new vegetarian book coverReviewed by Jen Kulman

I should start out by saying that while we are not a vegetarian family, I do prepare a fair number of meatless dishes. According to the author, this makes me a Flexitarian – a meat eater when it suits me. She is quick to note that whether or not you enjoy meat or however you choose to label yourself, the most important choice is to select real foods as much as possible. Although processed foods are most plentiful these days, it is the unrefined, natural foods that are best for the human body.

Physically, New Vegetarian is a very satisfying cookbook. Of the seventy-five dishes presented, there are twenty-three paired with photographs, which I think is a pretty good ratio. Each recipe is nicely contained to one page, with the list of ingredients in a neat column on the left and cooking directions on the right. I like that sense of order – when you can get a feel for the dish with just a quick glance at the page. The only negative is the font seems rather small, so that I found myself practically peering at the book over time. I also appreciate that each recipe has a nice little introduction paragraph that gives a bit of background on why it was selected, offers some cooking variations or more thoroughly explains some of the ingredients.  I think that little bit of author insight adds some character to the book.

I have a few vegetarian cookbooks and this one seems much more upscale to me. Author Robin Asbell has spent twenty years in the food industry, specializing in natural foods, both in restaurants and the private sector. Her experience really comes through the recipes – she is obviously comfortable with a wide variety of ingredients. I was immediately intrigued by the Mexican Corn and Quinoa soup, French Lentil Cassoulet, Garlicky Roasted Potatoes and Sweet Coconut Empanaditas. If I could include just one of her recipes per week in our meal rotation, we would be so much further ahead in our vegetable and grain intake!

My only criticism is that a fair number of the recipes call for ingredients which I am unfamiliar with or would have a hard time obtaining. Among others, I have never heard of kamut, mache, tamarind pulp, daikon or krupuk. I will say that I live in a rural area and do not have access to many specialty stores, nor have I been exposed (obviously!) to many exotic foods. There is a nice page titled “Source Guide for Unusual Ingredients” that would help solve this problem. I just don’t think that I’m ready to order ingredients from the internet when there are many fresh, albeit more boring, foods available to me locally.

New Vegetarian would be an ideal choice for a cook who is looking to add more variety to their diet in the healthiest way possible. These are amazing concoctions I would never be able to come up with on my own, far from the typical dishes we first think of when cooking vegetarian. This cookbook is truly a great way for any cook to broaden their culinary horizons!

Please visit Robin Asbell’s website for more recipes and other information.

Jen lives in Michigan with her husband and five year old son. She writes reviews of children’s book on her blog, FIRR-Kids. She enjoys trying new recipes and using her baking as an excuse to add more cookbooks to her collection. 

This book was provided free of any obligation by Chronicle Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.