It really is a great time for vegetarian cookbooks. If you’re into easy-to-make comfort foods, there are plenty of choices. If you like gourmet-style cooking, one of the Millennium books has you covered. If you’re into the tofu, seitan, tempeh, and fake meat, great choices abound. Jill Nussinow’s The Veggie Queen will appeal to those that want to focus on fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables and not mess around too much with meat analogs.
Much like Nava Atlas’ excellent Vegetarian Soups for All Seasons, The Veggie Queen is organized by season. Since eating locally grown, seasonal vegetables is the best way to ensure great taste and nutrition, this style of cookbook is a good one to have on your shelf.
The book starts off in the Spring and offers up unique and fresh choices like Minted Pea Soup, Orange and Onion Salad on Greens, and Mediterranean French Green Lentils. Summer brings warm weather favorites like an Italian Bread Salad, Smoky Gazpacho, and Andean Corn and Quinoa Salad. We had very good success with the delicious Summer Squash Vichyssoise served cold. During the summer we get an awful lot of squash through our CSA, and this recipe helped us make good use of them. It’s not terribly complicated, either, as it just has garlic, onion, potatoes, squash, basil, soy milk, and a little veggie broth powder.
The Autumn recipes include a Lemon Scented Spinach Spread, Potato and Kohlrabi Gratin, and Polenta Triangles with Roasted Red Pepper Relish. We had moderate success with the Pear and Toasted Walnut Salad, noting that it would be best to buy the ingredients the day we made the salad.
For the Winter, hearty soups and salads are the orders of the day. Curried Pear and Squash Soup, Lemony Lentil and Potato Chowder, and Tempeh and Wild Mushroom Stew are included. We loved the Layered Polenta Casserole which, while moderately intensive, had a nice payoff. Polenta is really satisfying here, used in combination with tomatoes, parsley, and soy cheese.
Two other chapters close out the book, one for “Anytime at All” and one with recipes designed for a pressure cooker. In the “Anytime at All” chapter, I loved the Seasonal Sweet and Sour Veggie Stir-Fry. I’ve never much cared for sweet and sour, but this is by far the best I’ve had.
Nussinow’s recipes range from relatively easy to time intensive. Her ingredient lists won’t throw anyone who belongs to a CSA or shops farmers’ markets for a loop, but they may be a bit daunting for vegetarians new to cooking. The recipes are all vegan, save for a few with honey, but do the standard agave-for-honey swap and you’re good to go. The book is well organized, printed on starkly bright white paper and features lots of fun and informative sidebars. There are a few mock meat-ish recipes like a Chinese “No Chicken” Salad, but they’re few and far between with fresh vegetables taking center stage throughout the book.
The Veggie Queen is one of those cookbooks you may have overlooked in favor of more heavily marketed tomes, but this great little volume is a worthy addition to your collection. For those days when you want to really and truly feel good after you’re done a meal, The Veggie Queen proves she’s up to the task.