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Part-time vegetarians emerge

(ran SP, ST, TP editions)

I am writing to recognize a newly designated species, the "semi" or "part-time" vegetarian.

These are terms used by Oldways, a Boston-based organization concerned with food culture, for young, health-conscious Americans who enjoy vegetables and even vegetarian meals yet continue to eat meat and dairy products, though less copiously and less frequently than did their parents.

Part-time vegetarians are less strident, less confrontational than traditional vegetarians, who eat no meat, fish or poultry; or vegans, who choose not to consume any animal products or byproducts.

They are making a timely appearance on the food scene because some very talented cooks _ not all of them of the vegetarian persuasion _ are expanding the horizons of vegetable cookery by using new ingredient combinations, creative seasoning and improved methods of cooking.

As witness to this, I present for your consideration three new books, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison (Broadway Books, $35); Vegetarian Planet, by Didi Emmons (Harvard Common Press, $14.95); and The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook, by Diana Shaw (Clarkson Potter, $22.50).

Madison, a vegetarian icon since her time as chef of Green's in San Francisco several decades ago, gives us 800 recipes, every one suitable for a "committed vegetarian," she writes.

Superb at creative seasoning, she presents quite a few dishes from the Southwest, where she lives.

Emmons, also a chef, dazzles the reader with her ability to find synergies among ethnic ingredients not usually combined. "Bland" is not in her vocabulary. Her food is strongly flavored and intense.

Shaw takes a teaching stance by offering basic preparations, then providing ideas for embellishing them in "Make It Your Own" lists.

It's a very good book for the beginning cook novice, vegetarian or no.

Here are two vegetarian recipes.

Dixie Pot Pie

Filling:

1 tablespoon butter

{ cup chopped onion

10 okra pods, cut into {-inch rounds

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into {-inch cubes

\ cup sherry

{ cup fresh or frozen lima beans

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Biscuit topping:

1 cup unbleached white flour

{ teaspoon baking powder

{ teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

\ cup milk, plus a bit more

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and cook it, stirring often, until it softens, about 5 minutes. Add the okra, tomatoes, sweet potato, sherry and { cup water. Simmer the vegetables for 10 minutes, adding more water if they begin to stick to the pan. When the sweet potatoes are tender, add the lima beans. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Make the biscuit topping in a food processor or by hand: With a food processor, combine in it the flour, baking powder, salt and butter. Run the machine until the mixture resembles sand. Add the milk, then run the machine in spurts until the dough comes together.

To mix by hand, combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or fork until the pieces are no larger than pea-size. Stir in the milk, and continue to stir until the dough comes together.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface to fit a 9-inch pie pan or a 9-inch-square baking dish.

Transfer the vegetables to the 9-inch dish and cover them with the biscuit top. (It shouldn't seal the pie but just sit on top.) Using a pastry brush, brush the top of the pie with a bit of milk. Bake the pie for 15 minutes, until the top is golden. Serve the pie hot. Makes 4 servings.

Source: Vegetarian Planet, by Didi Emmons (Harvard Common Press, $14.95).

Cauliflower Gratin with Tomatoes and Feta

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1{ teaspoons dried oregano

[ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes or 5 fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed

Salt and freshly milled pepper

1 large cauliflower, about 1{ pounds, broken into florets

Juice of { lemon

2-4 ounces crumbled feta to taste

Finely chopped parsley

Heat the broiler and lightly oil a 2-quart gratin dish.

Heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, oregano and cinnamon and cook until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cook for 7 minutes more, then add the honey and capers and season with salt and pepper. Slide the mixture into the dish.

Meanwhile, steam the cauliflower for 5 minutes. Set it on the sauce and season with salt and pepper. Squeeze the lemon juice over the top and add the feta. Place 5-6 inches under the broiler until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Garnish with the parsley and serve. If you are assembling the gratin ahead of time, cover and bake it at 400 degrees until bubbling, about 20 minutes, then brown under the broiler. Makes 4 servings.

Source: Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison (Broadway Books, $35).

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