A new favorite vegetarian cookbook of mine is Simply Satisfying by Jeanne Lemlin. The author’s name may be familiar from her first published cookbook Vegetarian Pleasures: A Menu Cookbook (Knopf, 1986) or Quick Vegetarian Pleasures (HarperCollins, 1993), which won a James Beard Award, or from one of her other vegetarian cookbooks.
Simply Satisfying is a reinvention of Vegetarian Pleasures, which has been out of print for a while. As I read in an interview with Jeanne Lemlin on the Oldways blog, the author was often asked by fans how they could get their hands on her first cookbook. The original format grouped recipes together in menus, which I really liked the idea of, even though I rarely (if ever!) made a complete menu all at once. Cooks are more confident now about putting their own menus together, however, so the new cookbook groups recipes into standard categories such as “Breakfast Favorites,” “Main-Course Salads,” and also less standard groupings like “Curries and Accompaniments,” and “Tofu and Tempeh.” There are still many menu suggestions at the end of the book, such as “Elegant Menus, “Summer Menus,” and “Thanksgiving Feast,” and menu inclusions are noted on each recipe. Some recipes are updated to make them quicker or lower in fat and there are also new recipes. Color photos add to the overall new look and feel to the book. I received this book as a gift in December and can hardly wait for summer tomatoes to try the dish photographed for the front cover (Tomatoes Stuffed with White Beans and Pesto).
In the meantime, I made two simple recipes from the Breakfast Favorites section: Granola and Fresh Fruit with Yogurt Lime Sauce. (Both are also in the original Vegetarian Pleasures.) An article published in The Philadelphia Inquirer gives the recipe for Fresh Fruit with Yogurt Lime Sauce. Easy and delicious!
The granola is also delicious and (I think) lower in fat and sugar than boxed granola from the store. As an example of an update, the new recipe calls for adding dried cranberries and raisins to the granola; the original recipe only calls for raisins. (I don’t think dried cranberries had even been invented back then, and certainly weren’t available at every local supermarket.)
I love the format of the new cookbook. As an example of keeping the best from the original, the author includes her original rules for relaxed cooking in her new introduction. Titled “A Secret to Relaxed Cooking” these tips are still valid, such as “Take out and prepare any pans or dishes that you will be cooking with.” (A good one! I usually find myself with messy hands realizing I never took out the baking dish from the bottom drawer or retrieved the large skillet from the cabinet where it’s wedged under all the other skillets.) Also good: “Pour yourself a glass of wine.”
When opened, Simply Satisfying lies flat for the middle recipes but has to be weighted down for recipes nearer the beginning or end (which is still better than the original Vegetarian Pleasures which didn’t lie flat at all, until the binding broke). There is a nice variety of recipes and Jeanne Lemlin (an English teacher) has an engaging writing style, introducing each recipe with a well-crafted sentence or two. She provides a lot of information about vegetarian cooking and ingredients for those who want it – in an extensive glossary, menu listings, and a “Tips and Tools” section – but the cookbook’s format makes it easy to just get straight to the cooking if that’s what a reader wants to do.
I recommend Simply Satisfying to anyone looking for a family-style vegetarian cookbook with a wide variety of recipes made with readily available ingredients.
Get a Google preview of Simply Satisfying by Jeanne Lemlin here.
Quick Vegetarian Pleasures
Disclosure: I own my own copies of Simply Satisfying, Vegetarian Pleasures, and Quick Vegetarian Pleasures. My daughter works for the company that recently published Simply Satisfying. a