- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (30 July 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0618104518
- ISBN-13: 978-0618104512
- Product Dimensions: 2.9 x 17.6 x 22.5 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,894,834 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Full disclosure here: I tested many recipes during the development of this cookbook. But I knew nothing about Didi Emmons before this testing - and with three young kids and a demanding job, I had no interest when a mutual friend suggested I might enjoy testing recipes and providing feedback. I declined, but the message was lost and a recipe was sent to me. I decided I'd try just one (Chard and Eggplant Salad with Miso-Sesame Vinaigrette). When I put a forkful of the finished product into my mouth, I was shocked to discover how good it was. This was the first of what were to be repeated experiences of finding that, in Didi's recipes, the whole is often greater than the sum of the parts - and that surprisingly good and often completely unexpected synergies develop from her recipes.
After this first test, I was hooked. I tested approximately 30 recipes over the next six months. With few exceptions, the recipes were excellent. In a remarkable number of cases, they were sublime. The "Hip Dip" always goes fast at parties. It's an edamame (green soy bean), cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, etc. mixture with a fresh and wholesome flavor. It's perfect slathered on hearty bread and cut into small sandwiches. Other must-try recipes include: Crispy Rice Cakes on Spinach with Viet Red Pepper Sauce - as visually appealing as it is delicious. Root Stew with Millet Cakes - a perfect winter dish and the first time I've ever found a flavorful way to cook millet. The root stew is excellent on its own, but the addition of the millet cakes creates a wonderful fusion. Also, Crispy Bun (noodle) Tofu - an exquisite combination of cooked, fried noodles with a carrot, red cabbage slaw and a tangy mint/lime juice/garlic sauce - hearty yet light - and scrumptious. And Creamy Parsnip Soup with Horseradish - sweet, filling, and with a delicate bite. And if you're in search of the perfect brownie recipe, look no further. Stowe Brownies are exactly as described in the book - "rich and slightly gooey with a crisp, tender exterior".
This book is also fun to read. It is sprinkled throughout with stories and advice about entertaining, including laugh out loud material about Didi's family and neighbors (especially her parents at the holidays) and advice about such diverse topics as purchasing truffle oil (a must-have item, the wonders of which I discovered thanks to Didi); lighting the wrappers from Amaretti di Saronno crackers and watching them flame and lift off into the air (it really works and lights up a dull party); and how to clean your home in 30 minutes. There's also a comprehensive "friendly guide to unfamiliar ingredients" - with descriptions of ingredients and advice on where to locate them.
If you find that you're stuck when it comes to entertaining with vegetarian dishes, this is a great book to get you out of the doldrums.
My only minor quibble with Didi is that she (page 219) eats fish on occasion and thus considers herself a "95% vegetarian". For a vegan, the suggested use of "fish sauce" in a vegetarian recipe book is annoying. However Didi does suggest alternatives - and her recipes are fine without it.
A good friend suggested that the lone negative reviewer may have substituted some other yeast for the nutritional yeast called for in many recipes, I'm sure she's correct. Folks, there is NO substitute, you need genuine nutritional yeast (mild and cheesy) - NOT brewer's yeast (bitter), and definitely not (shudder) baker's yeast!