October 7th, 2008
As one of the founding chefs of the venerable Greens restaurant in San Francisco, Deborah Madison along with Edward Epse Brown and Annie Somerville, elevated vegetarian food to cuisine. With eight cookbooks under her belt, it’s hard to pick a favorite but Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is truly an inspired work.
Faced with an abundance of eggplant, I tried a very simple recipe: Baked Eggplant with Feta Cheese and Tomatoes. It was a total winner. Another of my all-time favorite recipes from this book is the Butternut Squash Gratin with Caramelized Onions and Sage, and I have to mention her Giant Souffle. You can’t go wrong with any of her books, even if you are not vegetarian. There are some unbelievable recipes in this book that will elevate your vegetables to center stage. Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone won cookbook awards from both the James Beard Foundation and IACP. Whether your are a seasoned or a novice vegetarian, this book is for you.
Recipe Excerpt: Lentil Minestrone
This is one of my all-time favorite soups. It’s better when cooked ahead of time, but add the cooked pasta and greens just before serving so that they retain their color and texture.
Serves 4 to 6
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra virgin to finish
2 cups finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped parsley
4 garlic cloves, chopped
3 carrots, diced
1 cup diced celery or celery root
Salt and freshly milled pepper
1 cup dried green lentils, sorted and rinsed
Aromatics: 2 bay leaves, 8 parsley branches, 6 thyme sprigs
9 cups water or stock
Mushroom soy sauce to taste
1 bunch greens–mustard, broccoli rabe, chard, or spinach
2 cups cooked small pasta–shells, orecchiette, or other favorite shape – or gluten free alternative
Thin shavings of Parmesan, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano
Heat the oil in a wide soup pot with the onion. Saute over high heat, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste, parsley, garlic, vegetables, and 2 teaspoons salt and cook 3 minutes more. Add the lentils, aromatics, and water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes. Taste for salt and season with pepper. If it needs more depth, add mushroom soy sauce to taste, starting with 1 tablespoon. (The soup may seem bland at this point, but the flavors will come together when the soup is finished.) Remove the aromatics.
Boil the greens in salted water until they’re tender and bright green, then chop them coarsely. Just before serving, add the greens and the pasta to the soup and heat through. Serve with extra virgin olive oil drizzled into each bowl, a generous grind of pepper, and the Parmesan, thin shards or grated.