Author: Kim O’Donnel
Publisher: Lifelong Books / Da Capo Press
Buy on Amazon.com
This a rare cookbook that succeeds in what it sets out to do: offer up a wide variety of vegetarian recipes that would please your most bloodthirsty carnivore. The recipes chosen are for dishes that truly satisfy hungry appetites, like risotto, ratatouille, stuffed peppers, falafel, curries, lasagna, and chili. There are many flavors for different tastes – I dislike veg cookbooks that focus only on vegetables or starches or meat substitutes. This one has a nice mix of different key ingredients, organized by season.
Don’t think that the spring/summer seasons only have light fare – all of these recipes are definitely filling. A great feat of the book is that it leans toward healthy and vegan without recipes that taste “healthy and vegan.” Some recipes include cheese (including comfort-food favorites grilled cheese and mac n’ cheese), but there aren’t many calls for cream or milk; even the potato-leek-parsley soup doesn’t have dairy. Eggs are also uncommon. The dishes, though, are for the most part very rich and hearty. There are no mamby-pamby salads here – try a West Indian-style channa wrap instead.
I like the author’s writing style and her inclusion of tips within the instructions. From the Romesco Sauce recipe: “Use the pulse button to ensure that mixture does not overpuree; you want some texture…” “If the mixture is too thick, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water. The mixture should be thick but also have a slightly liquidy quality.” Another example is the Tofu Barbecue recipe, which comes with extremely helpful notes without which the cook would be lost. It is these kinds of intros, notes, and asides that help casual cooks know how the food should look and taste each step of the way.
From this book, I made Susan’s Eggplant Stack, which was yummy, and the Jig-Inducing Falafel Burgers, which came out perfect. (The latter calls for first pan frying the falafel patties, and then finishing them off in the oven. That avoided the mealy, crumbly texture of baked falafel or the oiliness of deep fried). This is a great cookbook for vegetarians and meat eaters alike, particularly those without much experience in the kitchen.