A Review of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
This immensely appealing award-winning book of more than 1,400 recipes takes vegetarian cooking to new heights of elegance and flavor. Author Deborah Madison's love of fresh and beautiful produce and high-quality ingredients comes through on every page of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone; and the recipes for appetizers, soups both refined and homey, inventive salads, pastas, vegetable dishes, luxurious gratins and casseroles, beans, grains, stews, stir-fries, and more, combine those ingredients in wonderful ways. For anyone who's ever wondered how to structure a meal without meat as the centerpiece, this book provides a decisive and delicious answer.
A Cooking Class with Deborah Madison
Anyone with an interest in vegetarian cooking will recognize the name of Deborah Madison. The founding chef of San Francisco's famed Greens restaurant, Madison is the coauthor of the book that first introduced the idea of gourmet vegetarian cooking to food lovers everywhere. With the Greens Cookbook, and in subsequent books like The Savory Way and The Vegetarian Table: America, Madison proved that cooking without meat could be as refined and delicious as any traditional gourmet cuisine that depends on meat and poultry stocks and products. Her new book, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, was six years in the making. It is a tour de force of practical advice, techniques, and more than 1,400 recipes. Madison came to New York cooking school De Gustibus at Macy's to demonstrate recipes from the new book to a packed house of vegetable-loving gourmands.
About Deborah Madison and Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
Although Madison has been a strict vegetarian at many points of her life, she's never been happy with the word itself"It sounds restrictive, and exclusive," she says. She wrote Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone not just for vegetarians but for everyone who loves to eat vegetables and wants to learn to cook them creatively and well. In fact, it's a comprehensive primer for vegetarian cooking, with practical and inspiring advice on basic cooking techniques, on how to combine ingredients and build layers of flavor, and on how to put together vegetarian menus and serve them elegantly.
Madison's philosophy of food, which includes cooking with the best local ingredients at the peak of their season, permeates the book, as does the joy she takes in food and in cooking. Along with vegetarian standbys like soups, pastas, grains, and beans, the more than 1,400 recipes include innovative ideas like main-course salads, vegetable gratins, cobblers, galettes, and tarts, and wonderful stir-fries and vegetable stews. Vegetables themselves, of course, get royal treatmentan A-to-Z vegetable chapter at the heart of the book includes invaluable information for each entry on available varieties, how to choose the best specimens, how to store, how to use, any special handling necessary, what ingredients are good partners, and how quantity translates into serving sizes. Recipes ranging from basic everyday standbys to special-occasion dishes are included as well.
About the Menu
Madison started the class with a simple but delicious recipe for baked and seasoned olives: "There's something about baking olives, or using olive oil in baked goods like an olive oil cake, that just completely alters their flavor, and that's what I like about this dish," she said. "It's clearly olives, but it has a much more vegetal quality about itit's just different, and the smell of it baking and especially when it comes out of the oven is so enticing." We ate the olives along with the next dish, a beautiful omelet filled with chard, herbs, and sweet stewed onions that can be served in slices at room temperature. The dish was introduced to Madison by a good friend who runs a cooking program from her house in Provence. There it's called trouchia, which means trout, "I think because it's what you make if you didn't catch any," Madison said, laughing. Next came a savory barley soup filled with tender root vegetables, with an incredibly flavorful broth made from vegetables and dried mushrooms.
The main dish was a heavenly butternut squash galettebuttery, flaky whole-wheat pastry dough folded roughly up and around a filling of pureed squash scented with sage and roasted garlic. It would make a perfect main course for a vegetarian Thanksgiving.
The galette was served alongside a richly flavored dish of French Le Puy lentils mixed with root vegetables that were sautéed and glazed with red wine, and a simple sweet-and-sour sauté of bright red and yellow pepper strips. Dessert was a cake that was so rich and deeply flavorful, it was difficult to believe that it was so simple to make: Madison combined a tube of good-quality almond paste in the food processor with sugar, then added butter, vanilla, and eggs. The mixture was then folded into flour with a bit of baking soda, poured into a springform pan, and baked. That was itserved with a bit of whipped cream, the aromatic, golden almond cake made an extremely elegant dessert. Throughout the meal, we drank a delicious rosé wine that would prove anyone convinced that all rosés are unsophisticated and sweet dead wrong. The delicately blushed Joseph Phelps 1995 Grenache Rosé was utterly dry but full of rich berry flavors that complemented the earthy vegetable tastes perfectly.
Tips From Deborah Madison
- Taste your olives for salt before you cook with them: "Sometimes they can be extremely saltyif so, just give them a quick rinse," Madison says. "If they're just moderately salty, that's how they should taste, so don't bother rinsing, because you don't want to rinse off the flavor as well."
- Modern kitchen gadgets are great, but sometimes old-fashioned techniques really add flavor and increase the cook's enjoyment: "The mortar and pestle is a great tool," Madison says, for making flavorful pastes of garlic, herbs, or spices like saffron. "It takes less time to clean than a food processor, and the pounding really does the best job of releasing all the flavors and brings out the wonderful aromas."
- Madison loves to cook with rich and flavorful winter squashes, and offers advice on how to manage cutting big ones into pieces: "Use a big, long French knife if you've got one, and try using a little mallet to tap the top of the knife withit helps distribute the force across the knife to help it get into the squash evenly, so you can crack it open."
- Try to be aware of where your food comes from. Madison is very involved in the local farmers' market where she lives in Santa Fe, and often knows exactly how the ingredients she buys have been produced and by whom.
- This is especially important for things like eggs: "A lot of the problems we've had with eggs come from the industrialization of their production," she said. "If you know your source, and know for instance that the eggs you're buying are from free-range hens and are very fresh, you'll feel more confident. I make mayonnaises and mousses and all those things, but I don't do it with just eggs from the supermarket that have been sitting there forever."
- Let beautiful, fresh ingredients inspire you. "Of course I get ideas from other cookbooks, and other cooks and restaurants I go to, and research I've done in libraries, and travel books I've enjoyed reading, but mostly I get my inspiration from ingredients, especially vegetables and what they suggest to me," Madison says. That way you'll always be cooking with the seasons, and you can tap into the pleasure that comes from handling and working with wonderful fresh produce.