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Passionate Vegetarian

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Introducing a new voice in vegetarian cooking. Packed with 1,000 recipes that are seductive, sexy, and utterly delicious, Passionate Vegetarian covers all the bases of meatless cooking, from east (Stir Fry of Asparagus with Black Bean-Ginger Sauce), west (Talk of the Town Barbecued Tofu), from the Mediterranean (Swiss Chard with Raisins, Onions & Olives) to the American South (Black-Eyed Pea Ragovt). You'll find lush lasagnas; plump pierogies; bountiful burgers, beans, and breads; pleasing pasta and pies. You'll spoon up soups and stews, and delight in desserts from simple to swoonworthy.

Written by longtime vegetarian Crescent Dragonwagon, author of Dairy Hollow House Soup & Bread Cookbook, Passionate Vegetarian employs innovative methods (try "Ri-sort-ofs," in which risotto technique is used to create splendid, richly flavored grain dishes built around not just rice but also barley, buckwheat, spelt, and even toasted oats with an array of seasonings) and introduces lesser-known ingredients (get to know and love not just tofu and tempeh but a whole new generation of soyfoods, as well as "Quick Fixes" like instant bean flakes). Opinionated, passionate, and deeply personal, Ms. Dragonwagon's tantalizing headnotes will have readers rushing to the kitchen to start cooking. (Can her over-the-top Garlic Spaghetti really be that good? It is.)

Whether you're a committed vegetarian, a dedicated vegan (most recipes offer low-fat and vegan options), or a food-loving omnivore in search of something new and wonderful, this is not just vegetarian cooking--but cooking, period--at its most creative, inspiring, and exuberant.

1120 pages, Hardcover

First published January 15, 2002

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About the author

Crescent Dragonwagon

47 books62 followers
Crescent Dragonwagon is the daughter of the writers Charlotte Zolotow and the late Hollywood biographer Maurice Zolotow. She is the author of 40 published books, including cookbooks, children's books, and novels. With her late husband, Ned Shank, Crescent owned the award-winning Dairy Hollow House, a country inn and restaurant in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, for eighteen years. She teaches writing coast to coast and is the co-founder (with Ned) of the non-profit Writers' Colony at Dairy Hollow.

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5 stars
752 (36%)
4 stars
564 (27%)
3 stars
488 (23%)
2 stars
167 (8%)
1 star
106 (5%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 70 reviews
Profile Image for Mona.
461 reviews283 followers
June 7, 2022
I've had this book for years...since it was first published, but I've only lately put it to good use.

This cookbook has grown on me lately. (Not size-wise haha, it's around a thousand pages, so it's already huge).

Earlier, I used some of her recipes here and there, and some were good, and some were meh. A lot of them were too much: too much work, too intricate, too many ingredients, for a mediocre result.

But, lately I've been on a very restricted budget, and this is where this book really shines. I've taken her ideas for grains and beans and used and modified her recipes and gotten some really good lunches and dinners for next to no money.

So I just upped the rating from 3 stars to four.

Plus I love her name, her outrageous and fun creativity, her flamboyance, and her writing (she's an excellent writer as well as a great cook!)

Warning---this isn't a basic book of vegetarian cooking. Other books serve that purpose better. But as a very useful addition to the cookbook library of a long time vegetarian, it's worth it's (considerable) weight in gold.

Update, 6/7/2022. Sadly, my book fell apart and I had to throw it out. I haven’t replaced it yet. I wish there were a Kindle version, but there isn’t. Oh well.
Profile Image for Alien  Citizen.
56 reviews29 followers
July 23, 2007
This cookbook is my all time favorite of all the many vegetarian cookbooks I have used throughout 14 years of cooking. It is very large but is both cohesive and easily accessible. Her writing too is very clear with an informal style to the stories preceding most recipes that is comfortable and compelling to read (like a conversation among friends). The recipes are delicious and really demonstrate the range of possibilities in homestyle vegetarian cooking. There are recipes made with tofu, seitan, and tempeh (as well as none of the above) and does it all in new and innovative ways that taste great and can't be found in other cookbooks (her angel biscuits are incredible). I think this is key as many cookbooks repeat each other. This one is very original. Having read all her stories and tried several recipes (once I tried a few, I was hooked), I feel as if I have sat down before to have a meal with her in the inn she ran with her late husband. Also, though this is called The Passionate Vegetarian, many of the recipes include easy vegan variations and all recipes include ingredients that are easy to find if not already on hand.
Profile Image for Allison.
11 reviews
October 27, 2007
This is by far the most useful vegetarian cookbook I have owned! The recipes are all VERY good- never had one that failed me. They are simple and varied ethnically, and the author gives ways for most of the recipes to become vegan if you so choose. She also gives simple instructions on how to cook all sorts of vegetables, grains, beans, and legumes by themselves- all very helpful information! I adore this book.
Profile Image for Emily Purvis.
23 reviews2 followers
August 4, 2008
I just got this book yesterday from The Bookstore downtown. I went in looking for a vegetarian cookbook, and I found this 5+ pound monster. What I like about it so far is that it is filled with stories from the author's life, not just random recipes. She talks about her recently deceased husband and what he meant to her, about her inn in Georgia and all the interesting people she met through that. She talks about her favorite recipes and WHY she loves them so much. As the title suggests, she is very passionate about what she eats, as well as life in general.

And there's a recipe for ginger sorbet.... Can't wait to try that one!
Profile Image for Dianna.
1,855 reviews33 followers
May 5, 2021
This book has been sitting by my bedside for over a year. It's a real doorstopper, well over 1,000 pages, but it earns its living space by being the best small-dose comfort read out there. I feel silly reviewing a cookbook that I haven't cooked from yet, but it doesn't matter to me. If I never make one of the recipes, I will still love this book because it is such good reading.

Crescent Dragonwagon is clearly a woman of creativity, knowledge, and innovation. She knows a lot, and she writes well about what she knows. She used to run a restaurant, and she seems to have large numbers of foodie acquaintances. This book is filled with staggering amounts of recipes that would never even occur to me. Do they all sound good to me? No. But many do. And the ones that don't still come with a side of good writing to make up for it.

This book is vegetarian, not vegan. However, if you're looking to cook vegan/WFPB, I would still recommend this book. A large percentage of the recipes are vegan (well over half, I would say!), and for many of the non-vegan recipes, she gives tips to veganize where possible (or tells you not to bother if it's not worth it).

This book does not have photographs, so if that's a deal-breaker for you, look elsewhere. For me, I find that the vivid writing is as good as or better than photographs, even though I usually prefer cookbooks with photographs.

I'll update this review if I ever get this book out of the bedroom and into the kitchen and try out some of the recipes!
Profile Image for Jessica.
181 reviews8 followers
October 31, 2009
I like that this veg cookbook has lots of vegan recipes and that many others are easy to veganize. As for the recipes though, I found that it's a mixed bag. Here are the three I've tried so far:

Melange of Winter Vegetables with Soysage: I was hugely disappointed by this recipe. The idea was to layer vegetables in a skillet with a tight-fitting lid so that they cooked together with minimal intervention. Unfortunately, some veggies were overcooked while some were still partially raw. And the seasonings -- balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and honey -- didn't add much flavor.

Peach Pie in an Oatmeal-Almond Crust: This is divine. The addition of cardamom to the crumble top is inspired, and the crust is very easy to work with (phew). Love it!

Sweet and Sour Pineapple-Tofu Couscous: Easy and a huge hit. Even kiddo loved it.
Profile Image for Shari.
78 reviews5 followers
June 22, 2008
This is the most comprehensive cookbook I own. There's advice on selecting and cooking everything under the sun, and there's a good combination of complicated recipes with simpler recipes for everyday cooking. Dragonwagon's personal notes on each recipe convey the joy she takes from cooking and how her memories of people and events are entwined with each meal.
Profile Image for Paige.
205 reviews
February 19, 2008
A nice, big book with lots of vegetarian ideas. I am fond of the desserts especially because Dragonwagon (okay, it's obviously not her real name, but I have no idea what is) always has a vegan-safe solution to a clasic problem (a great tofu-based pastry cream, for example). I don't use this book as much as I'd like because 1)it's huge and so I forget what's in it and 2)her husband died while the book was in the writing and she talks about her life a lot in the book and while I feel bad disliking this about the book because the writing for the most part is so good, it's also kind of a downer if you know that the wonderful Ned is, well, dead. But lots of great recipes and stories and ideas.
Profile Image for Destiny Dawn Long.
496 reviews31 followers
September 28, 2013
My main purpose in purchasing this book was to have a good reference on how to prepare some of the more unusual vegetables that I purchase sometimes. It was particularly handy when I had a CSA share and kept getting turnips--other members were grumbling about them, but I was telling them all about the delicious and simple Baby Turnips recipe (pg. 726)

It's got a great index and lots of extra information about ingredient selection. It also has a lot of personal anecdotes to accompany the recipes--I don't always have the time to read them when I'm trying to cook, but it's a nice touch.
Profile Image for Mat.
80 reviews3 followers
January 27, 2008
well, i'm not ready to do a final rating on this, because i want to try some more recipes. Years ago i read this book to make fun of the sheer wingnuttiness of it. But the other week i started flipping through a copy of it and decided it warranted another good look. Her merengue cookies came out pretty damned good, and i like the looks of her risotto recipes. so, i'm giving this another shot.
Profile Image for Jeanette (Ms. Feisty).
2,179 reviews1,877 followers
August 12, 2009
This is really a wonderful book, and I picked the wrong summer to try and get acquainted with it. I've been subsisting primarily on fresh fruits and raw vegetable salads. Then we had a record-setting heat spell and I gave up cooking altogether. And on top of that I'm now in the middle of moving! So I'll return this to the library for now and revisit it at a better time.
Profile Image for Dee.
Author 16 books28 followers
February 16, 2008
This is a really good book for the beginning vegetarian or the occasional vegetarian (that's me, because I live in the House of Carnivores). It has good sections on tofu, beans, and tempeh.
Profile Image for Carolyn Eng.
16 reviews1 follower
August 11, 2015
The go-to cookbook on my shelf. A great guide in the kitchen, hints on choosing, storing, cooking every kind of produce, grain, raw ingredient.
Profile Image for Nancy.
534 reviews10 followers
January 29, 2012
900+ pages, NO PICTURES, and maybe 2 recipes I want to try. Like I've said, I'm not a vegetarian, but looking to expand my meatless dish options.

This book does not have many family friendly or budget friendly options. It uses a lot of hard to find/has to be ordered ingredients, and a lot of expensive ingredients. I'm really sorry that my town doesn't have an Asian, Italian, Indian, or Greek supermarket. I guess I'll move!! Yeah, I could drive to get to one, but why waste 2 hours of my time and gas?

I'm not a picky eater, but there is some weird stuff in here. I did skip the whole tofu chapter, because tofu is bland and honestly creeps me out a bit. The soups all seemed liked they'd be bland and blah as well. Also a lot of southern/ozark food, which isn't my thing. The writer often comes off as a bit hoity-toity as well. I don't need a lecture on how to boil potatoes, thanks!

So, 2 stars. 1 for the squash lasagne recipe I want to try, and 1 for the hippy dippy trippy name of the author.

Profile Image for Karla.
84 reviews
June 7, 2009
This cookbook is fun to read as well as use. Crescent Dragonwagon is an entertaining writer and very creative cook and you begin to feel like a personal aquaintance as you read and eat your way through the book. It used to be one of my dreams to go stay (and eat) at her B&B/restaurant (The Dairy Hollow House) in Arkansas but her husband passed away and she closed the business. Her recipes are all vegetarian, some with vegan options, and run the gamut from simple to inspired but every one I have tried as been a winner. She usually has multiple ways to adapt the recipes and encourages you to do that as well. Most of the recipes are full of flavor (not necessarily spicy or hot but there are some that are!) and she puts together combinations that you might not think to try but which are outstanding. "Passionate" and eclectic are great descriptions of the personality and food that shine through in this book.
1 review
April 28, 2011
Few cookbooks can qualify as a good read. This is one of them. Dragonwagon chattily works her way through an astonishing number of whole foods--grains, nuts, vegetables, fruit, you name it--and tells us the cultural history of each along with its nutritional potential. We also get a few really good stories of her time as the owner of a B&B in Arkansas.

As a working mom, I really appreciate the simplicity of some of the recipes (there are much more complicated options for those who have time). I also, however, get a kick out of the truly unique options that aren't ridiculously hard to make. I'd put the kohlrabi pudding and the ginger jalepeno oat pilaf in that category; both have become staples for our family, and those for whom I've made these items have raved about them.

Do yourself a favor, and check out this cookbook, even if you're a committed omnivore. You'll get lost in all the delicious possibilities.
Profile Image for Sarah.
219 reviews
September 18, 2008
not as good as Didi Emmons' Vegetarian Planet, but still pretty fucking awesome. my favorite thing about this cookbook is that it is ABOUT crescent dragonwagon and her late husband ned. like every recipe has a little story about their life that goes with it. or cool historical information about the food. and man, if you ever need a good cry, spend some time rereading the introduction where she tells you about meeting ned, falling in love with him, creating amazing food together, and then the aftermath of her life after he died. man i love crescent dragonwagon. she's quite a good writer. i don't usually read memoirs, but if she wrote one, i'd read that puppy.
Profile Image for Judy.
431 reviews1 follower
February 27, 2010
I was given this book by a friend. She was in one of those mail clubs which sends you items on a regular basis. If you forget to return the card telling them you don't want an item, they send it. She didn't have time to send it back, so she just paid for it, and kept it. Since she wasn't vegetarian, she never read it, so she gave it to me.

I like a cookbook which has more than just recipes. Crescent Dragonwagon writes stories about food. She has one chapter about greens. I wouldn't have known the greens from my home garden beets could be so tasty if I hadn't read this book. I recommend it to all healthy cooks.
15 reviews4 followers
July 28, 2011
Three cheers for Dragonwagon! I use this cookbook extensively (although I'm not vegetarian), and I can't remember ever being let down by a Dragonwagon recipe. I've had the book for about 3 years now and have barely cracked the surface of the recipes in here (it's a huge book). I particularly appreciate the section where she devotes a few pages each to a multitude of different vegetables, explaining what they are, what to do with them, how well they keep, etc., followed by recipes. It was a god-send when I had a CSA share one summer and didn't know what to do with things like kohlrabi.
Profile Image for Teresa Newsome.
5 reviews3 followers
March 16, 2009
This books weighs 596lbs. I love it. It's huge and bulky and has a million recipes in it. I have about a hundred page flags in it to mark things I want to try. I haven't cooked from it much, but everything I have made has been right on the money. There are a lot of little personal narrative moments in this book, and that's what makes it really special. I want to eat with Crescent Dragonwagon, then hug her.
31 reviews
July 15, 2009
Okay, don't let the author's name keep you away from this book. Though the recipes are intense and arduous, the results are fantastic. You've got to try CD's Favorite Luscious Stuffed Chard Packets! This is a cookbook meant to be read, not just browsed through. Dragonwagon's (!!!) writing is inviting and informative - from cooking methods to the history of a dish, this book is hard to put down and will force you to find some time to try her incredible recipes.
19 reviews
June 26, 2010
As a re-read as my husband and I launch a catering company, I thought it would be good to refresh my vegetarian skills. Also, we've been eating more veggies than ever, thanks to our organic garden. This book is fun and full of tasty recipes that would even satisfy the hard-core meat eater. There are tips on nutrition, preparation and how to incorporate vegetable based dishes into your diet. Oh, and its tasty, too.
Profile Image for J..
490 reviews
April 4, 2012
Fun to read and fun to eat.
I got this book as a wedding present six years ago. I enjoy the stories with different recipes. I also like how I can flip to a certain section, like quinoa, and learn information about the ingredient and basic cooking technique and then see related recipes. I often open this one up when I have a vegetable or grain and no idea what to do with it. I hardly ever stick to her recipes exactly but use them as a jumping off place.
Profile Image for Hope.
543 reviews11 followers
November 7, 2007
This book is a great reference book for vegetarian cooking. But...a lot of the recipes are difficult, too big for two people, or require specialized ingredients and/or sauces. I don't want to do all my cooking from it, so I don't want to make her special sauces, and she doesn't provide alternatives. I prefer the Moosewood Restaurant New Classics for everyday cooking.
Profile Image for AJ LeBlanc.
359 reviews32 followers
December 20, 2010
OK, stop laughing at her name.

This book is amazing and someone needs to buy it for me. I borrowed it from a friend and do not want to give it back.

I love that this is as much memoir and love letter as it is cookbook. There's so much stuff in here that I cannot imagine anyone being stuck for ideas.

I'm hoping to pick this up soon and start testing it out.
Profile Image for Shannon.
497 reviews12 followers
March 6, 2011
A hulking beast of a book, this collection wins the prize for most recipes per gram of paper. Unfortunately, recipes are hard to execute as nearly every one requires a page turn and is infused with huge amounts of storytelling. Eclectic ingredients, adventurous flavours, but this one tends to sit unused on the shelf.
June 9, 2012
Oh, while the title screams "vegetarian", and the recipes are indeed meat-free, this book is PACKED with incredibly delicious recipes. Don't let anyone ever say "vegetarian" is boring, or for non-meat eaters only! There are side dishes, desserts, and HEAPS of other goodness in this book. I love it!
Profile Image for Heather!.
40 reviews50 followers
June 25, 2013
I'm a really bad cook, but even so, every recipe I've ever made from this cookbook was a total miss. I still shiver at the thought of the bbq tofu.

This book did introduce me to the existence of Eureka Springs, where I eventually moved (right down the road from Dragonwagon's former B&B). So that was valuable since it is one of the best towns in the country...
February 11, 2018
I have used this cookbook as a reference and all around go-to book for many years. Her recipes are easy to follow and she includes a comprehensive run down of ingredients as well as substitutions. My favorite recipe is Dr. Feelgood’s chocolate cake. My husband has been vegan for more than twenty years and it was the first and best cake I made for him using just plant based ingredients.
Profile Image for Crystal.
Author 7 books26 followers
December 15, 2008
Love this one. I met Crescent at a cooking class here in Austin. I've tried quite a few recipes from this book...it has so much information and options for changing recipes, but sometimes the instructions can get a bit wordy.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 70 reviews

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