`The Savory Way' is an early (1990) book from leading vegetarian cookbook author, Deborah Madison so, as Ms. Madison has a new book on the way, I thought it was high time for me to catch up with her body of work so I can give an informed review of how her new volume fits into her other books.
Ms. Madison is a former colleague of Alice Waters and Lindsey Shere at Chez Panisse who specializes in a very general way, like Mollie Katzen and Madhur Jaffrey, on dishes that fit into a vegetarian lifestyle. Note that the term `vegetarian', especially as used by these three authors, is extremely misleading, as it is much more appropriate to say that they construct meals of everything under the sun except meat, fowl, fin fish and shell fish. Both Madison and Jaffrey make extensive use of milk, cheese, yoghurt, and eggs.
Madison's objective in this book is, in fact, to cover as broad as possible a survey of what can be done without using animal flesh. The book's title may be a bit misleading to some foodies in that `savory' is often one of the words used to divide dishes in two great groups of `savory' and `sweet'. This book in fact includes two rather long chapters on sweets.
A first look at this book shows lots of headnotes to the many recipes. The first thing you need to know if you are put off by `chatty' recipe books is that these notes are almost exclusively devoted to an understanding of the cooking involved with the recipe and how to get the best results from your ingredients. While little stories about the historical provenance of a recipe may interest many, including myself, that is not what this book is about. On top of this, I firmly agree with the blurbed opinion from Mollie Katzen who compliments both her cuisine AND her writing. Almost all professional culinary writers are pretty good, or have an excellent copy editor at work on their prose, but Ms. Madison is a food service professional who writes very well. I often wish the soon to be beknighted Jamie Oliver had a bit more talent with words, as I find his books so comforting in spite of the heavy contribution from his editors.
The very first attraction of the book is its Table of Contents, which lists every single recipe title in the front of the book. This is doubly useful in that this relatively long book divides recipes into chapters covering eleven different types of dishes suitable for just about any time of the day, including a good selection of recipes very good for breakfast. The eleven recipe chapters are:
Quick Bites with 40 pages of recipes for sandwiches, toasts, and spreads.
Salads to Start or Make a Meal with 42 pages
Soups and Stews with 50 pages of thick, thin, and pureed soups, including a new one with my favorite fall ingredient, chestnuts.
Eighteen Quick Pasta Dishes for Five and Company, 32 pages
Stovetop Vegetables, 27 pages of sautes and braises.
Baked and Roasted Vegetables, 25 pages with ratatouille, gratins, tians, and other goodies.
Grilled Vegetables and their Sauces, 11 pages with two to six sauces per grilled dish.
Down to Earth, 26 pages on Rice, Potatoes and Beans (although beans appear throughout all chapters!)
Morning Foods for Day and Night, 26 pages of Eggs and Cheese and Cereals and Breads.
Finishing Touches, 31 pages of sauces, salsas, condiments, dressings, pastes, and you name it.
Desserts, 45 pages on Fruit Dishes, Cream Cheeses, Pastries, and Custards
Sweetmeats, 12 pages on sweet pastes, peels, syrups, dried fruits, and other dessert dressings.
Every recipe I examined is relatively simple to prepare with fewer expensive or rare ingredients than you may find with Jaffrey or Jack Bishop, and great tips on understanding the recipes and the ingredients.
The appendix is just right for the occasional home cook who is lost in the forest of equipment you can find in a first rate kitchen supply store such as the second floor at Zabars. Ms. Madison puts it all in perspective by highlighting all my favorite tools such as gratin and tian pots, the mortar and pestle, a few good knives, the food mill and the pizza stone and peel. The chapter on the pantry has lots for the novice and a few good tips for the foodie, such as the fact that Mexican olive oils can be very spicy. Possibly the best items in the Appendix are the lists of dishes for special purposes such as entertaining, feeding large groups, and fitting into a low fat diet (note that for the number of recipes in this book, this low fat list is surprisingly short).
The list of sources is short with no Internet sites provided, but I recognize that virtually all of these vendors are still in business. The bibliography is also brief, but hits all the right titles, especially Joy Larkcom's excellent `The Salad Garden'.
This book is a great resource for `liberal' vegetarians who simply eschew meat. I would add this to Madhur Jaffrey's `World Vegetarian', Peter Berley's `The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen', and Jack Bishop's `The Complete Italian Vegetarian' to create a great core vegetarian library. I cannot at this time compare this to Ms. Madison's other books, as this is the first I have read, although I sense many of her more recent books have a narrower scope, focusing on vegetable dishes. I plan to review her other books in the next few days.
Highly recommended for both vegetarians and foodies in general.