If you've always wanted to try cooking a vegetarian meal but were unsure where to start, Everyday Greens (Simon & Schuster, 2003, $40) is for you.
Many of the recipes are so tasty that you will forget you are not eating meat. The cookbook is written by Annie Somerville, chef at Greens, a prominent restaurant in San Francisco that doesn't like to call itself vegetarian. She includes 205 recipes from her restaurant as well as cooking tips on everything from how to toast nuts to why a salad spinner is essential.
The cuisine spans the world. There are complex Indian curries as well as simpler recipes for time-crunched cooks, such as sandwiches and salads that combine everyday foods in innovative ways. Some ingredients, such as tamarind pulp and fermented black beans, are difficult to find, but the recipes still taste good, even with substitutions.
This isn't a book for beginners. It is assumed, for example, that you know the right way to slice onions for the Indian Curry With Tamarind and Chiles.
But this is a perfect cookbook for entertaining. It is filled with delectable appetizers, such as Phyllo Turnover Samosas with Spicy Tomato Jam, which combines spices and brown sugar to produce a tangy, irresistible flavor.
The cookbook gives helpful tips about what to do when making a recipe ahead of time and how to make use of remaining ingredients. A decoder of unusual ingredients, such as daikon radishes, can be found in the back.
The cookbook has no pictures, but its colorful drawings of flowers and vegetables provide a pleasing, Zenlike charm, which corresponds with Somerville's vision of health and harmony.
Phyllo Turnover Samosas
Makes 18 bite-size turnovers
1 pound Yellow Finn potatoes, cut into 1/2 -inch dice, about 3 cups
3 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
salt and pepper
1 large yellow onion, diced, about 2 cups
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 jalapeno chiles, seeded and finely chopped
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
2 teaspoons coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1/2 cup peas, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
9 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed in the refrigerator overnight
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and kept warm
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Toss the potatoes in a baking dish with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper. Roast until just tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven. Lower the heat to 375 degrees.
Heat the remaining oil in a large saute pan and add the onion, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper. Saute over medium heat until the onion begins to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, jalapenos, cumin and coriander, and cook 1 minute more.
Stir in the peas, the potatoes and the water. Lower the heat, cover the pan, and cook until the peas are tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. When cool, season with the lemon juice, cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste.
To assemble the turnovers, lay the phyllo sheets on a clean work surface and cover with a damp cloth.
Lay a single sheet of phyllo out and brush it lightly with butter. Place two more sheets on top and brush with butter. Cut the sheets crosswise in strips.
Place a heaping tablespoon of filling at the end of each strip, and then fold over at a 45-degree angle to form a triangle. As you roll the turnovers, think of folding a flag.
Roll them loosely, so the filling will have room to expand during baking. Keep folding at an angle until you reach the end of the strip, trimming any excess phyllo.
Make the rest of the turnovers in the same way, brush them with butter and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. The turnovers can be refrigerated or frozen at this point for later baking.
Bake until golden and crisp, about 15 minutes.