Wonderful cookbooks and the best vegetarian salad recipe you have ever seen

Last week, I started a two week look at cookbooks.

My theme last week was French: From a French cookbook that was written as a week-long cooking school to a book that specialized in one pot French recipes to some truly gorgeous French coffee table cookbooks to an exuberant, but controversial, cookbook from a Montreal restaurant.

And I posted two super easy vegetarian recipes I had found. The first, a boozy chocolate mousse and the second a Québécois maple tart.

This week, I continue my look at cookbooks. And, yes, there will be vegetarian recipes to enjoy.

Home Cooking with Charlie Trotter
Charlie Trotter, eight-time James Beard Award winner, has written a book for the casual home cook. So let’s peek inside and see if there is anything for us vegetarians.

First off, the book starts with methods for preparing food, such as sauteeing and braising, then discusses methods for prepare all sorts of kitchen staples such as how to roast a bell pepper to how to make preserved ginger. Next, we get information on planning a menu. And even tips on pairing wine with food.

So far so good. But what about the recipes (of which there are more than 100)?

First, while there is the usual abundance of meat-based recipes, there is also rather a lot of vegetarian recipes such as Yellow squash and granny smith apple soup with preserved squash and Warm peach turnovers with almond ice cream and Mushroom barley soup. So you are bound to find something nice. Second, the recipes tend to be fairly simple. Now, they are, after all, from a professional chef, so it is never ten-minute simple. But you can easily find recipes that call for less than ten ingredients, take less than twenty minutes to make, and require only rudimentary kitchen skills. And, third, these recipes pack a lot of flavor into each dish.

So good things, yes? Of course yes! And I’ve got a vegetarian recipe of his, below, which demonstrates this very nicely.

Now, while Charlie Trotter’s book gives you a nice introduction to cooking, this book throws you, head first, into an in-depth discussion on cooking techniques. In other words, if you’re thinking it is time to learn how to cook, then this 500+ page book is the one for you.

Not for the faint-of-heart, this book contains 600 recipes and 1500 color photographs that demonstrate, step-by-step, how to create an incredible breadth of dishes.

And there are recipes for everything. Well, almost everything. But certainly enough to keep you busy for a year. So what sort of recipes are we talking about? Well, there is everything from Thai cucumber salad and cheese fondue to miso soup, Swiss chard with garlic and olive oil, herb chutney, blini, sticky buns, strawberry shortcakes, hot berry compotes, and madeleines.

But, good as all this is, what is amazing about this book are the tips and hints scattered throughout. For example, in the pie section there is a good discussion on how to line a tart mold or pie plate, in the section on salads there is a nice overview on different greens and how to choose among them, and in the chapter on breads, there is a clear discussion on how a sourdough starter actually works.

Now this should keep you busy, and cooking, for quite some time.
Vegetarian recipe: Charlie Trotter’s Shaved Fennel and Apple Salad
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup canola oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and halved
2 bulbs fennel, thinly sliced

To prepare the vinaigrette: Whisk together the lemon juice, chopped tarragon, and olive and canola oils in a small bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To prepare the salad: Cut the apple into thin slices and place in a medium bowl with the fennel. Toss with the vinaigrette and season to taste with salt and pepper.