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

| January 6, 2012 | 3 Comments

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

The ultimate one-stop vegetarian cookbook-from the author of the classic How to Cook Everything. Hailed as “a more hip Joy of Cooking” by the Washington Post, Mark Bittman’s award-winning book How to Cook Everything has become the bible for a new generation of home cooks, and the series has more than 1 million copies in print. Now, with How to Cook Everything: Vegetarian, Bittman has written the definitive guide to meatless meals-a book that will appeal to everyone who wants to cook simple but

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  1. Denise Patterson says:
    559 of 566 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    This is the one I’ve been looking for!, October 29, 2007
    Denise Patterson (Carmel, IN United States) –

    This review is from: How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food (Hardcover)

    Let me start by saying I’m a busy working mom of two. I grew up eating Hamburger Helper and hot dogs, so I didn’t learn to cook until I was an adult. My dad’s had triple bypass and my mom’s having gastric bypass, so we’re trying to learn from their mistakes and eat not entirely vegetarian, but definitely a more plant-based diet. I’m sure all this sounds familiar to a lot of people!

    How to Cook Everything Vegetarian is exactly the cookbook I’ve been trying to find for a long time. It has the simple, everyday recipes that I sometimes need, combined with a LOT of wonderful vegetarian dishes from ordinary supermarket ingredients. How about Peanut Soup, Senegalese Style? Or Korean-Style Noodles in Cool Bean Broth (in less than 20 minutes for when the kids are whining for dinner) Mustard Cheese Fondue?

    This book is written in Bittman’s typical `theme and variations’ style, with a basic recipe (like for waffles) and then a sidebar or list following the recipe that gives variations (like a list of things you can add to waffles for flavoring). The great thing about this is that it means you rarely have to reject a recipe because you don’t have the exact ingredients, just go with a variant. The only quibble I have with it is, it’s sometimes difficult to keep track of what you are supposed to sub out & sub back in when you have a crying toddler on your ankle.

    A basic cookbook should also walk you through basic techniques and ingredients. I was a little surprised to see the vegetables chapter was nearly 200 pages. Then I looked through it and realized a lot of that is guidance on how to select and prep the various vegetables. It’s also helpful that he includes substitution suggestions – I may be out of broccoli, but if I can make the same recipe with green beans, then I can forgo the trip to the store one more day.

    Another nice thing about this cookbook is, unlike most vegetarian cookbooks I have seen, it doesn’t rely heavily on unusual ingredients or meat substitutes. It seems like there has to be a happy medium between burgers & fries on one hand and stuff you’ve never seen before. Surely we can make a healthy diet based on basic veggies, fruit, grains, and legumes, and that’s JUST what this book focuses on.

    But it doesn’t matter how great the book is if the recipes aren’t good! So I tried a few. The Spicy Autumn Veggie Burgers (we made less spicy for the kids) were terrific with a dollop of peach chutney, although the kids preferred ketchup. I was pleased at how quickly they came together too. The Glazed Carrot Soup the kids ate without any complaint at all. And oh my the Apple “Fries”!!!!

    Because I’m sure people are wondering – yes, he has another cookbook called How to Cook Everything: Vegetarian that came out several years ago. This is NOT just a remake of that slim volume. This is a completely new book. (Why his publishers wanted to do two books with titles the same except for a colon I’ll never know.) There’s no exact overlap with How to Cook Everything, that I saw – even for recipes like Waldorf Salad, that are essentially the same in both books, there is some slight variation and different text that shows that this was re-written, not just a cut-and-paste job.

    In short, I’m very happy with it. I’ve cooked out of it every day since I got it and I’m sure this will be one of my `go-to’ cookbooks for years to come.

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  2. Cookin' up a storm says:
    419 of 440 people found the following review helpful:
    3.0 out of 5 stars
    It’s o.k., but the same problem I always have with Bittman, January 25, 2008
    Cookin’ up a storm (Chicago, IL) –

    This review is from: How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food (Hardcover)

    I’m a vegetarian of 15 years (with a meat-eating but open minded fiance) and an avid home cook. I got this book for Christmas and have slowly been exploring it. It’s an interesting book and there are a lot of recipes that I’m tempted by, but it’s the same problem I have with “How to cook everything”: something is always wrong with the recipe. For example, his kosher pickles: the first time I tried making them with his measurements, the pickles were inedibly salty (and I love salt!) I’m now working with about a third less salt than he recommends and it’s getting better. And that’s what I always find with his recipes: they give you a promising start but require some major tinkering before they are really good, and I don’t usually feel up to committing to that sort of trial and error. I am a passionate fan of Debbie Madison’s “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.” As an example of the difference, this week I had a dinner party and I made her cauliflower salad with green olives and capers even though I’d never tried it before, and it was a hit. Having used her book so much, I trust her recipes to be at least decent right out of the gate. I would never serve a Bittman recipe that I hadn’t made before to guests because there are pretty good odds that the initial recipe needs some changes.
    That being said, I’m certainly not sorry that I have this book. It has a good section on condiments that I’m sure I’ll make use of fairly often, and it’s a good cookbook to have on hand if you’re tinkering in the kitchen and want some perspective on your technique. It’s really more of a reference book than an book of recipes, and in that it is useful. But if you want ideas for delicious, satisfying vegetarian food, get “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.”

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  3. B. Marold "Bruce W. Marold" says:
    293 of 310 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Excellent General Cookbook for Liberal Vegetarian. Buy It!, November 20, 2007
    B. Marold “Bruce W. Marold” (Bethlehem, PA United States) –
    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)

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    This review is from: How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food (Hardcover)

    `How to Cook Everything Vegetarian’ by New York Times culinary columnist, Mark Bittman, is an important entry into the best vegetarian cookbook sweepstakes. Please be clear that this green covered book is far larger and far better than the yellow covered subset of his earlier best-selling `How to Cook Everything’.
    Since I gave that yellow subset a bad review, a kind commentator pointed out that what is a person to do if they are vegetarian, and don’t need to know how to make veal parmesan, meatballs, or fried chicken! This volume clearly answers that question.
    The competition for this book is Deborah Madison’s classic `Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone’. An encyclopedic companion to both would be Crescent Dragonwagon’s `Passionate Vegetarian’. If space and finances permit, I would suggest you own all three volumes.
    The difference between Bittman and Madison may lie primarily in the fact that the former is a culinary journalist and the latter began her career as a professional chef. So, Bittman has a better eye for communicating to a larger audience while Madison is better on some of the basic truths of cooking. Her discussion of soups and stocks is especially brilliant.
    Bittman addresses the largest possible `vegetarian’ audience, which includes the most liberal, who consume eggs and milk products. But he is quite effective in identifying for the vegans among you which recipes are free of all animal products, both in icons accompanying each recipe and in a master list of recipes at the back of the book. Eggs are so prominent that the index contains a full page, that’s four columns of small print, of entries under egg related recipes. Under cheese recipes, there are two pages, eight columns of fine print of recipes. Bittman explains this in the section on vegetarian substitutions when he gives easy replacements for butter, milk, and cream, but says that virtually nothing can replace eggs and most cheeses in traditional recipes. I am puzzled and grateful that Bittman does not suggest using synthetic lecithin in the place of eggs in recipes. Lecithin does not even appear in the index of this book. This substitutions section also has some really great suggestions for omnivores in the realm of less saturated replacements for butter and flavored butters.
    This is a full service cookbook. I am especially impressed by the fact that he starts out in the same way as James Peterson in his recent textbook, `Cooking’. Both begin with a description of `The Ten Essential Cooking Techniques’. Being a teaching book, Peterson’s sections on each method are longer, running to three large pages compared to Bittman’s two to three paragraphs. But, if you are vegetarian, Bittman’s book is still more useful, as much of Peterson’s space is dedicated to cooking animal protein. Another interesting contrast to Peterson is that while the teacher uses series of photographs to illustrate techniques, Bittman uses black ink drawings. And, amazingly enough, the latter is generally the more successful technique, as nothing is out of focus and there are never any obscuring shadows, and only the essentials of the technique are depicted.
    A common technique in many of Bittman’s recipes is to amend each recipe with several variations, as when he suggests five fillings for sweet crepes and six fillings for savory crepes. Hard on this section is ’10 Other Ideas for Pancakes’ and seven `Pancake Variations’. Bittman also spends much time on teaching us the range of ingredient types, and general ways to handle each type. For example, we get `A Lexicon of Salad Greens’. This material is even more important for the vegetarian, as they need to seek the greatest possible variety of tastes and colors in the vegetable world. A vegetarian salad repertoire which knew nothing beyond iceberg lettuce would be dull indeed. Bittman does better in this area than the salad queen, Alice Waters, in her excellent `The Art of Simple Cooking’.
    Bittman’s mastery of communication is best represented by his many cross-indexing of recipe types, as he does in a sidebar of lettuce cups and wraps, giving the names and page numbers of fourteen recipes scattered throughout the book which use this technique. The centerpiece of this cross-indexing is the `Recipes by Icon’ in the back of the book which tick off those which are `Fast’, `Make Ahead’, and `Vegan’. A similar feature is the list of forty menus for Breakfasts, Brunches, Lunches, Dinners, and Holiday Dinners. For his vegetarian audience, this is far more useful than for omnivores, who have a far greater choice of protein types.
    Every trend in the book is magnified in the excellent chapter on pasta, noodles, and dumplings. Every sidebar seemed to offer not ten, but up to 50 variations on all sorts of stuff. I was momentarily disappointed to find no recipe for making fresh pasta in the first 10 pages of the chapter, but there it was, of page 474 and the following 21 pages…

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