Joanne Saltzman is described on the cover of her "Amazing Grains, Creating Vegetarian Dishes with Whole Grains" by Joanne Saltzman (H.J. Kramer, Inc., $12.95) as "Founder, School of Natural Cookery." Meredith McCarty, author of "Fresh From a Vegetarian Kitchen" (Turning Point Publications, $14.95) also wrote "American Macrobiotic Cooking." And Linda McCartney has dedicated her "Linda McCartney's Home Cooking," (Arcade Publishing, Little Brown and Company, $29.95) book "to my husband and children, who, like me, love animals and enjoy cooking."
What does that tell you about books available to the vegetarian cook these days? Everybody seems to have an agenda other than good food. Well, not everybody. There are still the wondrous books inspired by the Moosewood Restaurant, the newest of which is "Sundays At Moosewood Restaurant," The Moosewood Collective (Simon and Schuster, $16.95). But for the most part, you get a way of life in vegetarian cookbooks -- sometimes more than you get good food.
"Amazing Grains," for example, gets bogged down in right brain/left brain considerations as the author applies them to cooking. "Look at the food you are considering working with," Saltzman urges. "Be willing for your left brain to stop asking what is possible ... . Stare at the food until it no longer is in focus and becomes a blur." "Grains" also has the cook trusting inner knowledge to visualize a dish, and suggests a daunting list of foods to keep on hand that includes buckwheat groats, millet, teff, amaranth, umebshi, miso, nut milk, kombar sea vegetables, a variety of oils, nuts, seeds and beans, and, yes, vegetables. Once out of philosophy and often hard-to-obtain ingredients, the book offers low-fat, high-fiber recipes emphasizing whole grains and vegetables that are tasty and varied but time-consuming.
The route taken in "Fresh From a Vegetarian Kitchen" is also the low-fat, high-fiber, no-eggs, no-dairy-products approach, sometimes applying it to old standards like quiche, lasagna and souffle's. The magic ingredient in all of these, of course, is tofu. And if you are a vegetarian, it is a welcome one. But if you're looking for good vegetarian dishes to serve as part of your total diet, neither of these are the books for you.
Linda McCartney's book comes closer to that goal. The inclusion of cheese and eggs in the ingredients makes for higher cholesterol, of course, but whoever said vegetarian cookbooks had to toe the low-fat line? Her recipes, as a result, are meatless, but taste more familiar and welcoming -- that is the ones that don't rely on TVP (textured vegetable protein) or have the understandable British bias that comes from the author's having lived her adult life in England.
So, why is it that the folks at Moosewood seem to stand alone in taking a less doctrinaire, one might even say joyous, approach to food? Perhaps because they have been serving paying customers since 1973. In any case, this is the book where the recipes jump off the page, awaiting being eaten by both orthodox vegetarians and people who just plain like good food. The emphasis in this book is on ethnic and regional recipes; hence, the inclusion of delicacies like Mexican Hot Chocolate and Sesame Noodles. And be warned: ingredients verbotten by the faithful -- like cream cheese, butter, virtually all the hard cheeses, maple syrup, sour cream -- are evident here. For that matter, so is fish.
All in all, a good year for purists, but not a great one for vegetables.
MEXICAN HOT CHOCOLATE (4 servings)
This recipe is for chocolate lovers. It's like drinking a candy bar!
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Melt the chocolate on the top of a double boiler. In a separate pot, heat the milk and the cream on low heat until hot but not boiling. When the milk is hot, slowly add a little bit of it until you have a thin paste. Then stir in the rest of the milk and cream, the sugar and the cinnamon.
In a bowl beat the egg and the vanilla with a rotary beater. Add a very little of the hot chocolate to the egg (you don't want to "fry" the egg in the hot chocolate) and then stir the egg mixture into the hot chocolate. With the double boiler still on low heat, beat the chocolate with a rotary beater for about 3 minutes. Serve immediately.
Per serving: 442 calories, 8 gm protein, 30 gm carbohydrates, 35 gm fat, 21 gm saturated fat, 167 mg cholesterol, 100 mg sodium.
From "Sundays At Moosewood Restaurant," by The Moosewood Collective (Simon and Schuster, $16.95) GHIVETCH CASSEROLE (4 servings)
A friend gave me this recipe. It should be served with rice or pasta.
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
5 ounces acorn squash, cubed
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 1/2 cups mushrooms, halved if large
1 cup zucchini, sliced
1/2 medium cauliflower, or 1 small cauliflower, broken into florets
1 small eggplant, cubed
1 green bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
2 potatoes, diced
1 cup broad beans or sweet corn
1 cup peas or green beans
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cup vegetable stock
16-ounce can tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato pure'e (optional)
1 teaspoon dill, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat the oil in a very large pan and saute' the onion and garlic for 3 to 4 minutes. Then add the remaining vegetables and mix well. Cook, covered tightly, for 5 minutes to bring out the flavor.
Add the remaining ingredients to the vegetables and pour the mixture into a large casserole dish. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 1 hour, stirring the casserole twice during that time. Season to taste.
Per serving: 335 calories, 9 gm protein, 55 gm carbohydrates, 11 gm fat, 2 gm saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 265 mg sodium.
"Linda McCartney's Home Cooking," (Arcade Publishing, Little Brown and Company, $29.95)