Pros: Some wonderfully healthy vegetarian soups in here; easel format saves space
Cons: Didn’t wow me like some of Mollie Katzen’s other cookbooks; easel format is awkward
Rating: 3 out of 5
Even if you aren’t familiar with Mollie Katzen’s name, you might know her work. Through the Moosewood Restaurant and its associated cookbooks, she’s helped to popularize vegetarian food and cooking. I’m quite fond of her Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts, myself. Unfortunately, while the soups in here are good, they didn’t wow me like her desserts.
Mollie Katzen’s Recipes: Soups is produced in an interesting format that I can’t decide whether to like or dislike; I’ll describe it so you can decide for yourself whether you’d find it useful. It’s a small ring-bound book tucked into a board sleeve so it’ll sit well on a shelf. Once you take the book out, you move a couple of things around, tuck one thing into another, and you end up with an easel. The idea is that you set it up so it only takes up a few inches of counter-space and your recipe ends up standing up in front of you, making it easy to read while you cook.
In this it works fairly well. The angle is fairly steep, so you’ll need to set it down on a perfectly level surface or risk pages falling closed on you. I also felt that this worked better for cooking than for looking through the cookbook to find recipes, which was a bit more awkward. And once you’ve set it up as an easel, it’ll never quite collapse back all the way again; while you can slip it into its sleeve to fit on a shelf, at least, it’s still a bit awkward to work with in other ways. Other folks might find this format perfect; it just didn’t quite work for me. Maybe over time I’d get more accustomed to it and change my mind; it’s hard to say.
The handwriting font is attractive, but when it comes to cookbooks my personal preference is for something plain and clear. There are no photos, but I tend to think photos are pretty unnecessary with soups. The directions are clear and simple; these are not overly complex recipes.
The table of contents and index are quite handy; the ToC lists recipes in order, while the index lets you look for things by ingredient, both of which are useful.
It seemed to me like the flavors in these soups weren’t balanced entirely well. Some seemed under-seasoned while others seemed over-seasoned. The spices in the curried squash soup smelled to-die-for while cooking, but the soup was flavored strongly enough that I found it a bit unpleasant, and that’s unusual for me (I’m a flavor junkie!). I also found some of the soups didn’t reheat very well, which is a tad unusual for soups.
The soups aren’t vegan, as a number of them use dairy, but it would be simple enough to substitute soy products and the like.
If you’re die-hard looking for a source of healthy, vegetarian soups, this is certainly a good option. As a cookbook in general, however, I’d say it’s good but not great. However, many of the things I wasn’t so fond of will be taste-dependent.
The intro notes that:
Most of the soups from the Moosewood Cookbook and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest are here, many with only minor changes/improvements. You will find a few new recipes as well.
So if you’ve used those cookbooks, I’d say you can best judge whether you’re likely to enjoy this one by what you thought of them.