Sublime Vegetarian

by Bill Jones

Published by Douglas and McIntyre

164 pages, 1999

ISBN: 1550547410


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Joy Without Meat

Reviewed by Linda L. Richards

 

It's been a long time since the words "vegetarian cooking" were equated with "boring, dull and tasteless." We are, thankfully, in an era where we understand that cooking -- and, of course, eating -- without meat can provide just as satisfying an experience as playing the full carnivore.

Enter Sublime Vegetarian , a book that not only celebrates the complete vegetarian cooking experience, it brings it to new levels. Really.

Author Bill Jones is a French-trained chef who has worked and cooked throughout Europe, North America and Asia. He is the author of 12 cookbooks and has also contributed recipes to the New York Times, Food and Wine, The Globe and Mail and other well-known publications.

With this resume, it's not surprising that Jones approaches vegetarian cooking from the angle of the professional. As a result, Jones takes an elegant look at the basics before jetting off to make tasty vegetarian meals. For example, one of the earliest sections of the book, "Pantry basics," deals with creating a lot of the staples on which a successful kitchen is built. A sauce lover myself, I particularly enjoyed reading about making stocks and sauces: always a challenge in the vegetarian kitchen.

Not only does Jones include recipes for Roasted Vegetable Stock, Fragrant Vegetable Stock, Fresh Mushroom Stock and Miso-Garlic Broth and Gravy, he also spends some time in the chapter's introduction discussing stock making in a way that is sure to enhance the home chef's understanding of why things are as they are.

Almost any vegetable can be used to make a flavourful stock, but place only fresh vegetable trimmings in a stockpot. Leeks add richness to the broth, carrots add sweetness, mushrooms add body, and celery adds balance and salt.... A little charring, especially with onions, adds a pleasant flavour and colour to the stock, but heavily charred vegetables will contribute a strong burnt flavour and should be removed before the water is added.

With the basics out of the way, we're ready to get down to business and this particular business is tasty. There are chapters on Appetizers; Vegetarian Sushi; Soups and Chowders; Noodle Soups; Green Salads; Vegetable Salads; Tapas and Flatbreads; Noodles and Pasta; Rice; Beans and Tofu; Potatoes; and Desserts. In short, an entire vegetarian diet awaits and the recipes are varied enough that this is not a ridiculous thought.

Color photographs are scant but inviting. For instance, the photo of the Chilled Carrot, Kaffir Lime and Ginger Custard with Green Curry Sauce is a beautiful, edible statement in green and orange: one can just imagine how impressively it would start an elegant meal. However, it is a little disconcerting that not all of the photos manage to land opposite the page that describes the illustrated recipe: especially when the recipe and photo in question don't relate to each other at all.

These are, however, quibbles. Overall, Sublime Vegetarian is one to look out for. Easy-to-follow recipes, some interesting prose and a kitchen-worthy collection of recipes ready to launch you on your way to joyous meatlessness. | October 1999

Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine. Her latest novel, Calculated Loss, is set in Vancouver, where Madeline Carter sets out to investigate the suspicious death of a professional chef.