Not So Much New as Foolproof

Article excerpt

NOT SO MUCH NEW AS FOOLPROOF New Vegetarian Cooking: 120 Fast, Fresh and Fabulous Recipes By Rose Elliot (Simon & Schuster, 2004)

British author Rose Elliot has written more than 40 vegetarian cookbooks on everything from healthy pregnancies to vegan feasts. That breadth of experience is both a strength and a weakness of her latest book, New Vegetarian Cooking: 120 Fast, Fresh and Fabulous Recipes. It's a strength because these are foolproof recipes written by a pro; its a weakness because the recipes feel like variations of variations-perhaps the result of having written hundreds, possibly thousands, of vegetarian recipes. Regardless, there's little new in New Vegetarian Cooking.

For example, two of the splashiest party dishes are complicated versions of simpler recipes. For the Saffron Risotto Cake with Red Bell Peppers, you stir a risotto for half an hour, layer it between roasted red pepper halves in a loaf pan, then weight and bake the whole mass to form a sliceable cake. The Roasted Vegetable and Goat Cheese Torte is another layered, pressed and baked dish of broiled eggplant, roasted peppers, goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil. Why not just make a wonderful risotto, or dot roasted or grilled vegetables with goat cheese? This, to me, is fussy food.

Yet, when Elliot sticks to simple food, the results are worth the effort. I made two Indian dishes-a lovely curry called Sag Bhaji, and a rice and lentil combo called Khitchari. Both were extremely easy and delicious. Similarly, her Golden Lentil Soup was flavorful and especially pretty, thanks to the turmeric, which turned it sunny gold. As for British food, Elliots vegan Apricot and Orange Fool with Pistachios was just wonderful: light and luscious, but still filled with flavor.

New Vegetarian Cooking is meant to welcome anyone into the meat-free fold. It contains diet information for wellness and weight control, and helpful advice for pregnant women and young children. The book is meant for a general audience of new converts to vegetarianism and, as such, it's a useful compendium of international recipes, English to Asian. But if you're an experienced cook looking for something inspired or innovative, look elsewhere.

SAMPLE RECIPE

APRICOT AND ORANGE FOOL WITH PISTACHIOS

Serves 6

This is a lovely sweet whip. …