A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen: Easy Seasonal Dishes for Family and Friends

by in Cookbooks 12/09/2010


  • B. Marold says:


    On several counts, this is a better than average vegetarian cookbook by veteran author and Cooks Illustrated executive editor, Jack Bishop. The most outstanding virtue of the book is that, true to the title, the recipes are organized by season. This is a popular notion these days and several books have done it already, but it is doubly appropriate to a vegetarian cookbook. Mr. Bishop decides to divide things into the four seasons rather than splitting things up more finely as others such as Albert Portale have done in one of his books.

    The second virtue of the book may actually be a requirement for a seasonally organized book. This is an additional table of contents organized by type of dish. The categories so organized are Soups and Stews; Lighter Salads; Main-Course Salads; Sandwiches and Tortilla Dishes; Pasta and Noodles; Rice, Grains, and Couscous; Beans and Lentils; Eggs; Tofu and Tempeh; Pizzas and Tarts; Vegetable Main Courses; Side Dishes; and Accompaniments. I am not up on all the finer distinctions in the vegetarian / vegan world, but the presence of distinctly eggy dishes such as omelets, frittatas, and souffles tells me that Mr. Bishop is on the liberal end of the vegetarian spectrum.

    The third virtue of the book is the great variety in foods used in the dishes and in the great variety of ethnic influences. Italian pastas, frittatas, beans, and veggie dishes are cheek and jowl with lots of Middle Eastern, South Asian, Southeast Asian, Chinese, Japanese, and Latin dishes. Tofu, miso, grains, and couscous are given prominent roles in ethnic dishes. I have seen some vegetarian cookbooks that claimed to declaim classic dishes with virtually no rice dishes represented. True to his `best recipe’ background from `Cooks Illustrated’, Mr. Bishop’s techniques are dead on in every case I checked. His rice technique is especially keen on the finer points of difference between cooking simple long grain rice and rice for `sticky rice’.

    The fourth virtue of the book is set of sidebars on ingredients and techniques. In one, for example, he echoes a finding in `Cooks Illustrated’ that points out that American imitations of Indian Basmati rice simply don’t cut it. The sidebars plus headnotes leave no mistaken impressions that this is fast or simple cooking. One’s first experience in preparing a dish from fresh artichokes or fava beans will demonstrate that some veggie delicacies can be very finicky and time consuming to prepare.

    The fifth virtue of the book is in the pantry recipes or, more accurately `Everyday Basics’ with recipes for stocks, doughs, basic rice preparations, basic potato preparations, and basic corn meal preparations. These are all `seasonless’ recipes, as good rice, potatoes, and corn meal are available the year around. The best finds in this chapter are the three different vegetable stocks, one traditional, one Mediterranean with basil and potato, and one Asian with dried shiitake and ginger. Bishop demonstrates great respect to his veggie ingredients by simmering for no more than an hour.

    The last virtue I consider valuable for you, dear reader, to know is the fact that Bishop is neither preachy nor rigid about his vegetarianism or seasonality. He freely confesses to using imported materials out of local season and makes recommendations for supermarket replacements for stocks and such (look for stocks in cardboard aseptic containers). This liberality extends to the fact that several recipes are not strictly from their seasonal chapter. I am especially happy that Mr. Bishop did not bring along the `Cooks Illustrated’ dialectic of examining lots of unsuccessful methods, which cooks have known to be bad ideas for centuries.

    I do believe there are some recipes that are less than stellar. There are times when `simple’ leaves you with the feeling that something is missing, but then, maybe this just means you palate needs some education. Overall, I found lots of sound ideas, albeit few with which I was unfamiliar. Sometimes, I think certain culinary ideas, even ideas which may be centuries old, suddenly acquires a currency among culinary writers. All of a sudden, everyone is talking about adding Parmesan rinds to soups and broths. Mr. Bishop uses this very simple idea in the most novel manner by adding it to the broth to be added to risotto in place of the conventional chicken stock. Thank you, Jack.

    Highly recommended for the vegetarian and all others searching for reliable seasonal recipes and nutritious dishes. Intermediate skills required. Few expensive or truly hard to get ingredients.

  • Kristin T says:


    This is the best vegetarian cookbook I have bought. The recipes are all based on what vegetables are in season and the recipes are really tasty. The recipes are easy to prepare and appeal even to picky eaters like myself. You need this cookbook!

  • Orianna says:


    I was impressed with the originality and inventiveness of this recipe collection. I think all cooks would welcome this author’s ideas on how to include more fresh fruits and vegetables in their family’s diets. Also recommended Professional Vegatarian Cooking by Ken Bergeron

  • Kay says:


    This book is organized into seasons, so the author is assuming that you won’t be interested in buying produce that is not at its freshest (meaning most of the produce from a supermarket in the winter). Most people are very aware that tomatoes in the winter are terrible and there is no point in buying them. This is the basis behind this cookbook. If you are the type of person that loves shopping at specialty markets like Whole Foods and love to visit local farmer’s markets or have a garden in the summer this book is perfect for you.

    The recipes are fairly straight forward and uncomplicated, and they don’t tend to call for a lot of ingredients so what is absolutely imperative for having the recipes turn out wonderful is using the best ingredients possible. For instance if a recipe lists fontina cheese, don’t use the cheap $7 a pound stuff sold at the supermarket. You need to go to a reputable cheese counter (like Whole Foods) or a cheese shop and pay the $15 a pound for the real stuff, Fontina Val d’Aosta. If you aren’t the type of person that is willing to do that type of shopping, these recipes may seem bland to you. I will add that when he uses expensive ingredients he doesn’t tend to call for a lot of that item, so a little goes a long way.

    So far I have prepared quite a few of the winter recipes and a few of the fall ones. All of them have been very good and a few have been spectacular and have become new family favorites like the caramelized onion pizza with blue cheese and walnuts and also the vegetarian chili that uses chipotles in adobo sauce and a good 12oz beer. I can’t wait for spring and summer when my own garden and the farmer’s market are in full swing so I can try recipes from the other seasons.

    I strongly recommend this book for vegetarians who like to use fresh seasonal ingredients. I was so impressed with what I have prepared so far from this book that I recently purchased his Italian cookbook and have been trying out some of the recipes in that one.

  • salad lover says:


    I really love all of Jack Bishop’s cookbooks. I have an entire bookshelf of other vegetarian classics, but I keep coming back to his. This cookbook has a great span of cuisines, good tips, and I like how it is organized by season. A great pick for someone looking to expand their vegetarian recipe collection It has the best squash risotto recipe ever, too…

  • KNSudha says:


    This is one of the cookbooks I pull out every few days, and have no hesitation in cooking from it

    even for the first time for guests — Ingredient lists are simple, so you will have an idea of the tastes to expect from just reading the recipes. And yes, that means you use top quality fresh ingredients as another reviewer mentioned because there are no rich sauces etc usually to hide mediocre produce. Its great everyday healthy fare, that you don’t mind repeating, and truly kid pleasing as well.

    Because its arranged seasonally, I usually realize that I’ve picked up some ingredient which stars in a nearby recipe that week at the farm market and thats a great way to combine menus when we have extra folks at the table and also to please picky eaters who may not like a particular flavor…

    And his salads have such lovely unique flavors, everyone at the table is asking for seconds and recipes to take home.

    I also love his menu combinations listed at the beginning which are a fool-proof way to combine for entertaining friends. I find that I turn to his cookbooks the most because the base ingredients like olive oil are heart friendly. I used to love Mollie Katzen and then Deborah Madison, but while I still turn to Deborah Madison for the truly wow cooking occasions, I stick to this for everyday because of the light, family friendly approach and the fact that you can usually put a meal on the table in a couple of hours.

  • Jennifer Donovan says:


    I am not a vegetarian, although I try to eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and like the idea of reducing saturated fat (meat) in our diets. This book is written in the characteristic Cook’s Illustrated style of giving information along with measurements and cooking times. The recipes here are delicious, as well as accessible to someone who doesn’t mind a small cooking challenge. I especially enjoyed some of the salads in this book, and his recommendations on which of the recipes his young children enjoyed.

  • J. S. Boyd says:


    It’s not that hard to find a cookbook that has one or two of the following:

    * vegetarian food

    * not overly-reliant on tofu/meat substitutes

    * seasonal ingredients

    * slow-food/from scratch cooking

    * doable recipes for beginner/intermediate cooks, where you still might learn something

    But it is hard to find all these things in one book!

    It’s very intimidating to try to learn to cook and eat seasonally/locally at the same time, since as a beginner I’m totally reliant on recipes. “A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen” has become my go-to cookbook for figuring out what to do with that CSA share/all that stuff at the Farmer’s Market.

    Most importantly, the recipes taste good – ranging from satisfying weeknight meal good (B) to I can’t wait to serve this to dinner guests (A++).

    Many of the recipes do take a bit more time, though they vary quite a bit. The dishes I’ve made have taken anywhere from 30 mins to 2 hours – then again, I’m really slow in the kitchen. I think Bishop mostly aims for about the hour mark.

    The recipes are a nice mix of cooking styles from all around the world, with a smattering of traditional American favourites, like grilled cheese sandwiches with garlicky mushrooms & creamy tomato soup (yum!).

    This is a book that makes me want to head to the kitchen on a weeknight – and I highly recommend it!

  • Carol T. Baker says:


    This is the cookbook I’ve been looking for since making the change from vegetarian to vegan last year. While I appreciate the strictly vegan cookbooks that led me out of my “What else can I make but stir-fry?” rut, A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen offers recipes that will, for the most part, appeal to nearly everyone — omnivores seeking variety or reduction of meat consumption, vegetarians seeking to expand their repertoire (especially those new to vegetarian cooking and needing simple recipes with easy-to-follow directions), and vegans. I would guess that 70% of the recipes are vegan as written, and many of those that are not can be modified using vegan substitutions. Perhaps only 10% or less of the recipes would not lend themselves to easy “veganizing.” So, on to the other 90%…

    The book is beautifully organized: It opens with several pages of menu selections that make it easy to plan meals from casual to elegant. Next, the actual recipes are grouped by the four seasons, allowing for easy menu planning and shopping according to what is fresh (and, where possible, local). Next, there is a section in which the recipe titles are organized by categories (either by finished items such as salads and sandwiches, or by ingredients such as rice and grains). Finally, the extensive index (also organized by both ingredients and finished dishes) assists in quickly finding the right recipe.

    But of course the most important element is the food itself, and the combination of preparation ease, ingredient availability, and innovative global food exploration makes this book a winner. Most of the recipes have ten ingredients or fewer, including spices. The recipes are well presented and easy to follow. Cooks with basic skills will have little problem with most of them. For the few recipes that are a bit more challenging or time-intensive, the author gives helpful hints. I appreciate the side bars, which grace nearly every page, and provide useful information about ingredients and cooking techniques that may mystify some: how to cook light fluffy rice vs. sticky rice, why you should rinse quinoa before cooking it, what grind of bulgur and stone-ground cornmeal to use and why, what’s in hoisin sauce, and so forth.

    Bishop’s stove-top method for cooking tofu is ideal for those new to this vegetarian mainstay. It’s been said in some reviews that other cookbooks provide more adventurous tofu recipes, and that may be so. But what I like about Bishop’s book is that it is not overly reliant on tofu (and tempeh) recipes — there are about twenty tofu dishes — enough to let newbies explore safely before moving on to recipes elsewhere and enough to provide delicious variety for experienced tofu cooks. The book balances the use of these items with the use of many other vegetarian foods — grains, beans, pastas, and especially vegetables.

    I like Bishop’s approach to global cuisine. He manages to get the essence of the tastes specific to a particular cuisine, say, Indian or Thai, in recipes that are short and simple. I have about three dozen pages tagged for recipes I want to make right now — they’re all in the “global cuisine” category and nearly all have fewer than ten ingredients and can be made in 30-60 minutes. I have bookshelves sagging with “authentic” cookbooks for Indian, Thai, and Mexican food, and love to go to those occasionally when I want to break out and really stretch my culinary muscles. But I know most dishes will require a long shopping list and a commitment to serious kitchen time. Now, with Bishop’s book, I can satisfy my craving for something “exotic” with a minimum of effort and expense.

    The variety of the recipes is joy to behold, the titles like poetry: Chilled Curried Yellow Squash Soup with Cilantro-Lime Puree; Red Curry Braised Tofu with Snow Peas, Red Pepper and Scallions; Tamari-Glazed Tempeh Wraps with Sesame Quinoa and Mizuna…

    Who will like this book? Anyone who wants to expand their repertoire of vegetarian and vegan recipes, and especially those who want to broaden their taste horizons without spending hours in the kitchen. A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen is a perfect balance of inspiration, education, innovation and practicality. It will appeal to the new vegetarian or vegan while also providing enough new ideas to satisfy anyone, new or seasoned, who wants a delicious veggie/vegan dish on the table with minimum time and effort.

  • S. D. Paul says:


    I am a huge supporter of Jack Bishop’s cookbooks. He won me over with Pasta e Verdura, which happens to be the cookbook that rekindled my love of goofing around in the kitchen. I rave about that cookbook to every cook I know, and have purchased copies of it for several people, including my mother- who was never the greatest cook when I was a kid, but has much improved over the years! Yeah, I know, maybe cooking noodles and veggies is so simple minded any dunce could figure it out- but dang it, I was trapped in a cooking malaise for some years and it took that god amongst men, Jack Bishop, to snap me out of it. I mean, no fooling, I was at a point where I would stare at my cookbooks until I was so bored to tears that I’d finally throw in the towel and grab take-out. Oh yes, my friends, those were dark days. I turned to all sorts of vegetarian cookbooks, but at some point I couldn’t take any more of the preachy health nut babble. Eeesh, just cause you stop eating meat/dairy/cooked food/or whatever else doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a well balanced diet, nor does it give you street cred. Some of the most unhealthy folks I’ve ever met were vegetarians or vegans. Anyway, I digress. Back to praising Mr. Bishop.

    This cookbook is well organized, easy to follow, and the recipes I have tried are tasty as all get out. I read the review with the nay-saying about the tofu and the quinoa, but I haven’t as yet prepared those dishes. Wanna know why I didn’t try the quinoa dish? I can’t stomach that god awful sludge, and I have vowed to never attempt to cook it again. I’ve tried to prepare it numerous times in different ways, and it always ends up tasting like a steamy pile of garbage. It would take Mr. Bishop himself showing up and cooking quinoa in my kitchen to get me to try that rubbish again. And if one recipe involving tofu seems bland, it ought to inspire a fun-tastic round of recipe doctoring, which is what cooking is all about. I mean, I adore the recipes in this book, but I NEVER follow a recipe one hundred percent. Who wants to do all that measuring? A person must always personalize a recipe a little bit, right? The point is, the recipes in this book are simple and inspiring and delicious. So delicious that I felt the need to blather on and on and on about how super cool Jack Bishop is.

    Well, it’s nearing the snacking hour, so I’m off to the kitchen to make a big mess. Perhaps I may be tempted by the quinoa pilaf with caramelized onions and toasted pecans on page 272… I really want quinoa to be tasty, and shouldn’t caramelized onions make just about anything mouth watering and appetizing???

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