Cutting edge vegThough more and more people (one in 15 is a rough estimate) describe themselves as "vegetarian," we're all learning that you don't have to be a herbivore to appreciate meatless fare especially in this bountiful season. Stephan Pyles, the award-winning, TV-appearing, restaurant-owning Texas chef, who gave us New Tastes From Texas, now applies his Lone Star flare to an all-veg version of his favorite style of cooking. The boldly flavored, healthfully favored result is Southwestern Vegetarian. Spice is always nice and, as can be expected, it's here aplenty. The combos can be unusual, but intriguing Red Chile and Citrus Zest Pesto (with cilantro and pepitas) is a truly Southwestern take on an Italian staple, as is the Grilled Blue Corn Polenta Cakes with Tomatillo-Jalapeno Chutney, and how about Ancho Focaccia or Mole Cake? There's life beyond chiles in the Pyles repertoire, try his elegant Grilled Eggplant and Fennel with Hazelnut Oil Vinaigrette, the mashed dash of potatoes mixed with saffron and fresh corn kernels, or Roast Banana-Pumpkin Breakfast Bread, a vibrant variation, laced with coconut milk and dark rum, on an old favorite. Inventiveness is everywhere from the stocking of the Lone Star Pantry, the sampling of sizzling salsas and sauces, sensational slaws, soups, sandwiches, stews, and casseroles to pasta, pancakes, pizzas, grains, empanadas, enchiladas, and elaborate desserts. The ingredient lists can be long, the prep a few steps beyond simple, but directions are clear and the finished products, is a trip for the taste buds of herbivore, carnivore, and omnivore alike.
Sybil Pratt has been cooking up this column for more than five years.