The holidays can be a challenge for vegetarians, who often find themselves with nothing to eat but salad and potatoes at family gatherings. Holiday meals can be an even bigger problem for vegans.
Whether you are planning an entire menu, bringing a holiday dish to an event, or just looking for something different and possibly lighter or healthier for the holidays, here are four great vegetarian cookbooks to help provide inspiration and prevent the necessity of trying to prepare or eat one of those oddly rubbery synthetic turkeys that are a perennial source of mirth for one’s carnivorous friends.
Deborah Madison’s New Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone. This doorstop of a cookbook isn’t new anymore. The original version debuted in 1997. A new version released in 2014. It remains one of the best.
Madison started her career as a chef in the San Francisco Bay Area at Chez Panisse. She went on to open her own restaurant, Greens, and was at the forefront of the movement to eat fresh, seasonal produce. She is the author of 14 cookbooks.
New Vegetarian Cooking offers practical advice on key ingredients for vegetable-based cooking, and 1,600 recipes that range from easy salads with just a few ingredients, to more complex soups, entreés and baked goods. Many of the recipes are mix-and-match: sauces or marinades that can be used to transform a variety of dishes, and stocks like kombu seaweed, or miso that can be used as a base for numerous variations.
While Madison uses dairy and eggs, many recipes are vegan or can easily be made vegan. These are tested and tasty recipes that will appeal equally to carnivores and plant eaters.
Recipes for herbed butter or herbed salt would make an ideal hostess gift. Olives with fennel and orange, roasted cashews with garam masala, or crispy roasted chickpeas with spice and smoke, would be welcome and tasty selections to bring to a holiday gathering.
Deborah Madison’s blog includes recipes and great information about cooking, farming and gardening (did you know jicama is a legume?): deborahmadison.com.
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. This is another plant-based cooking bible. The “Completely Revised Tenth Anniversary Edition” came out in 2017, and offers basic vegetarian cooking advice with a wide range of recipes. Bittman also includes dairy and eggs, but offers many vegan options, and suggestions for plant-based substitutions.
Bittman offers a multi-course Thanksgiving menu that starts with Virginia peanut soup and ends with chocolate semolina pudding. The rest of the menu includes white bean and celery root gratin, wild rice and chestnuts, and cranberry chutney. Bittman also has simple recipes like raw beet salad with shallots, which would compliment a holiday meal with minimal effort on the part of the cook.
Mark Bittman isn’t strictly a vegetarian, but his website is packed with good recipes, and he offers a monthly newsletter with even more kitchen inspiration: www.markbittman.com.
Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook. This is another old favorite with recipes that have produced beautiful and delectable results for more than 40 years.
It wouldn’t be the holidays in this household without her superlative fruit crumble recipe, and Katzen’s bacon-less “Tart and Tangy Baked Beans,” a cold weather favorite, as is her “Polenta Pie”—a sort of deep dish pizza crossed with cornbread. Some recipes call for dairy or eggs, but in most cases vegan substitutes can be used. Katzen was an early advocate for using seasonal produce and her recipes are designed to be flexible.
More than 40 years after its publication, this recipe book, one of the first serious vegetarian cookbooks, remains a staple. The author of this review has worn out three copies of the Moosewood Cookbook over the decades.
Mollie Katzen’s website is also full of recipes drawn from her numerous cookbooks, as well as new inspirations. www.molliekatzen.com/books.php. Happy cooking!
Compassionate Cuisine: 125 Plant-Based Recipes from Our Vegan Kitchen. For vegans or aspiring vegans, there is a delightful new cookbook this holiday season created for the Catskill Animal Sanctuary in upstate New York.
Written by Linda Soper-Kolton, Sara Boan, and Kathy Stevens, these are purely vegan recipes, with no animal products, not even honey. The recipes are interspersed with photo essays about the lives of the rescued animals that live at the sanctuary. Proceeds from the sale of the book go to help support the nonprofit’s work.
Charity cookbooks tend to have a lot of heart but aren’t always much use in the kitchen, but this one is different. The Catskill Sanctuary is famous for its gourmet vegan cooking, a vegan lifestyle guidance program, and regularly offered cooking classes.
Holiday recipes include a rich butternut harvest roll, with chickpeas, walnuts and spices, including cinnamon and cumin, wrapped in vegan puff pastry and served with sautéd or steamed greens.
The recipe for wild mushroom risotto was developed for a Valentine’s Day cooking class, but would be ideal for Thanksgiving. Lentils with pan-fried fennel and celery also sounds perfect for the holidays.
Many of the recipes are vegan versions of comfort food like meatloaf, shepherd’s pie, and even chicken wings (made with cauliflower), but there are also original dishes, like the coconut maple squash bowl, and a stovetop white bean cassoulet ideal for colder weather. There are also plenty of vegan desserts to choose from, including a sublime almond raspberry cake, and deep, dark vegan brownies.
The recipes are interspersed with photo essays on the lives of the animals that live at the sanctuary. In addition to being a nice addition to the kitchen bookshelf, this is a beautiful book that is an ideal gift for animal lovers.
For more information on Compassionate Cuisine, including recipes, visit www.casanctuary.org.