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Best new vegetarian cookbooks of 2009

If cookbooks are any indication of the public's changing tastes, then eating vegetarian has not only gotten more popular but more sophisticated this year. One reason may be that the "eat real food" message from Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, Michelle Obama and the like, has gotten a lot of mainstream media attention over the last 12 months—central to that message is the importance of eating local, seasonal produce. People are learning how to cook meals with fresh vegetables as the focus, rather than with the old protein–starch–vegetable equation. And with eco-eating initiatives like Meatless Mondays, Bon Appetit's diet carbon calculator (which highlights the high ecological cost of meat), and Mark Bittman's "vegan before dinner" message, vegetarian and vegan meals are starting to sound, well, normal. It's exciting. Whether you're a full-time vegetarian cook, or a part-time lover of vegan meals, here are five worthy additions to your cookbook shelf. They make great gifts, too.

clean-food-cookbook.jpgClean Food, by Terry Walters. As fresh and beautifully presented as the recipes are simple and delicious. For anyone seeking new ideas for seasonal vegetarian meals that can be prepared in an hour or less, this is an excellent resource. Recipes are organized by season, and pair vegetables, legumes, and whole grains with healthy oils and seasonings for unique flavors. I tried the Stuffed Kabocha Squash recipe and was surprised at how easy, yet complex-tasting, the dish was.

tassajara-cookbook.jpgThe Complete Tassajara Cookbook, by Edward Espe Brown. From the California retreat center famous for its breads and incredible vegetarian cuisine, this new cookbook compiles recipes and insights—with exquisite attention to ingredients and the how the process of cooking can be revelatory in it's own right. I could never give my stained and warn copy of the original Tassajara Cookbook, but this new collection offers a fresh take on the Tassajara tradition.

moosewood-meals-deck.jpgMoosewood Restaurant Farm Fresh Meals Deck makes it easy to shop for and prepare fresh vegetables and fruits all year long. Divided into seasons, recipes are printed each on an individual card so that you can select a recipe, carry it to the market, and know exactly what you'll need.

modernvegetarian_400dpi200×220pxl1.pngThe Modern Vegetarian, by Maria Elia. Think vegetarian meals are usually brown, mushy, and well, not that pretty? Au contraire, says UK-based chef Maria Elia. Serious foodies will delight in these creative, elegant dishes with ethnic flair, perfect for vegetarian entertaining. With gorgeous photos depicting artistic arrangements of the recipes.

urbanveganbook.jpgThe Urban Vegan, by Dynise Balcavage. Another sophisticated take on meat-free eating, the recipes collected in The Urban Vegan are inspired by the rich flavors and culinary diversity of America's cities. Thematically arranged by like "cafe culture" and "urban garden" or even "frugal." A great all-around cookbook for weeknight—and weekend—eating.

vegetarian-middle-east.jpgVegetarian Dishes from Across the Middle East, by Arto der Haroutunian. Although known for its incredible meat-based fare, Middle Eastern cooking is surprisingly vegetarian-friendly. Originally published in 1983 and just now rereleased, this cookbook is filled with spicy-savory-sweet dishes from Arab, Armenian, Jewish, and Turkish traditions. Eggplant, pomegranates, dates, figs, tahini, bulgur, yogurt, turmeric, and saffron figure prominently in the recipes. Yum!

Tried any of these cookbooks yourself? Have others to recommend? Let's discuss!

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