Book Reviews

The Spice and Herb Bible

By Ian Hemphill

One of the most satisfying experiences a cook can have is getting a combination of seasonings just right. A great balance is immediately recognizable and invigorating. Like a perfect song or a perfect day, it makes you want to dance or sing or clap your hands. If you're smart, you learn from the experience and experiment more and more.

One of the best tools to facilitate mastery of seasonings is The Spice and Herb Bible. From ajowan to zedoary, spices are compared and contrasted, combined, and explained, and otherwise detailed by a guy who really knows his stuff. Ian Hemphill, owner of a prestigious Australian spice shop, Herbie's, has been working with spices since he was a child. He provides just enough history and background about each ingredient to pique your interest, and then explains exactly how to employ the spice or herb in explicit measurements and combinations. All the spices and herbs in the book are from plant sources and are prepared in cruelty-free ways. However, the recipes that accompany each description are quite often not vegetarian. Still, if you're confused by caraway, you've got three jars of turmeric gathering dust in your spice rack, or you've always wanted to try out nigella, this book is a great place to start.

The Spice and Herb Bible (ISBN 0-7788-0043-3) is published by Robert Rose, Inc. This 498-page softcover book retails for $22.95. Look for it in your local bookstore.

Reviewed by Meri Robie.

The Vegetarian Barbecue Cookbook

By Mary Gwynn

How well do you know your grill? If Nancy Berkoff hasn't already given you enough ideas, pick up the sumptuously illustrated Vegetarian Barbecue Cookbook by Mary Gwynn. You'll find mouthwatering innovations like Spiced Root Vegetable Kabobs with Rhubarb and Onion Chutney, and New Potatoes with Cauliflower and Mint. It is true that a lot of the real zing in these recipes is in the sauces that are prepared off the barbecue and inside the kitchen, but Gwynn does use her grill to make some veggie favorites like Vegetable Satay and Falafel. The majority of the non-dessert dishes in this cookbook are vegan, and vegan margarine can easily be substituted for butter, or cheese left out, in most of the non-vegan recipes. However, not one vegan dessert recipe is included, so after grilling up a satisfying repast, either follow Nancy's recipes in this Journal, or just enjoy the abundant, delicious fruits of summer.

The Vegetarian Barbecue Cookbook (ISBN 1-55285-186-9) is published by Whitecap Books. It is 95 pages long, contains more than 50 recipes, and retails for $16.95. Look for this book in your local or online bookstores.

Reviewed by Meri Robie.

Fresh & Fast Vegan Pleasures

By Amanda Grant

Fresh & Fast Vegan Pleasures was originally printed in the United Kingdom in 1999 under the title The New Vegan by Metro Books. This new release contains over 140 vegan recipes. Despite the title, not all the recipes are fast by American standards. Nevertheless, the recipes are creative and worth preparing. For example, you will find recipes like Melon with Red Wine and Mint Sauce, Hot Grilled Sweet Potato with Watercress Salsa, Thai Pumpkin and Coconut Soup, Vivid Beet and Horseradish Gnocchi, Roasted Garlic and Walnut Linguine, Hot Poached Pears with Toffee Crisps, and Caramelized Oranges with Cranberries.

Nutritional analyses are given after each recipe; however, the nutrition information in this book contains several errors. Fortunately, it's only a short section in this otherwise wonderful cookbook.

Fresh & Fast Vegan Pleasures (ISBN 1-56924-535-5) is published by Marlowe & Company. This 240-page book retails for $14.95 in the US. Look for this book in your local bookstore.

Reviewed by Debra Wasserman.

Veggie Works Vegan Cookbook

By Mark W. Rasmussen

One of my favorite vegetarian restaurants is Veggie Works in Belmar, New Jersey. If you don't live near this terrific establishment, you can now sample their delicious fare by using this cookbook. You'll find over 375 recipes including salads, dressings, and dips (be sure to try out the Oriental Sesame Dressing); soups; burgers and sandwiches; sauces and gravies; grains, beans, and side dishes; casseroles and stuffed things; grilled dishes; sautés; breads; vegan meats; and desserts. There's even a section on preparing baby foods. The chapter entitled "Meal Planner & Themes" includes lists of suggested dishes to be served on specific holidays, as well as daily menu ideas.

When I visit this Jersey shore restaurant, I especially enjoy their seitan-based dishes, and this cookbook includes everything from a basic seitan recipe to Southern Fried Gluten Cutlets to Perfect Gluten Flank "Steak."

Please note that nutritional analyses are not provided for the recipes in this book; however, most of the recipes are not high in fat.

Veggie Works Vegan Cookbook (ISBN 0-9709966-1-6) can be purchased online through Amazon. The book retails for $27.95.

Reviewed by Debra Wasserman.

Weight Watchers Versatile Vegetarian

Weight Watchers has published a helpful cookbook for vegetarians and others who enjoy vegetarian food and who want to lose weight. This book includes 150 recipes for appetizers, soups, entrées, grain and bean side dishes, and vegetable side dishes. Each recipe includes information on calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, fiber, protein, and calcium in a serving, as well as the number of diabetic exchanges and Point values for Weight Watchers Winning Points program. Symbols highlight recipes that can be made ahead of time, use only one pot, are micro-wave-friendly, or can be prepared in under 20 minutes. Nearly half the recipes are vegan; many others could be easily modified to eliminate animal products. Specific guidelines for weight loss are not given. This book would best be used by someone who is familiar with the Weight Watchers program.

Weight Watchers Versatile Vegetarian (ISBN 0-7645-6407-2) is published by Hungry Minds, Inc. It is 184 pages and retails for $14.95. Look for this book in your local bookstore.

Reviewed by Reed Mangels, PhD, RD.