For anyone trying to go meatless—especially those who are new to it—a good vegetarian cookbook is an absolute must. My shelf currently contains several, including Molly Katzen's classic The Enchanted Broccoli Forest and Mark Bittman's encyclopedic How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. The most battered and bookmarked of the lot, however, is The Clueless Vegetarian, by Evelyn Raab. This book specifically bills itself as "a cookbook for the aspiring vegetarian," and its focus is on recipes that are easy to make and contain no obscure ingredients. Each recipe is marked with handy icons to indicate its level of veggieness (ovo, lacto, ovo-lacto, or vegan), and an additional "quick fix" icon marks the recipes that can be made in 30 minutes or less. The quick-fix recipes are some of the handiest in the book, and our copy of the book is sprinkled throughout with paper tags marking our favorite quick treats, such as:
- Pasta Fagioli (p. 52), probably my favorite soup in the world, loaded with pasta, carrots, celery, and two kinds of beans
- Simple Sesame Noodle Salad (p. 67), our go-to dish for potluck dinners
- Roasted Tomato Fettucine (p. 98), a simple and delicious pasta dish
- Chick-Pea Curry (p. 133), a staple meal for those times when we're short on both time and inspiration
- Full Meal Burritos (p. 166), a hearty and healthful take on the classic burrito, "fully loaded" with black beans, spinach, and all manner of other veggies
- Potato Kugel (p. 182), a delicious comfort food that requires practically nothing but potatoes, onions, and eggs
In addition to recipes, the book is dotted with helpful features. The opening pages provide a list of "Essential Supplies for the Vegetarian Kitchen" (meaning ingredients to keep on hand, not cookware) and two pages of tips on how to "vegetarianize" existing recipes. Sidebars throughout the book guide you through such essential vegetarian topics as how to cook dried beans, what to do with tofu and tempeh, and a list of innocuous-looking foods that may contain hidden non-vegetarian ingredients, such as Worcesterchire sauce, gelatin, and chicken broth.
Although the target audience of this book is newbie vegetarians, I'd actually recommend it for anyone at all who has an interest in eating more meatless meals. Whether you're a hardcore vegetarian looking for some new recipes that are quick and easy to make or an unrepentant carnivore trying to lighten up the grocery bill with a few meatless dishes, this book can help make your vegetarian cooking easy, tasty, and fun.