Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian quickly established itself as a bible in my life after I received it for Christmas in 2008. Bittman writes for the New York Times and a lot of his work focuses on basics: take this article, for example, that shows how to equip a kitchen well for under $300. Now this is a guy I could get behind!
As a vegetarian cookbook, everything in here is fair game for me, unlike many of the classic cookbooks. If there is a particular vegetable I want to try but don’t know anything about, this book will tell me how to prep the ingredient, with illustrations, as well as provide at least a couple of recipes that incorporate it. Recipes are basic, requiring ingredients I have or could easily get. (No need for organic arugula hand-picked by virgins in Belgium.) Solid illustrations, ample explanations, and hearty encouragement are all provided.
The only area that I’ve been less than impressed with so far is the bread baking section. It’s fair to say my first baguettes wouldn’t be perfect, but a good recipe can transcend newbiedom. My baguettes lacked the proper nooks and crannies, my cinnamon rolls were tasty but grew stale quickly, and although the pizza dough recipe was very close to my favorite the results paled in comparison. Bittman says he’s not a huge baker, and I believe him–I’ll stick with A Year in Bread for now.
How to Cook Anything Vegetarian has helped me cook more of my own meals and ignited my creativity, all while saving me money. It has showed me that I can make omelettes, muffins, soy mayonnaise, croutons, and more, using ingredients that don’t include hydrogenated soybean oil or high fructose corn syrup. I’ve eaten better because of the book. As I’ve been whittling down the number of books I own, my cookbooks have been needing to justify the space they’re taking up on my shelves–this one will be on my shelf for years to come.