Kafka, a 20-year veteran cookbook writer whose credits include Roasting: A Simple Art and Soup: A Way of Life, allows vegetables to take center stage in this encyclopedic tome. Her collection of inspired recipes isn't about vegetarianism; many include meats, fish and dairy. Rather, it's about the pure enjoyment of the taste of vegetables: "the sweet seductive perfume of slowly sautéing onions, the impossibly vivid red of roasted peppers, the slow dance of eating an artichoke." Kafka's treatment is broad (she covers avocados, tomatoes and rhubarb) and includes classic dishes like Braised Fennel or Chilies Rellenos with Corn alongside more inventive fare, à la Green Bean Frappé, and A Satin of Oysters and Tapioca. Sections on unusual foodstuffs like nettles and cactus pads are fascinating, but less charming is the book's layout, which unhelpfully groups vegetables according to their area of origin. A generic "Cook's Guide" at the end strays rather startlingly from the book's trajectory, providing techniques and recipes for basic sauces, breads, stuffings and more, plus tips for choosing and storing various vegetables, which might have been more helpful in the sections featuring each vegetable. Nonetheless, Kafka has created an appetizing addition to the kitchen bookshelf. 50 photos. (Dec.)
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*Starred Review* Love appears at first an emotionally extreme hyperbole to describe someone's relationship to mere plant products, but readers of Kafka's newest cookbook may conclude that the term is wholly appropriate. Once again, she has triumphed with an outstanding, indispensable cookbook that not only summons the reader to get into the kitchen and cook but also constitutes a valuable and comprehensive reference tool. Kafka has imaginatively arranged her book by the vegetables'origins: corn, tomatoes, squash, potatoes, and peppers from the Americas; beets, carrots, cabbages, asparagus, artichokes, and broccoli from the Mediterranean basin; peas, eggplant, okra, rhubarb, and cucumbers from Asia and Africa; and onions, mushrooms, and herbs that appear seemingly worldwide. The recipes by no means reflect simply native techniques but treat these vegetables as they have been adopted and adapted worldwide. Kafka's vegetables interplay with meats, seafood, dairy products, and one another to create wildly diverse dishes from potato gratins to stews, chicken soups to pizzas, quiches to salads. She even finds ways to make ice creams from many of these vegetables. Mark Knoblauch
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