The Passionate Vegetarian

Review by Norene Gilletz

Comforting Vegetarian Dishes

When I first saw Crescent Dragonwagon’s cookbook The Passionate Vegetarian, (Workman Publishing, $39.95 Cdn) I knew I had to own a copy!

Ten years in the making and more than 1,000 pages long, this bountiful book is beautifully written, packed with over 1,000 fabulous, meatless recipes that will intrigue you and tempt you, whether or not you are vegetarian. This is a cookbook that will make you want to stay home and cook! If you don’t cook, then take it to bed with you.


For more than 18 years, Dragonwagon and her late husband Ned owned a country inn in the Ozarks of Arkansas. She fed fabulous food to famous celebrities, vegetarians, diabetics, people who were lactose intolerant and those with food allergies.

This tempting collection of recipes includes scrumptious soups and stews, luscious lasagnas, plump perogies, bountiful burgers, beans and breads, glorious grain dishes and delectable desserts. There are recipes for every vegetable imaginable. Dragonwagon offers cooking techniques and flavours from all over the world, from old favourites to new, innovative dishes with a twist.

With each turn of the page, you’ll be tempted by her tales, tips and tantalizing recipes such as Roasty-Toasty Potatoes, Carrots and Onions; Kasha Kreplach; The One, the Only, the Greatest Garlic Spaghetti; and Chocolate Bread Pudding Maurice. I know you will enjoy the small sampling I’ve selected and will be compelled to buy your very own copy of The Passionate Vegetarian so you can savour the outstanding recipes in this excellent cookbook! Enjoy…


There are both main-dish and dessert kugels, but given the notorious Jewish sweet tooth, even those intended as accompaniments to entrées, like this appealing cabbage kugel, are on the sweet side. The cabbage, slowly cooked, almost caramelizes. You can add ¾ tsp. cinnamon and/or ½ cup toasted chopped walnuts or almonds.

cooking spray
1 to 2 tbsp. butter (oil or margarine can be substituted)
5 cups finely shredded cabbage or half of a 1-pound bag shredded cabbage
1 apple, peeled and finely diced
3 tbsp. honey or brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1½ cups cubed, toasted whole wheat bread (about 3 slices)
1½ cups water, preferably spring or filtered
¼ cup potato starch
3 large eggs, separated
¼ cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 2-quart casserole with cooking spray. Spray a large skillet (not nonstick) with cooking spray and heat the butter in it over medium heat. When the butter has melted, lower the heat slightly and add the cabbage. Cook, stirring often, over low-medium heat for about 20 minutes. Add the apple and cook for 5 minutes more. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp. of the sweetener and the salt, raise the heat very slightly, and cook for 10 minutes more, or until soft and slightly browned. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

As the cabbage cooks, place the bread cubes in a heatproof bowl. Bring the water to a boil and pour it over the bread. Let stand until cool enough to handle, then squeeze the bread dry, discarding the water.

Mash the soaked bread together with the potato starch, then mash in the egg yolks. Stir in the cooled cabbage, the remaining sweetener, and the raisins.

Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold them into the cabbage-bread mixture. Spoon into the prepared casserole and bake for 40 minutes, or until set. Serve immediately.

Serves 4 to 6


This recipe has appeared in many magazines and newspapers. You can cut the butter back to a tablespoon and it will still be very good.

1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1 cup unbleached white all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 to 3 tbsp. sugar
1¼ cups buttermilk (or 1 cup plain yogurt mixed with 1/4 cup water)
1 large egg
¼ cup vegetable oil (corn, canola or peanut)
2 to 4 tbsp. butter

Preheat oven to 375°F. Make sure your oven is accurate. It really needs to be up to temperature for perfect results.

In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda and sugar. Stir to combine.

In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg and oil.

Place a 9- to 10¼-inch skillet over medium heat, add the butter and heat until the butter melts and is sizzling seriously. Tilt the skillet to coat the sides. As the butter’s melting, quickly pour the wet ingredients into the dry and, using a wooden spoon, stir the wet and dry together with as few strokes as possible – only as many as are needed to combine the two. Don’t beat it, don’t smooth it out. Scrape the batter into the hot, buttery skillet – if it’s hot enough, it will sizzle as it goes in – and pop it in the oven immediately.

Bake until golden brown on top, 25 to 30 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve hot.


This tall, dark, sweet bundt cake is low in fat, making use of a trick often called for in fat-reduced baking – replace most of the fat with fruit puree. The cake is even better the next day.

cooking spray
1½ cups unbleached white all-purpose flour or whole wheat pastry flour, plus
additional for the pan
1¼ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
8 to 10 vigorous gratings of nutmeg
dash of ground cloves
dash of ground allspice
½ cup raisins
2 to 4 tbsp. walnuts, toasted and chopped (optional)
½ cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1¼ cups applesauce
¼ cup mild vegetable oil (e.g, corn, canola, peanut)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Decide on the pan: a 9-inch bundt cake pan, an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan, or three 5 x 2-inch loaf pans. Spray the pan(s) thoroughly with cooking spray. Dust each pan with a little flour, knock out the excess, and set aside.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice (if the baking powder and baking soda appear lumpy, sift them in, but the other dry ingredients do not have to be sifted). Reserve 1 tbsp. of the flour mixture and place it in a small bowl along with the raisins and, if using, the walnuts. Toss this mixture well and set both bowls aside.

Combine the sugars with the egg, applesauce, oil and vanilla. Using a wooden spoon, beat the flour mixture together with the applesauce mixture. Stir in the raisins and walnuts and spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the cake tests clean with a toothpick. The top will still appear a little glossy and feel sticky-tacky to the touch – 30 to 35 minutes for the large loaf or bundt cake pan, and 20 to 25 minutes for the small.

Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan(s) on a wire rack about 10 minutes. Run a knife around the inner edges of the pan(s) and invert onto the rack with a sharp rap. Let cool completely, then either tightly cover with plastic wrap for storage in the refrigerator or freezer or place on a serving plate, dust with a generous drift of confectioners’ sugar and serve. Makes one 9-inch Bundt cake.

Serves 12.

The Passionate Vegetarian
by Crescent Dragonwagon
Workman Publishing

$39.95 Cdn

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Norene Gilletz is a cookbook author, cooking teacher and food consultant. For information, call 416-226-2466 or E-mail.