Bittman offers user-friendly, one-stop guide for vegetarians


December 12, 2007|By Erin Mendell | Erin Mendell,Sun reporter

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food

By Mark Bittman

Wiley / 2007 / $35

With How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, New York Times columnist Mark Bittman follows up on his book How to Cook Everything with another user-friendly and comprehensive cookbook, this time without meat. How to Cook Everything Vegetarian offers lessons and tips that both the kitchen novice and the experienced cook can learn from.

Some of Bittman's recipes, especially a pasta dish prepared like risotto, already have become favorites of mine.

A number of the more than 2,000 recipes are vegan (marked with a handy "V"), and for many that contain animal products, Bittman offers a vegan variation.

The book is billed as "The Ultimate One-Stop Vegetarian Cookbook," and it's comprehensive enough to live up to that title.

Each chapter contains an introduction to the type of food - for instance, salads, soups or grains - and basic information and tips on how to prepare the dishes. It's a handy reference source to have on hand even when you're not making one of Bittman's recipes. I consulted the chapter on beans while preparing dried beans for a recipe not in the book.

The chapter on produce is the longest and offers instructions on how to cook a long list of vegetables using a long list of methods. The book also contains ideas for menus for every meal of the day and for occasions.

The Orzo, Risotto Style is simple to prepare and takes about 25 minutes, but it's creamy and full of flavor. I made vegetable stock for the recipe, using one of Bittman's recipes, and it was worth the time.

As he does with many of the recipes in the book, Bittman offers variations on the basic orzo dish. There's a lemon version and a vegan version that uses almond butter.

The Chinese egg noodles and soy broth make a fast and easy main dish or side. I was a little skeptical of adding ketchup to the broth, but it contributed a little sweetness without making the dish taste like ketchup.

The Biryani, which is an Indian pilaf-style dish, makes a good side, but it was a little plain for me as a main dish.

Orzo, Risotto Style

Serves 4

4 to 5 cups vegetable stock or water

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large shallot, minced

2 cups orzo

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup dry white wine or water

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Put the stock in a medium saucepan over low heat. Put the olive oil in a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the shallot and cook, stirring occasionally until it softens, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the orzo and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy and coated with oil, 2 to 3 minutes. Add a little salt and pepper, then the wine. Stir and let the liquid bubble away.

Use a ladle to begin to add the warmed stock, 1/2 cup or so at a time, stirring after each addition and every minute or so. When the stock is just about evaporated, add more. The mixture should be neither soupy nor dry. Keep the heat medium to medium-high and stir frequently.

Begin tasting the orzo 10 minutes after you add it. You want it to be tender but still with a tiny bit of crunch; it could take as long as 20 minutes to reach this stage. When it does, stir in the softened butter and 1/2 cup of parmesan, or more to taste. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve immediately, passing additional parmesan at the table.

From "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian"

Per serving: 546 calories, 12 grams protein, 16 grams fat, 6 grams saturated fat, 85 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 24 milligrams cholesterol, 1,137 milligrams sodium

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