Robust Recipes with Notes on Cooking, Eating,
Loving & Living Fearlessly
by Crescent Dragonwagon (Workman)
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
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 emulatealthough
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.
CORN AND TOMATO PUDDING
ISLES PEAR AND PARSNIP SOUP
(Updated: 12/11/08 SB)