Vegetarian cooking becomes a matter of tasty in two new books

Two big new books show cooks and diners how they can cut out meat yet still make tasty meals

Two big new books that focus on produce can hardly be called faddish.

America's Test Kitchen, which produces cookbooks, magazines, television programs and more, recently issued "The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook," with 700 recipes. Its consumer research found that people want to eat vegetarian three or four nights a week, said editorial director Jack Bishop. At a recent book event, he said, a woman told him she came because her husband had been prescribed the book by his doctor.

Many of those people "are clueless about how to put together dinner" without a meat item as the focus, Bishop said.

Bishop, who is not a vegetarian but is the dad of one, said health is just one of the drivers. Others include growing interest in the foods of Asia, India and Latin America, which "work well with vegetarian cooking."

A book from the authors of "The Flavor Bible" also supports the interest in vegetables.

Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg ate their way across the country for their 2008 book, "Becoming a Chef." They ate everywhere and tasted everything produced by the country's top chefs. "We loved all of it. We loved California cuisine and classic French cuisine — caviar, foie gras, truffles," Page said.

But their latest book is "The Vegetarian Flavor Bible," which is not a recipe book but rather a detailed guide to flavor profiles and compatible combinations of hundreds of ingredients.

After her father and Dornenburg's parents died, "it really hit home that I was not going to live forever," Page said at a recent book event. She said she came to believe that a plant-based diet was best for her health.

There was a problem, however.

"It had no appeal to us whatsoever," she said. "To eat a meal was to eat meat."

But they took the plunge.

"It was a real journey for us. We never dreamed we'd learn so much about flavor when we stopped eating meat," which they did in May 2012; later they became vegans.

Vegetarian diets have been supported by religions, farmers markets and advocates for health and animal welfare, Page said. Now there's a new reason: "in the name of flavor, and that's pretty exciting."

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