If you're looking to expand your meatless recipe repertoire, two recent cookbooks have all you need.
First is Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" (Wiley, $35). Bittman gives vegetarian food an exhaustive treatment, offering up some 2,000 simple recipes and variations, from espresso black bean chili to Korean crisp vegetable pancakes.
As valuable as the recipes is the tremendous background material Bittman accompanies them with. For example, the recipe for white rice includes stovetop and microwave directions, as well as 14 quick ways to jazz up plain rice.
Numerous tables walk readers through ingredients and techniques, explaining differences and preparation methods. Especially nice is the recipe index that indicates whether recipes are fast, vegan and appropriate for do-ahead cooking.
Refreshingly, Bittman doesn't write only for vegetarians; he writes for people who want to eat vegetarian meals. His inclusive, informative approach makes this cookbook a joy to cook from.
Also nice is Martha Rose Shulman's "Mediterranean Harvest," (Rodale, $39.95) a collection of more than 500 vegetarian recipes. Readers will find her recipes more involved than Bittman's, but equally appealing. *