FOOD FROM THE garden is in a class by itself. But too often, good, green things are pushed to the side of the plate to serve as understudies to the main course. In "The Savory Way" (Bantam 1990, $22.95), Deborah Madison turns vegetables into long-overdue stars. The author knows her veggies, having created Greens, a San Francisco vegetarian restaurant that was the toast of the '80s and inspired her first cookbook full of show-stopping, restaurant style vegetarian dishes. Now Madison has left Greens and moved on to a simpler lifestyle of writing and cooking in Arizona. "The Savory Way" is a homier book than "The Greens Cookbook." You don't need to search for zucchini
blossoms or other out-of-the-way ingredients. What's fresh at the farmers' market or supermarket will do.
Madison writes of her new style of dining, "Instead of an elaborate meal, I'll make a single dish, supplement it with a cheese and a good bread, plus a condiment or two from my storehouse and add a dessert...people are welcoming simplicity, recognizing that they really aren't going to make a four-course meal on a regular basis, even for friends, and it's the character of the food that really counts."
Sad, canned vegetables served up with salt and a butter pat wilnot do. Character means a Corn and Summer Squash Chowder seasoned with mint, cilantro and cinnamon, made with a base of milk rather than cream. Parsley, usually just written off as garnish, adds bite to an Artichoke and Parsley Frittata. Creamy mixtures of rice, cheese and vegetables such as Rice with Black Pepper Sauce and Yellow Squash and Rice Tian make satisfying and stylish dinners.