Vegetarian cookbooks are easy to come by these days. Some are subtly so—between all of the recipes highlighting kale, sweet potatoes, and cauliflower, it's hard to fit in the meat—while others, like Sarah Copeland's recently released cookbook, Feast, embrace the title and its implied wholesomeness. But Feast is far from a dour health food cookbook. Meals are abundant and colorful—they just happen to lack meat.
Copeland is a former Food Network recipe developer who gradually dropped the meat from her omnivorous diet after marrying a vegetarian. This was enough of a live-changing event that she wrote a whole cookbook about it (The Newlywed Cookbook). Feast is her follow-up effort, designed to appeal to vegetable eaters of all types.
Feast is a gorgeous cookbook, peppered with clean, simple photographs that highlight the ingredients and not the stylist. The book is organized roughly by portion size instead of season or meal. There is an obligatory salad chapter, but otherwise you'll find categories like "little meals," "sandwiches and tortillas," and "platefuls." They're approximations, for sure, but useful for envisioning the scale of the dish to come. Dishes take into account seasonal availability of ingredients, even if they're not explicitly labeled as such. Recipes, even the most technical, are detailed, but not didactic. The book is, in other words, relaxed, making it perfect for anyone wanting to make their own transition to a more vegetable-centric diet.
There is little that is revolutionary about the flavors and techniques used in Feast. Many of the dishes embrace the unique taste of a particular vegetable, fruit, or grain in itself, cooked in butter or olive oil, with perhaps a few accouterments. But this simplicity is not a flaw. Copeland embraces a kind of intuitive cooking that turns tentative kitchen newbies into lifetime cooks. Dishes like Copeland's lentil and mozzarella caprese, or her romesco vegetable platter show judicious restraint and allow the short list of ingredients to truly shine.
It's going to be a veggie-filled week here on Cook the Book. We'll start with a bright, crunchy salad of radish, enoki, tangerine, and avocado, sample the aforementioned lentil caprese, and dig into a bowl of polenta with winter salad and blue cheese. Later, we'll broil a huge platter of artichoke enchiladas and then end the week with an elegant entertainment-worthy dish of glazed winter vegetables with chestnuts and caper berries.
Win 'Feast'Thanks to our friends at Chronicle Books, we have five (5) copies of Feast to give away this week. All you need to do for a chance to win is to tell us about your favorite simple vegetable dish in the comments section below.
About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, KQED's Bay Area Bites, and Berkeleyside NOSH. Follow her @KateHWiliams.