At first, I didn’t like the cover of Mollie Katzen’s latest cookbook, The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation (although I knew I wanted the book, anyway). Mollie Katzen, along with the Moosewood Restaurant collective, popularized vegetarian home cooking for my generation, and I liked the homey, hand-illustrated style of her early books. But, OK. I’m part of the old generation and maybe that hippie-dippy style is a little out-of-date now, too.
(I’m not hurt. Actually, Mollie Katzen is older than me, even though she doesn’t look it.)
So even though this cookbook has photographs (I think it’s her first cookbook to have them.) they are actually kind of homey-looking. The dishes look like real food prepared at home. (Prepared in a spacious, plant-filled California kitchen, maybe, not a dark, cramped, inefficiently laid out kitchen in the middle of a cold New England winter, but all cookbooks should inspire some level of aspirational fantasy, right?)
Just about every recipe in this cookbook sounds delicious. Vegetables are the heart of the plate (Did you guess?) and the recipes seem lighter and more healthful than older-generation vegetarian cooking that relied on cheese, butter, and eggs to disguise the fact that there wasn’t any meat on the plate.
There is enormous variety in The Heart of the Plate, with a focus on using fresh ingredients that are usually going to be easily available, especially in season. The dessert section is very small. There seems to be a ton of vegan recipes and they are designated as such. Gluten-free home cooks will find a large percentage of the recipes are naturally gluten-free, or can be easily adapted, so there are a lot of options.
Check out the recipes on Mollie Katzen’s Web site to get a feel for the kind of recipes in the cookbook. View an excerpt from The Heart of the Plate here. Click on Google Preview to see the layout of the book and some of the illustrations.
What I’ve made so far (If recipes are available online, click on the photos to get them.):
Each recipe in The Heart of the Plate comes with “Optional Enhancements”. Another recipe I’m planning to try soon is Blueberry Rice. The optional enhancements for blueberry rice include “Stuff it into a baked acorn squash half” and refers you to a photo of this gorgeous color and flavor combination. As an example of the serving suggestions that she offers with every recipe, here are the ones that come with the Blueberry Rice recipe, under the heading “Purple Rice, Yellow Beans,” in case you don’t want to use the stuffed squash idea:
Serve Blueberry Rice juxtaposed, in your own inimitable way, with steamed yellow wax beans tossed with brown butter and a little fresh mint or dried thyme. Round out the meal and expand the rainbow theme with a side of Citrusy Beets (page 98). A platter of cheese is also welcome.
Disclosure: I own my own copy of The Heart of the Plate – a gift that I hinted strongly about in the weeks before my birthday and when that didn’t work, hinted about again in the weeks before Christmas.
The Heart of the Plate
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Sept. 2013