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Passionate Vegetarian

Robust Recipes with Notes on Cooking, Eating, Loving & Living Fearlessly
by Crescent Dragonwagon (Workman)

Passionate Vegetarian

Although it doesn't mention it in her subtitle, it seems Crescent Dragonwagon is as passionate about writing as she is about eating, loving, living fearlessly and vegetarian cooking. After all, her exhaustive book weighs in at a hefty 1,110 pages. And, if you still doubt her love of writing equaling that of cooking, when you get 1,068 pages into her labor of low-fat love, you can no longer deny it: Dragonwagon reflects on a life of not only culinary, but literary, teaching. She and her late husband Ned founded a writer's colony at Dairy Hollow, a site that formerly housed their inn nestled in Arkansas' Ozark Mountains.
What this means is that you get plenty of lyrical literature served up with your legumes.

"There is a feast waiting for you here. Breathe it in," writes Dragonwagon to whet your appetite for further description and a menu. "Even as you cross the porch and approach, the fragrances you inhale as you stand in front of the door welcome you. Even as you raise your hand to knock, you know that here you will be well fed, well loved, well tended, satisfied. You sniff again.

"You recognize the scent of something baking (a turnover, a savory mashed potato-topped pot pie, a bubbling casserole, a pizza), something sautéing (onions, mushrooms, carrots), something stewing (a stream of red or white wine, garlic-tinged, a mélange of roux and herbs and stock). And something is grilling, intoxicatingly. (Is it eggplant? Red bell pepper? And in what was it marinated to make its fiery baptism so aromatic?)"

You will find out the answers to these questions and many more along your long and winding road to fulfillment (and I mean that literally, too: growling stomachs will definitely not be a problem for the months you may be devouring this book). One question that probably doesn't need answering after reading the preceding paragraphs: Is there fare here that will leave non-vegetarians feeling fairly treated? There will be no need to ask as they are clamoring for your recipes.
Some sample standouts: a Moroccan Oven-Roasted Carrot Spread that's fantastically flavored with red onions, garlic, olive oil, soy sauce, cumin and cayenne; Roasted Red Pepper Soup with a Cilantro Swirl; a skillet pie filled with zucchini, Swiss chard, tomato and a combination of grated Cheddar, Parmesan and Jarlsberg cheeses that is luxuriating in a crispy hashed brown crust; and a dazzling Honeyed Cranberry-Burgundy Poached Pear dessert.

Additionally, Dragonwagon lovingly includes what you would probably expect in a text this exhaustive: fare co-opted from famous chefs like New Yorker Michael Romano's Union Square Cafe Indian Borsht, as well as specialties she's collected from all over the globe like an equally dynamite British Isles Pear and Parsnip Soup. Many recipes also include tips to "Cook Once for Two Meals" and plenty of choices when it comes to ingredients like using either low-fat milk, evaporated skim milk or soy or rice milk.

Recipes are well written, straightforward and easy to emulate—although it seems highly unlikely other authors will be able to emulate the vitality of Dragonwagon's vigorous volume for many vegetable-growing seasons to come.


(Updated: 12/11/08 SB)

Passionate Vegetarian: Robust Recipes with Notes on Cooking, Eating, Loving & Living Fearlessly

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