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The Heart of the Plate is almost like a best of cookbook from a very accomplished cook with a dedicated following. If I was to ever recommend a Mollie Katzen cookbook to anyone, this is the one to get. She's even included sixteen slightly altered recipes from four other cookbooks into this one. I love when cooks perfect recipes over time.
All of the cookbook's recipes are vegetarian, and many are vegan. If they aren't vegan, often have alternative directions to make it so. Also included are suggested meal plans for both vegetarians and vegans, which have seasonal menus too. Personally I've never in my life used one of these suggested menus, but if you like them, here they are.
Visually, The Heart of the Plate is a stylized cookbook full of fresh, modern recipes and photos. Yes, photos--real, color photos. It also has some simple illustrations of food; luckily they are eclipsed by the luscious photos. The font is real too, no more of that childish "hand-writing" that rubs me the wrong way. If you have shied away from Katzen's cookbooks in the past because of it's immature & amateur look, please check this one out. You'll be pleasantly surprised.
The reason I didn't give this cookbook 5 stars is that it excluded any nutritional information for the recipes. As the primary cook for my family, I value this sort of information because I want to know my meals have enough protein, and want to avoid recipes with too many calories per serving. Unfortunately, omitting the nutritional details will just leave me--and other cooks--to figure it out for ourselves. Secondly, many recipes list times that it takes to prepare & cook; this cook book has skipped that also.
The cookbook has the following chapters: Soups, Salads, Stews & Their Accessories, Cozy Mashes, Rice & Grains, Pasta & Asian Noodles, Suppers from the Oven, Burgers & Savory Pancakes, Vegetables, Sauces/Vinaigrettes/Toppings & Other Meaningful Touches, Desserts.
If you're not familiar with 'cozy mashes', that could consist of a traditional side dish, or spooned on crusty baguette, or as a bed for something else (perhaps seitan medallions). The Cozy Mashes chapter includes recipes for Cuban black beans, mashed parsnips, polenta.
Suppers from the oven are the wonderful fall/winter/early spring casseroles that warm you and your house up. However, she also includes a 'Caramelized Onion Frittata with Artichoke Hearts, Zucchini and Goat Cheese' that would be great any time of the year.
If you've ever watched the Food Network show Chopped, you see awesome chefs make amazing food in limited time with sometimes odd-ball ingredients. For me, this cookbook totally reminds me of modern & delicious recipes that can be assembled to make impressive meals, like the ones I've seen presented on Chopped. I look forward to ramping up some of my more lackluster recipes to include some of the fresher takes in Heart of the Plate. None of these recipes look daunting either, they are accessible to all cooks.
I received this book as an Advance Reading Copy, which is black and white and soft cover. However, I love this cookbook so much that I will definitely be buying my own full color copy. I don't keep many cookbooks, but Heart of the Plate will have a place in my top-picks cooking library. Another favorite vegetarian cookbook of mine is the The Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health: More Than 200 New Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes for Delicious and Nutrient-Rich Dishes.
Hope this helps.
191 internautes sur 217 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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I find reviews most useful when I have an idea of where the reviewer is coming from, so here goes. I've been a vegetarian (not vegan) for more than 20 years, and Katzen's "Moosewood Cookbook" and "Enchanted Broccoli Forest" lived on my shelves for years; I finally gave them away recently when I realized I hadn't cooked out of them for more than 10 years (most vegetarians just don't cook like that any more). But I've admired Katzen's work since back in the days when she was one of the few vegetarian-cookbook writers around. I'm also very picky about cookbooks I buy - I find that they tend to take over my kitchen shelves if I'm not careful, and I rarely purchase them. That said - I bought this one, I waited until I had made several recipes from the book before writing a review, and I found deciding on a star ranking to be a dilemma. Here's how I saw it. Warning, this is a very long review!
Overall: I agree with the reviewer who said that this book is not for the novice cook. More on this later.
Layout: intro and general. The book begins with the now-standard discussion of equipment and ingredients; fortunately this section is short. Next is a section on how to assemble a vegetarian menu that might be of use for new vegetarians; I myself never look at menu suggestions so I can't comment on this one. Many, though unfortunately not all, recipes are illustrated with gorgeous color pictures (I expect those who saw black-and-white photos were people with pre-prints.) One warning about the photographs: they often illustrate three or four recipes at once, so if you want your meal to look like that, you'll be using lots of pots and pans, and you'll be cooking for a long time. I also agree with the reviewer who was glad to see the "handwriting" look go - that looks very 1970s-birkenstocky to me, and I was glad to see normal font as well.
Layout: categories. The categories are Soups, Salads, Stews (plus what she calls "accessories"), Cozy Mashes, Rice and Other Grains, Pasta and Asian Noodles, Suppers from the Oven, Burgers and Savory Pancakes, Vegetables, Sauces, Vinaigrettes, and Toppings, and Desserts. The one novel category is Cozy Mashes. I myself don't like soft food - I like my food to be chewy - so I don't make soups, and I wouldn't make mashes, except that most of the mashes don't actually require, well, mashing (in some cases she points this out, in others not). So this category turned out to be a great addition.
Recipes: general. This area is one of the book's greatest strengths. The recipes each have little introductions, which are well-written and tempt you to make them. The introductions also contain alerts, timings, and a discussion of how long the finished product will keep. Most recipes are followed by a section called "Optional Enhancements", which suggests one or more ways the recipe can be altered or garnished. These are often excellent as well, and have the result of turning most recipes into as many as five or six recipes. The recipe steps themselves often say what the recipe should look like at a given stage, and provide alerts specific to individual steps. She specifies whether recipes are vegan or not, and gives alternatives for conversion of many non-vegan recipes.
Recipes: ingredients. I would have once faulted her for calling for things like beluga lentils, roasted almond oil, and so on, but now it doesn't matter where you live as you can order all this stuff off the Internet and it comes to your front door. :-) There are plenty of recipes that don't use exotic ingredients as well, and she usually gives ideas for making substitutions for the more exotic vegetables.
Recipes: preparation. Here's one place where Katzen doesn't cater to novice cooks. Quantities are not always specified, or not fully specified (rather, stated "to taste" or "more if needed"). They are also not always in a format best suited to novice cooks. For examples, onion is a very common ingredient throughout the cookbook, but is typically given in quantities such as "1/2 cup minced onion" - although this is more precise, for the novice it's probably more helpful to use terms like small, medium, and large, since that's how we buy onions.
Recipes: specific. I made several recipes in the categories of Cozy Mashes, Rice and Other Grains, and Pasta and Asian Noodles. And here is where I have a problem with Katzen, which is not unique to this cookbook. She is absolutely wonderful when it comes to choosing ingredients that will go well together, and selecting modes of preparation, and making you feel like she is a good friend at your side while you cook. But: she seems to be intimidated by, or not fully understand, the use of herbs and spices. I like my food well-seasoned and spicy (by which I don't mean "spicy hot", although I like that too). One potential pitfall of a vegetarian diet is that vegetables, grains, and noodles on their own can be rather bland. Unfortunately, so were all of the recipes I tried.
Here's an example. The Cozy Mash entitled "Mashed White Beans" (p. 183 of my edition) calls for three cups of cooked beans, which is a fair amount. Other than onion and garlic, which I don't really consider seasonings, the entire seasonings list consists of 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, and "black pepper" in an unspecified quantity. For that amount of beans, I quadrupled the thyme, put in considerably more salt, put in about 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, and added some fresh sage leaves and about 1/2 teaspoon of dried sage. (I must say the results were great, but it wasn't what the recipe specified.) All of the recipes I made had this same flaw - all of them. For me, they were all underseasoned. If you're an experienced cook, you can adjust for this, but for this reason I wouldn't recommend the book to novice cooks, and particularly not to novice vegetarian cooks, who may get the false impression that all vegetarian food is bland. On the other hand, if you prefer your food lightly seasoned, this book might be right up your alley.
In summary, I'm glad I bought this book (especially since I bought it with a gift certificate :-) - it's given me plenty of ideas. I just wish that Katzen had used the same inventiveness in seasonings as she did with the rest of the book.
I went with three stars in the end. This is a good book, but it's not for novices. I took one star off for the incomplete photography, and a second star off for the blandness of seasonings, but overall I do recommend the book, with the above caveats.
15 internautes sur 15 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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The Moosewood Cookbook and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest were two of the cookbooks I bought back in college (ahem, dating myself here!) when I was trying to teach myself to cook, and I was amazed at how good fresh food could taste. Now Mollie Katzen is bringing out her latest cookbook, The Heart of the Plate, and I'm still amazed at how good fresh food can taste. But time changes all of us, and Ms. Katzen's cooking style has changed too. The recipes I remember best from my college days, while good, tended to be heavy, with a lot of flour and dairy - mushroom moussaka, challah bread - still tasty, but I don't eat much of those heavier foods these days. So I'm really pleased to see that in The Heart of the Plate her style has become more vegetable focused and less heavy. Indeed, the 'heart of the plate' in the title refers to vegetables, and this book really celebrates vegetables in a big way.
These are mostly quite sophisticated recipes - this is the book to browse through if you need idea for impressing your vegetarian boss or for a holiday dinner. I said this book celebrates vegetables - even the structure of the book shows this, the salads chapter is much larger than you'd think, about twice the size of any of the other chapters. Just browsing the table of contents is interesting - never before have I seen a cookbook chapter called 'Cozy Mashes'! There are a few recipes repeated from previous books, but only a few, maybe a dozen or so, and it looks like they have all been at least slightly changed from the originals. The photos are gorgeous - there aren't photos of every recipe, but there are a great number of them, and they all look delicious.
Just reading through the book makes for an entertaining evening for a foodie - Ms. Katzen has a very fanciful writing style, that while sometimes a little precious, definitely makes the simplest foods sound appetizing, and she always knows what she's talking about when it comes to food. There's a whole chapter of savory mashes - everything from exotic mashed curried carrots and cashews to mashed parsnips, which sounds very old-fashioned and homey until you read her suggested 'accessories' - pomegranate-lime glaze or fried lemons are certainly NOT business as usual for root vegetables! There are also five lasagnas and four macaroni and cheeses - all completely different in nature and season.
I don't just read cookbooks, though, I cook from them. So, here's what I thought of the recipes I've tried so far - Lablabi, Crunchy Cucumbers and Red Onion with Fresh Cheese, and Green Rice with Grapes and Pecans.
One thing this style of cooking emphasizes strongly is using the freshest possible ingredients, which is of course wonderful, especially when a writer takes care to keep seasonal ingredients together - there are no recipes calling for both fresh asparagus and summer-ripe tomatoes here!! But living in the Midwest, where we have long winters, I also rely on recipes that use pantry ingredients. And to be honest, it's kind of a test - it's pretty easy to fix something spectacular if you start from spectacular ingredients. But if you can make something spectacular from pantry ingredients, well, that's a bit trickier! With this in mind, I chose to make the Lablabi, a chickpea soup. I had expected it to taste like hummus, as I had made a soup with similar ingredients before, and that had tasted like hummus. But the cooking techniques Ms. Katzen uses here gave this soup an entirely different flavor. This was much smoother in taste than hummus, more pulled together, with blended flavors. My daughter said it smelled wonderful while it was cooking. The condiments really make the recipe. We topped ours with the suggested accompaniments of cilantro, crushed Aleppo pepper, and chopped Kalamata olives, and it was thick and hearty and savory all around.
The next recipe I decided to make was the Crunchy Cucumbers and Red Onion with Fresh Cheese. I used queso blanco for the fresh cheese, and it was quite good. I have to say, however, that next time I make this I'm going to make a couple changes - I think a salty feta (one of the other cheeses she suggests) would have been better than the not-very-salty queso blanco I can get. Also, nearly every recipes in the book has 'optional enhancements' and I have to say, there really aren't optional. You don't need all of them for any given recipe, but you probably want to use at least one of them. She 'strongly' suggests that you add melon chunks to this recipe, and I think that would be much better than the salad plain. It was good the way I made it, plain with queso blanco, but it would have been better with melon and a saltier cheese.
Finally, I wanted to try the Green Rice with Red Grapes and Pecans, partly because this is a re-imagining of the Jeweled Rice Salad that I have already made a number of times, and partly because I needed a good lunch salad that could travel to an outdoor lunch. I'm happy to say this took the Jeweled Rice Salad and made it lighter, with less oil, and agave nectar instead of honey, and left out the chickpeas, but it still left the basic nature of the dish intact. I thought taking the chickpeas out would change the flavor, and make the dish feel less of a main and more of a side, but I was surprised at how little change it seemed to make - it tasted great and made a terrific picnic lunch.
In this book, she's clearly aiming at a more sophisticated home cook - sure, there are simple, everyday recipes here, but also a great number of dishes that will appeal more to the hobby cook or someone needing an impressive dish for a special occasion. The overall impression is that Mollie Katzen is exploring her culinary art, and inviting us along to join in her discoveries. It's truly a delicious exploration.