While presently trendy, vegetarian cooking is nothing new. In fact, it has been around for centuries. Vegetarian cookbooks are also nothing new. But Ken Bergeron's recently published cookbook cuts through the plethora of insipid vegetarian cookbooks, most which are either superficial or just simply out of date with modern tastes.
Vegetarian Cooking is written by a professional chef. Its reading audience includes other demanding chefs, as well as those who, while not cooking professionally, still take their vegetarian cooking seriously. Between the covers of this 434 page book is a wealth of in-depth and clearly presented information. It is packed with original recipes that are suitable for restaurant or at home preparation.
The book begins with an impressive and well organized introduction which makes an excellent argument for why restaurants should consider serving vegetarian dishes (i.e. good food cost, an excellent outlet for creative expression, and an increased customer base). The introduction also contains brief descriptions of the different vegetarian diets (a constant source of frustration and confusion among chefs!). Vegetarian Cooking then launches into a comprehensive listing and explanation of numerous ingredients. I almost always find these ingredient introductions boring since they often seem to reiterate what most of us already know. But this ingredient list is really nice. While it does start of with rather common ingredients (which while basic, are still well written), I was impressed to see explanations of categories like: sea vegetables and ethnic ingredients. It made for excellent and informative reading!
The remainder (and the majority of the book) consists of recipes which overall are well written and easy to follow. The soup chapter contains expert recipes for an intriguing array of vegetarian stocks and soups like tomato sunflower creme. The sauce chapter includes tempting preparations for not only classical sauces but also ketchups, chutneys and pestos. Ken Bergeron divides his many vegetable entrees into the following different chapters: vegetable based entrees, pasta based entrees, bean and grain based entrees, and alternative protein based entrees. This organization is very user friendly! A delicious selection of creative breads and dessert complete the book.
While passionate about vegetarian cuisine, Ken Bergeron is also a realist honed by years of restaurant experience. He knows that change in a restaurant setting can sometimes be met with resistance even if the chef is committed to catering to a vegetarian audience. To that end he includes a most insightful appendix for the waitstaff and other kitchen personal. They too must be supportive of adding vegetarian items to the menu--a crucial area often overlooked.
I highly recommend this book as one of the best on the topic. It should occupy a spot on any serious cook's shelf.