"The Greens Cookbook," Deborah Madison

Pros: Flavorful food; good layout
Cons: None
Rating: 5 out of 5


First posted 10/3/2000
The first product linked from Amazon above is the book I reviewed; the second is a more recent edition of the same book.

Not all that long ago I reviewed Deborah Madison’s cookbook, “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.” I recall not being incredibly impressed with the flavors. Well, everything that her other cookbook isn’t, this one is. “The Greens Cookbook,” based on the cooking of the Greens Restaurant in San Francisco, delivers enough fantastic flavors for any two cookbooks.

First of all, the table of contents lists each individual recipe, which I always love. Salads appears to be the largest section, which makes sense given the vegetarian nature of the cookbook. This chapter starts off with some notes on lettuces, oils, and vinegars, then moves on to leaf salads, salads of beans, noodles, and rice, and vegetable salads. The notes on lettuces, oils, and vinegars are just a page of straight text, so you’ll need to read the whole thing any time you want to look up a note; there are no helpful sub-headings. On the other hand it’s only one page, so this isn’t too big a problem.

The next chapter is Soups and Stocks. It starts with several pages on soup-making, mostly covering various ingredients. The notes are useful, but not amazing. Sandwiches and Breads come next; it’s mostly sandwiches with a couple of breads. Then you’ll find Pizzas.

Pasta is another longer section. There are bits on making dough, rolling out dough and shaping noodles, cooking pasta, and portions. There are actually 6 recipes for the pasta itself, which is wonderful – too few cookbooks include this. There’s a decent section of Gratins, Stews, and Casseroles (probably the second-largest section in here, I’m guessing), then Tarts and Timbales, followed by Filo Pastries, Frittatas, Crepes, and Roulades (all one chapter), Companion Dishes (side dishes to the rest of us), Sauces Relishes and Butters, and Desserts. In other words, this is one thorough vegetarian cookbook!

Recipes seem to be very well-laid-out. It’s generally one recipe to a page (or one recipe on two facing pages), so they don’t often go from front of page to back of page. The ingredients are nicely set apart from the recipes and easy to tell apart. When a recipe comes in multiple parts they’re obviously sectioned, with ingredients offered separately for each part (without hiding in obscure places – you can always tell what ingredients you need). The book is a little hard to prop open, but not nearly as difficult as a soft-cover book. The notes sometimes seem like they could have used slightly better organization, but it’s a minor complaint at best.

My favorite thing is that this cookbook likes to cover the basics – right down to brown rice and egg pasta. It never leaves you stranded wondering if you have a recipe for such-and-such.

Also included are seasonal menus, wine pairings with vegetarian food, a glossary of ingredients, and a list of useful kitchen tools.

ll get it out of the way straight off – I am in love with the guacamole recipe in this cookbook. It’s a deceptively simple recipe, involving avocado, lime juice, and tomato, and I could dip almost anything in it. It’s really hard to beat this recipe.

But this cookbook doesn’t stop there. There’s a Wild Rice and Hazelnut Salad that includes currants and orange juice. There’s an Asparagus Soup that’s quite good. The Mexican Vegetable Soup with Lime and Avocado is fantastic! There’s a Basque Pumpkin and White Bean Soup, a Pumpkin Soup with Gruyere Cheese, a Grilled Tofu Sandwich, Creole Egg Salad Sandwich, Basil Fettucine with Green Beans Walnuts and Creme Fraiche, Spinach Noodle Pudding, Potatoes and Chanterelles Baked in Cream, Squash Stew with Chilies Spices and Ground Nuts, and an absolutely fantastic Cheese and Nut Loaf.

There’s a Chard and Saffron Tart, a Mushroom Timbale with Sorrel Sauce, Asparagus Crepes with Fontina Cheese, Vegetable Brochettes with Marinated Tofu, and a dessert of Fresh Figs, Honey, Cream Cheese, and Mint.

This cookbook does occasionally call for the odd hard-to-find ingredient like hazelnut oil, but it never gets out of hand, and I think it’s quite worth it. Ms. Madison takes her inspiration from all sorts of cuisines, to wonderful effect. All in all, this is a fantastic cookbook, whether or not you’re a vegetarian (we aren’t, and we love it!).

Visit Deborah Madison’s official website

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