I read cookbooks like novels; don’t you? All curled up in bed, thumbing through the pages and pages of photographs, devouring the recipes, making mental notes of the location and ingredients of each one so I can quickly flip to it for a quick dinner. Nothing. Better.
Nearly every cookbook, restaurant, food blog, etc., has vegetarian options these days for the happily growing veggie trend. I am going to review my favorite *exclusively* vegetarian cookbooks in hopes of helping you find just the right one that will help you add more meatless dishes to your weekly meal plans. If you have any vegetarian cookbooks you love, let me know!–I am always up for a new cookbook!
Classic Vegetarian Cooking, by Linda Fraser. I found this on a clearance shelf at Barnes & Noble so many years ago I can’t even remember how long I’ve had it. I’ve used its recipes so many times, and dog-eared the pages so often that I’ve taped its weight in binding and pages. The Introduction is beautifully laid out: Defining produce and products, Stocking your pantry, Equipment, Basic Techniques, and Entertaining Menu Ideas. The Recipes range from Soups and Appetizers and Dips to Breakfast to Grains, Pastas, Salads, and don’t forget the Desserts, Baked Goods, and Breads. I especially love that each recipe includes a photo of all the ingredients, step-by-step photos, and a final plated photo. If I can see all the ingredients cleanly and simply laid out, I know I can make the recipe. And photos in a cookbook are a must-have. A cookbook without photos is almost a deal-breaker. Almost.
Forks Over Knives, by Del Sroufe. This is kind of the Bible of plant-based eating: “the Forks Over Knives philosophy is not about what you can’t eat, but what you can.” The documentary is well worth your time as an introduction to the reasoning and philosophy behind plant-based eating. Philosophy aside, this cookbook has a wonderful Introduction: Tips and Techniques for Shopping, Prepping, and Cooking; Ingredient Definition; Ingredient Labels, etc. This cookbook is so full of easy recipes you will never get tired of them–whole grains, beans, pastas, breakfast items, bakery treats, etc. etc. The ingredients are whole and fresh and accessible, you will be able to find them anytime anywhere. There is an occasional “super-veg” ingredient, like nutritional yeast, but it’s optional, and if omitted doesn’t change the integrity of the recipe. This book has just a handful of photos in the middle…Remember how I said no photos was almost a deal-breaker? Well. You still have to have this one.
Meatless, from the Kitchens of Martha Stewart Living. I love this cookbook. It delivers what it promises: “Easy, delicious meals that will satisfy everyone–vegetarians, flexitarians, and meat lovers alike.” It is divided easily into main dish categories: Small Plates to Mix and Match; Stovetop Suppers; Soups, Stews, and Chili; Casseroles; Substantial Salads; etc., etc. The recipes are also tagged as V (vegan), G (gluten-free), and or S (special-diet–no dairy, wheat, soy, or nuts), so you can easily find something for everyone. The back of the cookbook also includes a great “Vegetarian Pantry” section: What ingredients you need, how to store them, how to add them to recipes, etc.; How-To Basics: Toasting and Roasting, Basic Recipes (Polenta, Béchamel Sauce, Tomato Sauce, etc.), a Grain-Cooking Chart; Suggested Menus. And every recipe is beautifully photographed.
Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, from the Moosewood Collective. My mom had one or two of the Moosewood Cookbooks I remember thumbing through growing up. I’m just going to say this first thing to get it off my chest: this book has no photos. Not a single one. However…Moosewood cookbooks belong in every kitchen: they all have simple and delicious vegetarian/vegan/fish recipes that call for well-known and accessible ingredients (so you don’t have to spend oodles of money totally restocking a new “veg-pantry”) . As quoted from the back cover, “Although many people think that cooking without meat means spending more time in the kitchen, the cooks at the world-renowned Moosewood Restaurant know this isn’t so….[there are] over 150 carefully honed and tested recipes calling for the best ingredients, accompanied by time-saving tips and planning suggestions, [that] add up to a delicious whole-foods cuisine that is versatile and healthful and can be prepared with a minimum of effort.” Each recipe includes Preparation Time, Total Time, Servings, Menu Suggestions, and a Nutritional Analysis. Thumbing through the cookbook just now, I found only 3 recipes that took longer than 35 minutes to make: Black Bean Soup, Vegetable Stifado Stew, and Lemon Date Bars (investing the most time at 45 minutes). And talk about snuggling under the covers with a good book!–The back of this cookbook has very a detailed and descriptive Pantry List, Guide to Ingredients, and Preparation and Technique How-To that read like a comforting novel.
Moosewood Restaurant Favorites, from the Moosewood Collective. Of all the moosewood Cookbooks, I’d say this is the One to have on your shelf. It’s “The 250 Most-Requested Naturally Delicious Recipes from One of America’s Best-Loved Restaurants.” The Moosewood Restaurant is located in Ithaca, New York, and first opened its doors about 40 years ago. Bon Appetit Magazine said Moosewood Restaurant is “One of the 13 most influential and revolutionary restaurants of the 20th Century…Moosewood changed American dining forever.” The Moosewood collective cooks and chefs created their ever-changing menu based on seasonable produce and regional cuisines, introducing a plant-based/vegetarian diet, fresh and seasonal eating, and eating whole foods at a time when vegetarianism was considered a hippie and “far-out” lifestyle (and not the cool kind of “far-out”), and when grocery stores were not as well-stocked as they are today. In a fast-food and convenience-centered world, it is so accessible and convenient to be plant-based today, more than ever before. All those fresh and seasonal and whole ingredients make up the recipes in this cookbook. In my opinion, Moosewood gets all the credit for the delicious beginnings of the plant-based lifestyle.
The Plant Pure Nation Cookbook, by Kim Campbell. This book is strictly vegan. The writers and producers of Forks Over Knives have put out another documentary film, PlantPure Nation. This was released just this summer (2015), and “captures the inspiring story of how the message of plant-based nutrition impacted a small town in the rural South and an effort to bring about historic political change.” Kim Campbell is the wife of Nelson Campbell and the daughter-in-law of Dr. T. Colin Campbell, coauthor of The China Study. Now, there are many opposing opinions out there on The China Study, eating raw, eating vegan, eating plant-based. I will openly admit I have not read all of them. A few, but not all. I like this cookbook for its colorful photos, veggie-based meal ideas, and really informative PlantPure write-ups. I will say again, however, that personally, I try to avoid extremism–never eat this, only eat that. I try to eat whole, fresh, mostly meatless foods–and using this cookbook supports the majority of the meals we eat.