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Vegetarians in Paradise
Vegetarian Reading



Each issue the VIP birds will endeavor to soar to the highest literary peak to peck out the most unique, informative, and accomplished book that contributes to vegetarian enlightenment. In this issue we review an award-winning cookbook by prolific artist/author Mollie Katzen.



Vegetable Heaven

By Mollie Katzen

Hyperion, 1997

19.95



Mollie Katzen, a seasoned cookbook author, is a woman whose talents flow as easily from the artist's brush as they do from the sizzling saute pan. If you find yourself thumbing through vegetarian cookbooks at your favorite bookstore, you will likely notice the author's beautiful vegetable illustrations that appear throughout Vegetable Heaven.It's attractive graphic design in soft pastels is as fresh as the vegetables Mollie vividly describes in her recipes.

Vegetable Heaven Vegetable Heavenhas won the prestigious International Cookbook Revue Award for the best vegetarian cookbook of 1997 and was equally impressive as a finalist in the Julia Child Cookbook Award presented by the International Association of Culinary Professionals.

In her introduction, Mollie tells us that in more recent years she has evolved away from the traditional old model center-of-the-plate main entree surrounded by side dishes. Instead, she focuses on two or three side-by-side, lighter dishes that are easier to prepare and complement each other. This author is well aware of the time constraints of today's busy households where multi-tasking is common.

Before bringing the reader into the kitchen, Mollie offers a brief chapter to share some of her cooking tips for Roasted Garlic Paste, Vegetable Bouillon, and peeling and seeding tomatoes. She also includes measurement conversions of ingredients that make the book useful in a metric kitchen as well.

Lavender colored pages begin with "Openers, Cleansers and Sparklers," appetizers and salads that truly sparkle with originality. Many of the author's recipes are drawn from international cuisines and combine bold tasting vegetables with sweet fruits and zesty seasonings like chiles and herbs.

As is our practice in reviewing cookbooks, we actually prepare some of the dishes to determine the ease or complexity of preparation, whether the recipes are clearly written, and finally, to commit ourselves to the taste test.

For a starter that awakens the taste buds, we prepared the Vietnamese Salad Rolls with Peanut-Chile Dressing and Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce. This is food you actually get your hands on. We were literally in vegetable heaven! There were many other temptations in this section such as the Avocado Pear Sorbet and the Kung Pao Lettuce Cups.

With so many soup choices we were challenged to select only one. We settled on the Tunisian Tomato Soup. Imagine the aroma of chick peas and lentils simmering away with a cinnamon stick embedded in its midst! This outstanding soup with its blend of vegetables, legumes, and herbs, gets the perfect finishing touch of chopped fresh mint and a few currants. We were dining like royalty!

The "Side-by-Side" dishes in the blue section are equally innovative compositions of beans, grains, vegetables and superb seasonings. Soft Lentils with Roasted Tomatoes and Carmelized Onions, Santa Fe Stew, and Chickpea and Sweet Potato Koftas were some of the dishes that called to us for their adventuresome flavor blends.

Although the book is vegetarian, we noted that clearly half the recipes were vegan. Vegans could find substitutes for sugar or honey and could eliminate the optional sprinkle of cheese on the top.

Prefacing Mollie's vegetable dishes is an excellent primer on roasting vegetables with ease. Ever roast a parsnip or broccoli? Mollie's advice is a breeze to follow.

"Tidy Little Main Dishes" in the bright yellow section maintain innovative, zesty combinations, most employing eggs and dairy products to lend heartiness to the dish.

Katzen "Never a Bland Moment," is one of the highlights of the book where Mollie's flair for assertive seasoning comes into the spotlight. Here are found the secrets that heighten the enjoyment of a meal, condiments and sauces. We fondly recall enjoying a Middle Eastern dip called Muhammara which is eaten with pita. We were delighted to see Mollie's adaptation in her Red Pepper and Walnut Paste. It was easy to prepare and, oh, so easy to eat.

For dessert lovers the chapter on grand finales is called "Too Many Desserts" and is one of the largest sections of the book. Get out the butter and the eggs, roll up your sleeves, and resign yourself to the challenging task of choosing which sweet extravaganza you'll plunge into first. There aren't many choices for vegans here, but vegetarians will be in ecstasy.

Compiled from recipes in the book are 26 menus for every occasion from "Supper in the Park" to "Rainy Day Special." This feature is a nice touch for new vegetarians just learning how to combine dishes for a wholesome vegetarian meal.

Top of the list for a good cookbook is a top notch index to help the reader easily locate recipes by name as well as main ingredient. Our praise goes to Vegetable Heavenfor an extensive, well organized index.

Vegetable Heavenhas it all: recipes with flair and flavor you'll love, good clear, simple-to-follow directions, and graphic beauty for visual pleasure. Whether you are a vegetarian just coming on board or an old hand at veggie cooking, this is a book that will stimulate your creative side and bring pleasure to your dining table. Need a gift for someone who enjoys cooking? Vegetarian or not, many cooks will appreciate this book from an author whose talents bring pleasure to lovers of good food and original art.

Other books by Mollie Katzen include The Moosewood Cookbook, The Enchanted Broccoli Forrest, Still Life with Menu,and
Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes.


Click here for past book reviews


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