Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

Editor’s note: Victoria Corrigan writes about classic cookbooks for Pen & Fork, books that as she says are “worth their salt” and deserve a fresh, new look. Today, Victoria takes another look at the award-winning Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison, perhaps the definitive cookbook on vegetarian cooking — and not just for vegetarians, but for, well, everyone.

Madison Linguine Asparagus

Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

by Deborah Madison

photos by Laurie Smith / illustrations by Catherine Kirkwood

Facts: Broadway Books (1997); Clarkson Potter for 10th Anniversary Ed. 2007); 742 pages, hardcover $40 (or for $23.80)

Awards: 1998 IACP Cookbook of the Year; James Beard Award of Excellence

Recipes: 1,400 (yep … 1,400)

Suitable for: Anyone seeking vegetable inspiration (best-of-class information) on selection/storing/cooking with vegetables.

Here’s the thing: I’m a carnivore. I don’t eat a lot of meat, but I require a semi-annual rib-eye gilded with béarnaise sauce, and have found few aromas to rival roasting pork (or chicken, for that matter).

So, why don’t I review the critter-cuisine classic Cutting Up in the Kitchen by celeb-butcher Merle Ellis? Here’s the (other) thing: I really do like vegetables (and legumes and grains), and I’ve been trying to up my intake (good for me, good for the planet).

What I lacked was encouragement, which I found on every page of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

The 411 on Deborah Madison is this: Trail-blazing chef — respected teacher — award-winning author and columnist — passionate patron of farmers’ markets and community-based agriculture.

You won’t have to read far to find her essence. Madison’s writing rings with her devotion to the farmer, to the ingredients, and to both the cook and the diner.

Yes, the veggies are here — from acorn squash to zebra-striped tomatoes. So, why don’t we see the “vegetable” chapter until page 327?  Mystery solved:  This is not a veggiepedia.

It’s a whole cookbook, which opens with valuable insights on how food works, what it means to become a cook, and the critical role of seasonings. (An inspired start to a book seeking broad appeal.)

Next, Madison entices the veggie-wary with a suite of sauces and condiments, uniquely suited to vegetable dishes, all versatile and intriguing. Now the veggie-lore? Hold on, what’s the rush?

First, sample tasty appetizers (fried green olives), hearty sandwiches (grilled cheddar on rye), and fresh salads (carrot with parsley & mint), then try appetizing soups (sweet corn), comforting stews (cashew curry), quick stir-fries, and soul-satisfying gratins and casseroles (butternut squash) that deliciously bring veggies to the center of the plate.

Now that Madison has your attention, it’s on to the ABCs of asparagus, broccoli, and cauliflower (and mushrooms, potatoes, and squash and…).

But she keeps the veggie-pointers to the point, moving on to pasta (see recipe below), noodles, and dumplings (both hot and cold), savory tarts and pies (tomato tart), grain cookery (barley risotto), dishes featuring eggs and cheese (goat cheese flan), and a chapter devoted to “The Soy Pantry.”

Madison finishes this marvelous book with breakfast foods (good from morning to night), handmade breads, and desserts to delight everyone (brown sugar tart, polenta pound cake).

Clusters of gorgeous photos are included, and the text is enhanced by elegant line drawings of vegetables, kitchen equipment, and special ingredients. (I love the sweet pea tendrils.) Conversational sidebars provide tips, variations, and beverage pairings. (Wine with vegetables?  And how!)

Madison’s desire is to get us all into the kitchen, whether we are vegetarian, vegan, or (as she says) “you don’t attach a title to your eating style.” Truly a book for all cooks, this is your passport to a world of food worth visiting.

With asparagus bursting at the seams in the markets, we tested Madison’s linguine with asparagus, lemon and spring herbs. We did cut the cooking time for the asparagus from 3 to 4 minutes to 2 minutes, fearing we’d cut the asparagus thinner than she might have. Either way, the whole dish comes together in about 30 minutes and it’s full of flavor. We didn’t even miss the meat.

Linguine with Asparagus, Lemon, and Spring Herbs

[Deborah’s sidebar:  A minimal but true pasta primavera.  Should they come your way, stew a handful of peas or fava beans with the scallions as well.  This dish can be made with butter or olive oil or a mixture.]

Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large bunch scallions, including half of the greens, thinly sliced
2 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme, sage, or tarragon
Salt and freshly milled pepper
2 pounds asparagus, tough ends removed
1 pound linguine
4 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted in a small skillet
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons snipped chives, plus blossoms if available
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional

1. While water is heating for the pasta, heat half the oil and butter in a wide skillet over low heat.  Add the scallions, lemon zest, thyme, and a few pinches salt and cool slowly, stirring occasionally.

2. Meanwhile, slice 3-inch tips off the asparagus, then slice the remaining stalks diagonally or make a roll cut.

3. When the water boils, salt it, add the asparagus, and cook until partially tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Scoop it out, add it to the scallions, and continue cooking.

4. Cook the pasta, then add it to the pan with some of the water clinging to the strands. Raise the heat and stir in the remaining oil, the pine nuts, parsley, chives, pepper to taste, and a few tablespoons of cheese.

5. Divide among pasta plates, grate a little cheese over each portion, and garnish with the chive blossoms.


4 replies
  1. Sharon
    Sharon says:

    What I love about Madison’s veggie cookbooks is that she’s not a vegetarian! And maybe that’s why she understands vegetables the ways she does. And instead of trying to make vegetables into a meat substitute, she respects them as veggies. Love her use of fresh herbs also.


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