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Food & Drink Hedonism without pleasure


Myra Kornfeld’s latest cookbook is all work and no flavor

Myra Kornfeld writes books that make healthy folk feel great about cooking responsibly, albeit slowly. Her first cookbook, The Voluptuous Vegan, is the meatless, dairyless guide many vegans turn to when a change of palate pace is necessary. Her new book, The Healthy Hedonist, is written for the growing camp of “flexitarians,” or vegetarians who occasionally eat animal products. The book includes interesting, ethnically inspired recipes like Zucchini Latkes and Southwest Wontons, but the time-consuming recipes run counter to the book’s subtitle: For me, spending more than an hour in the kitchen working on one recipe after a day of work does not make for a “relaxed daily feast.”

Kornfeld learned her trade at the Natural Gourmet Cookery School, the Institute of Culinary Education, and as head pastry chef behind the kitchen doors of New York’s famed vegetarian hotspot Angelica Kitchen. Now a cooking instructor and contributor to Vegetarian Times, Kornfeld’s teaching soul comes out in Hedonist’s detailed tips on technique, a food-origin guide, and glossary of terms, yet many of her recipes are overly complicated and, for all the work, bland.

On a chilly night I decided to warm up by making the White Bean and Spinach Soup with Rosemary. I ended up doubling all the spices Kornfeld recommended: It took two bay leaves, two rosemary sprigs, and eight garlic cloves to season the huge pot, and a full teaspoon of red-pepper flakes (in lieu of the recipe’s quarter teaspoon). The result was an herby, robust soup with a nice kick, but it would not have been had I followed Kornfeld’s recipe. Plus, the recipe had several unnecessary steps, such as sautéing the one-and-a-half pounds of spinach, cooling it, chopping it, and then adding it to the finished soup. Call me lazy, but I’d rather skip the formality and mess and toss the spinach straight into the hot stockpot.

The Healthy Hedonist

by Myra Kornfeld
Simon and Schuster Paperbacks (2005)
$19.95, 368 pages
ISBN: 0743255704

Surprisingly, the strength of Healthy Hedonist lies in the Nibbles and Spreads section. A couple of my vegan friends came over for drinks and hors d’oeuvre and I made the Tofu “Sour Cream” and Onion Dip and a Roasted Asparagus and Garlic Tapenade. Paired with Kettle chips, the creamy onion dip made with silky tofu “sour cream” was the big hit of the night. While the tapenade had savory hints of roasted garlic and sun-dried tomatoes, I had to augment the recipe with more garlic and asparagus, otherwise the strong lemon in the recipe nearly spoiled the batch.

Although Healthy Hedonist may never be a flexitarian bible, it is a helpful cooking reference for newbie health-food addicts determined to change crappy eating habits. Unfortunately, Kornfeld irksomely does not provide prep and cooking time estimates which may cause flexitarians with low blood sugar to break down and do the junk-food deed. I did. And man, was that sausage pizza good.

By M.L. Sharpe

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