vegetarian Pleasures is also popular). Her
      signature style is simple, fast and low-fat. The homemade
      vegetable stocks are worth a copy of this book alone, but
      there's much more, including cheerful chapters on

      Skinny Bitch in the Kitch: Kick-Ass Recipes for Hungry
      Girls Who Want to Stop Cooking Crap (and Start Looking
      Hot!) by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin (Running Press,

      A "Generation Y" call to culinary arms? This vegan-recipe
      collection grew out of the surprise bestseller Skinny
      Bitch. As part of their animal rights activism, the authors
      decided to put their message where their mouths are in
      their daily eating habits. Now, they urge their vision on
      others. As the title suggests, the tone is not for the
      easily offended, nor is the information and vision just for
      women. The recipes are heavily dependent on vegan
      "chicken," "burgers" and "sausages."

      But for women (and men) on the run, the slim paperback
      volume, sound advice, and straightforward, mostly easy
      menus and combos could be very liberating.

      Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant and all the Moosewood
      Restaurant Series by Mollie Katzen and the Moosewood
      Collective (Fireside, $24)

      Especially popular for the Sunday brunch world menu focus,
      Katzen has quite a following for her take on all things
      vegetarian. Even people (in my informal survey) who weren't
      yet born when this series was launched claim it as their
      standby. An enduring collection that speaks for itself in
      30-plus years of sales.

      The Vegetarian Epicure I & II (originally Vintage, $19) and
      The New Vegetarian Epicure (Knopf, $20) by Anna Thomas

      This is another set of classics. The attitude throughout
      the Epicure series is one of celebrating life around the
      communal table. The neighborly, often humorous tone and
      anecdotes make this comfort reading. Thomas' recipe for
      cream scones is one of the best American versions of the
      British classic (they should always be eaten fresh-hot from
      the oven) that I've come across, and has graced many a
      rainy afternoon at our house, accompanied by a brown betty
      pot of steaming tea. Her entries on (and recipes for)
      turkey-less traditional holidays are timeless: Serve
      stunning combos of local produce in several relaxed-paced
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