Customer Reviews: Fresh & Fast Vegetarian: Recipes That Make a Meal
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VINE VOICEon May 1, 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
For the most part, author Marie Simmons avoids my pet peeve with some vegetarian cookbooks: an over-reliance on carbs or on meat substitutes. There is a chapter of meals based on breads and a fair number of the other recipes include grains or potatoes, but many are vegetable and/or bean-based. Many of the recipes are vegan (or could be if cheese is omitted).

As you can see from the list of recipes (below), there are a fair number of ethnic dishes from curries to quesadillas. My pantry is definitely lacking several of the ingredients the author uses (such as Bhutanese red rice, buckwheat, and tamari), but the international section of slightly upscale grocery stores (such as Harris Teeter, Wegmans or Whole Foods) should have most, if not all, of them. The author provides a page of mail-order sources for hard-to-find ingredients (or for cooks without access to a well-stocked grocery store).

Each recipe includes a brief introduction and suggestions about how to make it a meal by combining it with one or two of other dishes in the book. For example, the author suggests serving the Soba Noodle Salad with Snow Peas alongside either of the shredded Tuscan kale salads or Miso Soup with Spinach, Curried Tofu and Shiitake. Possible substitutions include replacing the snow peas with asparagus, sugar snap peas or green beans as well as replacing the sesame seeds used as a garnish with peanuts, almonds or other nuts. The author sometimes suggests how to tweak the recipe of a recommended side dish to better complement the pair. For example, when she suggests pairing the Red Rice Salad with Edamame, Tamari Walnuts and Ginger with the Cabbage, Pineapple and Peanut Salad along with the Broccoli and Red Onion Stir-Fry with Tamari Walnuts, she recommends omitting either the peanuts in the first dish or the walnuts in the latter dish so as to not feature nuts in all three dishes.

Many of the recipes also include possible substitutions. Possible substitutions for the Soba Noodle Salad include replacing the snow peas with asparagus, sugar snap peas or green beans as well as replacing the sesame seeds used as a garnish with peanuts, almonds or other nuts.

The introduction includes a brief overview of techniques (such as soaking vegetables and grating rather than chopping garlic), ingredients (including how to store various herbs and how to make your own spice blends such as Za'atar) and other basics (such as how to prepare hard-cooked eggs and toast nuts).

Each of the recipe chapters begins with a page or two of tips. For example, the chapter on vegetable sides includes tips on basic vegetable cooking (boiling, braising, roasting, pan-searing and skillet-cooking).

The first chapter, Soups That Make a Meal, includes recipes for:
* Roasted Tomato Soup with Avocado
* Chilled Watermelon and Tomato Soup
* White Bean and Fennel Soup
* Tomato and White Bean Soup with Spinach Pesto
* Lentil and Vegetable Soup with Smoked Paprika
* Red Lentil Soup with Coconut Milk and Toasted Cumin
* Lentil and Shiitake Soup with Leafy Greens
* Pureed Black Bean Soup with Piquillo Peppers
* Curried Chickpea Soup with Summer Vegetables
* Carrot, Sweet Potato and Ginger Soup with Baby Bok Choy
* Leek and Potato Soup with Roasted Cauliflower
* Winter Borscht
* Pumpkin and Tomato Soup with Cheese
* Farro and Kale Soup with Orange Gremolata
* Miso Soup with Spinach, Curried Tofu and Shiitake
* Curried Coconut-Squash Soup with Peanuts
* Vegetable, Black-Eyed Peas and Orzo Soup
* Easy Basic Vegetable Broth

The second chapter is on Main and Side-Dish Salads and includes recipes for:
* Red Rice Salad with Edamame, Tamari Walnuts and Ginger
* Black Rice, Mango and Sugar Snap Pea Salad
* Tomatoes and Potatoes with Avocado-Dill Dressing
* Toasted Bulgur, Tomato and Feta Salad
* Soba Noodle Salad with Snow Peas
* Toasted Quinoa, Corn and Avocado Salad
* Middle Eastern Bread Salad
* Green Bean, Corn, Tomato and Cucumber Salad
* Warm Green Bean and Tomato Salad with Mint
* Spinach, Avocado and Chopped-Egg Salad
* Shredded Tuscan Kale, Tomato and Avocado Salad
* Shredded Tuscan Kale Salad with Tamari and Sesame
* Summer Tomato and Olive Bread Salad
* Cabbage, Pineapple and Peanut Salad
* Curried Quinoa and Apple Salad with Dried Cranberries
* Basic Vinaigrette
* Japanese Vinaigrette with Ginger

The third chapter, Topped and Stuffed Breads That Make a Meal, features recipes including:
* Rosemary-Fennel White Bean Spread
* Broccoli, Dill and Lemon Spread
* Chickpea Spread with Pomegranate Molasses
* Beet and Tahini Puree
* Braised Swiss Chard with Pecorino Curls
* Tomato, Avocado and Tarragon Spread
* Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Spread
* Multi-Mushroom Pate
* Cheese and Mushroom Melts
* Toasted Italian Bread with Mozzarella, Tomato and Olives
* Quick Melted Comte Cheese Crisps
* Grilled Comte Sandwich with Apple and Mango Chutney
* Toasted Flatbread (Naan) with Goat Cheese, Sauteed Greens and Crispy Shallots
* Curried Egg and Feta Breakfast Quesadillas
* Roasted Vegetable and Mozzarella Quesadillas
* Corn Tortillas with Mushrooms, Spinach and Manchego Cheese
* Summer Veggie Burritos with Goat Cheese
* Spicy Chipotle Chile Salsa

The next chapter covers Main Dishes and includes recipes for:
* Stir-Fried Tofu with Oyster Mushrooms, Bell Peppers and Spinach
* Tofu "Steaks" with Spicy Almond Butter Sauce and Baby Bok Choy
* Stir-Fried Curried Tofu with Coconut Green Rice and Cashews
* Pan-Seared Tofu with Eggplant and Curried Tomato-Mint Sauce
* Bulgur Pilaf with Roasted Vegetables
* Toasted Quinoa with Spinach, Roasted Tomatoes and Walnut
* Farrotto with Tomatoes and Pecorino
* Cumin-Scented Israeli Couscous with Caramelized Cabbage
* Red Quinoa with Scrambled Eggs, Asparagus and Tamari Almonds
* Shortcut Corn Risotto with Summer "Succotash"
* Vegetable Paella
* Lentil and Shiitake Ragout with Green Beans
* Curried Lentils with Walnuts, Spinach and Cherry Tomatoes
* Curried Potato, Shiitake and Broccoli Stir-Fry
* Twice-Baked Potatoes with Roasted Poblano Chiles and Queso Fresco
* Roasted Sweet Potatoes Topped with Quick Black Bean Chili
* Sauteed Cabbage and Crispy Potato Cake with Melted Cheese
* Cannellini Ragout with Leeks, Green Beans and Orange
* Artichoke and Potato Stew with Black Olives and Tomatoes
* Winter Vegetable Stew with Moroccan Flavors
* Coconut-Vegetable Curry with Cashews
* Curried Chickpeas with Roasted Cauliflower and Spinach
* Risotto-Style Penne with Tomatoes and Ricotta Salata
* Orecchiette with Ricotta, Broccoli Rabe and Blistered Cherry Tomatoes
* Gnocchi with Green Beans and Walnut Pesto
* Twice-Cooked Polenta Gratin
* Three-Mushroom Ragu with Stovetop Polenta
* Double-Corn and Jalapeno Polenta Gratin
* Skillet-Baked Eggs with Blistered Cherry Tomatoes
* Zucchini and Red Onion Mini Omelets with Romesco Sauce
* Quick Supper Frittata

The fifth chapter, Vegetable Sides That Make a Meal, includes recipes for:
* Quick-Cooking Artichokes with Lemon, Mint and Feta
* Spring Vegetable Saute
* Roasted Asparagus with Chopped Egg, Feta and Black Olives
* Roasted Asparagus with Warm Cherry Tomatoes and Black Olives
* Roasted Asparagus with Parmigiano-Reggiano Crumbs
* Twice-Cooked Green Beans with Curried Pecans
* Green and Yellow Wax Beans with Almond Pesto
* Pan-Braised Beets with Pistachio Pesto
* Sauteed Shredded Beets with Orange and Basil
* Pan-Seared Belgian Endive with Lemon, Honey and Thyme
* Oven-Roasted Mini Bell Peppers with Rosemary
* Pan-Blistered Mini Bell Peppers
* Stewed Red Bell Peppers and Tomatoes
* Pan-Seared Baby Bok Choy with Red Pepper Oil
* Broccoli and Red Onion Stir-Fry with Tamari Walnuts
* Broccoli with Olives, Orange Zest and Parsley
* Stir-Fried Broccolini with Sesame and Orange
* Broccolini with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Pine Nuts
* Twice-Cooked Broccoli Rabe with Red Pepper and Garlic Oil
* Pan-Seared Brussels Sprouts with Hazelnuts
* Crisp-Cooked Savoy Cabbage with Asian Flavors
* Carrots with Moroccan Spices and Lemon
* Marinated Carrots with Dill and Mint
* Roasted Cauliflower "Steaks"
* Roasted Cauliflower, Red Bell Pepper and Red Onion with Rosemary and Garlic
* Swiss Chard with Fragrant Garlic and Salt
* Swiss Chard Ribs Gratin
* Curried Corn with Sugar Snap Peas and Mint
* Corn Saute with Jalapeno and Cilantro
* Mexican Corn on the Cob
* Japanese Eggplant Stir-Fry with Shiitake, Bell Peppers and Ginger
* Broiled Eggplant Towers with Tomato, Pesto and Mozzarella
* Skillet-Braised Fennel with Comte Cheese
* Stir-Fried Asian Greens with Crisp Golden Garlic
* Steamed Spinach with Ginger and Garlic Oil
* Crispy Kale
* Oven-Braised Leeks with Orange and Thyme
* Oven-Roasted Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
* Oven-Roasted Mushrooms, Onions and Potatoes with Smoked Paprika
* Okra with Tomato-Ginger Sauce
* Roasted Potato Slabs with Romesco Sauce
* Roasted Sweet Potato Slices with Coriander and Lemon Dressing
* Curried Sweet Potato Wedges with Yogurt, Garlic and Mint Sauce
* Blistered Cherry Tomatoes with Balsamic
* Whole-Roasted Tomatoes with Warm Goat Cheese
* Blistered Plum Tomatoes with Bubbly Cheese
* Apple-Glazed Acorn Squash
* Roasted Butternut Squash with Nutmeg and Manchego Cheese
* Summer Stew of Zucchini, Tomatoes, Corn and Basil
* Broiled Summer Squash with Vinaigrette, Dill and Goat Cheese

The final chapter, Grains and Beans That Make a Meal, includes recipes for:
* Garlicky Buckwheat with Green Beans, Dill and Walnuts
* Toasted Bulgur Pilaf with Cumin, Dried Fruit and Crispy Shallots
* Bulgur and Date Pilaf with Pecans and Parmigiano-Reggiano
* Israeli Couscous with Wilted Spinach, Toasted Pine Nuts and Parmigiano-Reggiano
* Tomato Couscous with Cinnamon and Raisins
* Farro with Basil and Parsley Pesto
* Easy Stovetop Polenta
* Quinoa Pilaf with Apples and Curried Walnuts
* Red Quinoa with Toasted Hazelnuts and Hazelnut Oil
* Black Rice Pilaf with Edamame, Ginger and Tamari
* Yellow Rice and Carrot Pilaf with Mint
* Spicy Red Rice and Orange Pilaf
* Cannellini with Satueed Fennel and Blistered Cherry Tomatoes
* Chickpeas, Braised Kale and Golden Onions with Tomato, Dill and Black Olive Salsa
* Cumin Black Beans with Blistered Tomatoes and Corn
* Lentils with Roasted Red Peppers, Dill, Mint and Feta

I found it helpful that the author organized recipes within the chapter to make it easier for the reader to quickly review meal options. For example, the recipes for Topped and Stuffed Breads That Make a Meal are separated into Spreads and Toppings, Warm Open-Faced Sandwiches, Toasts, Grilled Breads, and Tortillas. Main dishes are divided by main ingredient or type of dish (in the case of Stews): Tofu, Grains, Rice, Lentils, Potatoes, Stews, Pasta, Polenta and Eggs. The chapter on Vegetable Sides That Make a Meal is divided by main ingredient (Artichokes, Asparagus, Beans, Beets, Belgian Endive, Bell Peppers, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Broccolini, Broccoli Rabe, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Chard, Corn, Eggplant, Fennel, Leafy Greens, Leeks, Mushrooms, Okra, Potatoes, Tomatoes, Winter Squash and Zucchini). This will be particularly helpful for me since the advance proof I received did not include an index (there is a note that it will be included in the final sale version).

An omnivore could use this book to prepare side dishes to supplement the main course or add cooked meat, poultry or shrimp to the featured vegetarian dishes. The author herself is a "mostly vegetarian" rather than a strict vegetarian.

I would have liked for the author to include nutritional information for the recipes, and provide a photo with each dish. Only 27 of the dishes are pictured in the 16 pages of photos in the center of the book. While a photo caption names the dish and page number of the recipe, those recipes do not have a note to see the photo on page #.
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VINE VOICEon April 5, 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
As someone who has been cooking for decades, and typically doesn't use recipes, except for inspiration, I know how rare it is to find a truly inspirational cookbook. Fresh & Fast Vegetarian is not only inspirational, it's fun.
There are a slew of recipes that made me want to run to my kitchen and experiment. Marie's book is full of creative riffs on quinoa, farro, Israeli couscous, and a host of other great grains.
Almost every concept is tantalizing. Just imagine making Red Quinoa with Scrambled Eggs, Asparagus, and Tamari Almonds, Pan-Braised Beets with Pistachio Pesto, or Curried Corn with Sugar Snap Peas and Mint. Her Krispy Kale recipe looks as if it will be a staple in my repertoire, as will the Israeli Couscous with Caramelized Cabbage and Oven Roasted Leeks with Orange and Thyme.
Her section on spreads was marvelous.
If you are tired of the same old vegetarian fare, try this book. The recipes are not only inventive, but they will be visually appealing, as well.
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on March 30, 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
1. Roasted tomato soup with avocado
2. Tomato & potato salad with dill dressing
3. Multi-mushroom pate
4. Twice baked potatoes with roasted pablano and queso fresco
5. Broiled eggplant towers with tomato, pesto & mozzarella

Vegetable dishes and up to full vegetable meals are experiments of trial and error for us. One glance through Marie Simmons recipes in "fresh & fast vegetarian" was interesting. Choosing and using the recipes was far more rewarding.

As indiscriminate omnivores, vegan meals are not especially appealing to us (me). For the vegan, there are recipe variations to replace eggs and dairy. As a fresh vegetable cook book, this may be the best we've discovered. The 5 dishes listed are my non-ordered listing of favorites. The only criticism comes from my better half ... calorie counts are not provided. For me, veggie calories are irrelevant.

Bon appetit!
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on August 26, 2012
Tonight I made Roasted Sweet Potatoes with a Black Bean Chili on top - garnished with cilantro, avocado and sour cream (the recipe called for plain yogurt) This was a home run! Each recipe has suggestions on what to serve with it (I LOVE THAT FEATURE) - I made a cabbage, pineapple and peanut salad with fresh cilantro. That was amazing! I could not believe that I made this meal. I never had fresh ingredients as a kid and that carried into my adulthood. I'm just now exploring these tastes and way of cooking. The flavors work so well together, that I can't wait to try more!! I bought this book because I was looking for a book on nutrition and I saw this cookbook had 15 five star reviews. Nothing lower. So I had to give it a try. They were right! There is an excellent section in the front of the book of favorite ingredients. This taught me how to store fresh herbs. In the back of the book are some internet links to some special spices. I checked the cost of these ingredients between the websites listed and Amazon and I found they were both pretty high. I went to to find a website with a promotion for spices. I found a more affordable place. I would name that site, but I haven't received the items yet. Thank you Marie Simmons... I love your cookbook.
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on March 15, 2012
I generally don't follow recipes. Or, if I do, I go online and I hunt for the *exactly perfect recipe* for whatever it is I want to make but need help constructing. Then I usually overhaul the recipe while I'm cooking anyway. I just don't like recipes much -- I suppose they're too confining. Generally, when I cook with a cookbook, I do so with a pen handy to scribble my recipe "corrections" into the margins as I go.

One of the first recipes I made from this cookbook turned out a bit too oily, so I dug out my trusty cookbook pen to make a margin notation. But, wouldn't you know -- turns out that the amount I was GOING to write into the margin WAS the actual amount in the recipe -- I had misread it while cooking. "Aha!" I cried as I put away my pen. "I should have known that Marie wouldn't let me down!" And it's true! This cookbook is the first one I've ever used that does not need any help. Not a bit. Not one little eensy half-teaspoon of anything, added or subtracted. The recipes are consistently perfect: well-balanced in flavor and substance, full of interesting textures and colors, rich with nutrients, and delicious. Marie Simmons, I am your ardent disciple.
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on May 14, 2012
I've had a lot of veg cookbooks that were a bit too healthy-tasting or a bit too 70s. In Fresh and Fast Vegetarian, the recipes are bold-tasting, inventive, and have a global sensibility in the use of spices and other ingredients. Many recipes seem inspired by Middle Eastern, Mexican, Indian, or Mediterranean flavors, though ingredients are rarely difficult to get hold of. Most recipes are simple and fast, but most are just involved enough to feel like a dish suitable for company or potlucks. I've been cooking heavily out of this book since I got it in February and I haven't yet made a single dish I don't like!
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on June 13, 2011
Last week I attended a cooking class led by the author in Dallas, TX. She made seven dishes from her cookbook. I liked the simplicity and fresh ingredients in her recipes. The dishes were simple enough to cook on a week day, yet flavorful and sophisticated that I would cook them for a dinner party. I am enjoying the book so far as it has some creative twists on vegetarian cooking to spruce up my go to recipes.
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on January 19, 2013
When I received this book, I marked quite a few recipes to make. I made the Roasted Cauliflower, Red Bell Pepper dish first. The flavors were amazing! 3 produce items with a few staples in the oven for 20 minutes and I had cauliflower I couldn't stop eating. Then I made the Okra with Tomato Ginger Sauce. Again the flavors were amazing. I ordered this book based on other reviews and I am so delighted that I did. In the next few days I will be making the Curried Coconut Squash soup and the roasted asparagus with parmagiano. I don't know if anything will equal my love for the cauliflower (I've made it 2 more times this week) but I plan to keep trying. The recipes are simple. My greatest pleasure is the lack of "fake" ingredients, e.g. fake meats too numerous in other cookbooks. It's fresh ingredients and spices. You can't beat this!
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on July 4, 2011
Everything I've made out of this book, I've liked. The recipes may not be remarkably innovative, but the combinations work well and the flavors are clear. (Example: The Soba noodle salad is now a standard for me.) Especially for the price, I highly recommend this.
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on May 12, 2011
This book is absolutely top notch. I have long owned and loved Marie Simmon's earlier one, "Fresh & Fast," but this one is better for the simple reason that it eliminates nonessentials. Meat, for example. Also gone are appetizers (who ever cooks them?) and desserts, which I avoid. What caloric sweets can possibly improve on the taste of fresh fruit? So really, the "meat and potatoes" of this book is a pretty impressive range of imaginative day-to-day dishes that you can make without too much fuss. She throws in a few new ingredients (like farro), but most are the kind you're apt to have on hand. The bonus is that most of the recipes are complete proteins and vitamin-rich. If everyone in the world ate from this one book, the doctors would all go out of business.
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