Author makes interesting meals without driving the cook crazy
Harvard Common Press, $16.95
by Didi Emmons
Review by Jillian St. Charles
(CNN) -- The function of a cook book, to make meals more interesting without making the cook crazy, seems lost with many writer chefs. Didi Emmons is one of the few who seems to have some grounding in reality. The ultimate judgment of any recipe book has to begin
at the ending, the finished project.
A random sampling of recipes from "Vegetarian Madness" produced palate-pleasing dishes that don't require a year at La Cordon Bleu to accomplish. The orzo with broccoli, olives and basil is an unusual dish, but is also tasty and easy to make, maybe a little heavy on the basil. The buckwheat pancakes are surprisingly simple to prepare and the asparagus with Japanese horseradish sauce is a knockout. Speaking of horseradish, to fully utilize this book would-be chefs will need to know their way around an Asian market. Most of the ingredients in the recipes can be found in any decent grocery store, but delicacies like Chinese black vinegar and unrinsed, fermented black beans are used just frequently enough to be annoying.
Emmons does deserve credit for remembering that most people who are looking for more creative ways to cook at home probably are not millionaires. There is little that is more frustrating than making a dinner that winds up costing more than eating out. Most of these dishes can be made without unreasonable expenditure.
More real-world points go to Emmons for decent portions. Many cook book authors seem to have a laughable idea of just how much the average person can eat. But one thing that would have
been helpful is pictures of just what this food should look like. It's reassuring to keep checking the photo of the finished product in the book to see if the work in progress seems to be headed in the right direction. There are no photos at all in
Vegetarian Madness, neither is there a glossary. Most of the more obscure words or directions are explained on the same page, but there is the odd ingredient listed that can be a puzzler:
adobo sauce anyone?
"Vegetarian Madness" definitely delivers on most points, managing
to sidestep many of the glaring inadequacies of many books on the market. The simple-to-prepare food comes out appetizing without breaking the bank. This book is definitely worth its purchase price.
Jillian St. Charles is a freelance writer and works for CNN.