Enter my new cookbook.
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman is a great reference for curious omnivores like me. Justin picked this out for me, and it was a great selection. I've tried other vegetarian or even vegan cookbooks, but they too often are preachy, or a little too funky, or call for excessive amounts of tofu. I'm just looking for good recipes eaten by normal people, not self-help. We've got enough preaching around here; I don't need it from a cookbook (wink, wink).
But this book has great ideas, modern and interesting but not weird. I love his style of "theme and variations." For example, he'll list a simple pasta sauce but then 5 ways to modify it, depending on the season or what's available. Or a list of "20 things to put on bruschetta." The "vegetables" chapter is enormous, with lots of information about how to choose and prepare different produce. I think that will help me use up some of the bounty from our CSA.
I like cookbooks that are written by regular home cooks rather than professional chefs. The recipes are very realistic, and most ingredients are available even at small town groceries. If it's a complicated recipe or obscure ingredient, he makes sure to warn you so you don't get in over your head. He's also an omnivore, so it's a good perspective for someone like me who's just experimenting.
To give you an idea, so far I've tried Southwestern Mixed Vegetable Soup, Barley Soup with Seasonal Vegetables (the summer vegetable and roasted variations), Vegetable Lasagna, Buttermilk Blueberry Pie (in an oatmeal crust), Upside Down Plum Rosemary Cake, and Buttermilk Ice Cream. I'm excited to try his Corn Chowder, lots of pizza ideas, Oatmeal Apple Cookies, Olive Oil Cake, and Brown Sugar Cookies with Sea Salt.
I know, I've spent a lot of time in the dessert chapter. So sue me. Most desserts are vegetarian anyway (although he does include vegan recipes and modifications, which are harder to find), but these desserts are a little bit healthier but still feel like real dessert. More whole grains, natural sweeteners, that sort of thing. Baby steps.