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Cookbook Corner: Vegetarian Dinner Parties

For me, creating a memorable meal for family and friends is one of the most rewarding parts about cooking. As a vegetarian, however, it’s often hard to convince my guests that a multi-course dinner can be delicious sans meat.

Luckily for us vegetarian hosts, Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough have perfected the art of serving vegetarian food to company. No side dishes, no fakin’ bacon, no buffet-style suggestions—these are innovative recipes for five-star dinner parties, organized into carefully crafted courses that showcase vegetables for their true worth.

A column of helpful tips (think prep work, garnishes, wine pairings) accompanies each recipe, eliminating any guesswork. Each recipe is also complete with a suggested menu made up of small plates, soups, salads, and desserts from varying chapters of the book.

Recipe Impressions:

1. Beet/Orange Salad, Spicy Gingerbread Croutons

The star of this salad? The homemade gingerbread croutons, which add a spicy, gingery element to the smooth, sweet beets and juicy orange slices. Salty shavings of ricotta salata and freshly ground black pepper perfectly complete the dish. I did feel that the dressing was a tad vinegar-heavy, and I also think the salad benefitted from a handful of greens (I added a few arugula leaves). Overall, however, it's a keeper for any dinner party menu.

2. Grilled Cauliflower, Thai Chili Sauce, Sweet Potato Puree

Fresh ginger jazzes up the simple sweet potato puree in this recipe, which is garnished with breadcrumbs and ground gingersnap cookies. Despite the name of the recipe, the cauliflower isn’t technically grilled—just pan-seared and then baked in the oven. I wasn’t super keen on slathering sugar-filled thai chili sauce on my cauliflower, so I used a bit less than the recipe called for and just lightly brushed it on. The cauliflower also benefited from a minute under the broiler, which was not a step included in the original recipe. As a main dish course, however, it's visually stunning, incredibly flavorful, and hearty enough to satisfy the table.

Takeaway:

Not only is this cookbook filled with unique and inspiring recipes, it’s also smartly organized and easy to follow. Some of the recipes call for unusual ingredients, but there are enough that rely on pantry staples that everyone can find something they’ll love.

You can purchase Bruce Weinstein’s and Mark Scarbrough’s Vegetarian Dinner Parties on Amazon.

Please be advised that the cookbooks featured in Cooking Light’s Cookbook Review Series do not necessarily meet Cooking Light nutrition standards.