by Kate Heyhoe
The Archangel of Vegetable Heaven
If there was ever a muse for vegetarian cuisine, Mollie Katzen would be it. Vegetables inspire her—from painting them, to eating them, to creating music with them in mind. Mollie, quite simply, adores vegetables.
In her latest book and PBS series, Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven, Mollie treats vegetables with a light and loving hand, respectful of their freshness and natural vibrancy. This is not surprising- for over two decades Mollie has shared her passion in some of the most popular vegetarian cookbooks on the shelves, including Moosewood Cookbook (one of the Top Ten Best Selling Cookbooks of all times), The Enchanted Broccoli Forest and Still Life with Menu.
In sampling the recipes from Vegetable Heaven, I am reminded of Renaissence paintings where celestial sunbeams pierce dramatically through lofty, billowing clouds, illuminating the journey between heaven and earth. In these paintings, the otherwise imperceptible sun's rays become radiant and take on form only because of the clouds that frame them. Similarly, in Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven the inherently pure and crisp flavors of vegetables and grains become illuminated when framed by a background of sometimes strong, sometimes subtle seasonings —ones that complement dynamically without dominating the scenery.
Mollie's culinary canvases are matched only by her own paintings —real canvases that depict in two dimensions the same qualities she reveres in the three dimensional world of taste and touch. Vegetable Heaven features Mollie's colorful images of red onions, peppers, cherries, leeks and other fruits and vegetables in their natural state, before they become reincarnated into one of her tasty dishes. Her most whimsical illustrations—piano-playing frogs, crocodiles charging a pizza, bunnies doing all sorts of happy-dappy things—appear in her delightful cookbook for preschoolers, Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes. I can only imagine what charming, fanciful images her sequel in progress, "Honest Pretzels," will have for school-age children.
In Vegetable Heaven, Mollie takes her vegetables around the world, dressing Cauliflower in Tomato Curry, Green Beans with Tofu in Thai Peanut Sauce and Black Beans in Mango Sauce. Besides main dish entrees, Mollie creates "side-by-side" dishes. These mix-and-match recipes not only add variety of flavor, but the assortment of the foods themselves helps ensure a balanced diet with adequate nutrients, an issue of particular importance to vegetarians.
Of course, you don't have to be vegetarian to love Mollie's meals. They stand alone as great tasting recipes, and anyone willing to cast their carnivorous palates aside now and then can find plenty of treats to satisfy. Moreover, Mollie has a particular knack for making wondrous meals with very little effort—these are recipes that anyone can make in very little time, using common, everyday ingredients.
So this summer, I recommend you put an extra ray of sunshine in your life with Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven. Besides my interview with Mollie (whom I affectionately call the Archangel of Vegetable Heaven), I've included some particularly cooling hot-weather recipes and illustrations from the book—inspirational samples in hopes you try more. As Mollie says in her preface:
"Vegetable Heaven is an invitation to tap into the beauty and pleasure of food—a reminder that we deserve good things, and that we have it within ourselves to create these good things that we deserve."
by Mollie Katzen
1998, Hardcover, US $27.50
Illustration art by Mollie Katzen
Recipes & art reprinted by permission
Information provided by the publisher
Copyright © 1998—the electronic Gourmet Guide, Inc. All rights reserved.
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