As I am vegetarian and my husband an omnivore, the title of Manning's book hooked me like a noose. Who wouldn't want to quickly (and with excellent results, no less) adapt a meal for every eater at the table? I rushed to order a copy of The Adaptable Feast: Satisfying Meals for the Vegetarians, Vegans, and Omnivores at Your Table by Ivy Manning, knowing full well it couldn't be done. But, hey, I wished to be proven wrong.
Maybe a less confidant cook would need to be told how to make a vegetarian meal and then add roasted chicken as a finishing touch. I certainly do not. So let's just say I was disappointed with the recipes at first review. What won me over is how Manning balances protein and calories for both the meat and veg dishes in the recipe. Rather than re-imagining the entire dish and ending up in unfamiliar territory, she substitutes veg ingredients, adjusts the recipe, and continues to make the dish with flavors you'll recognize. Easy peasy, or at least it seems that way.
Pad thai to potpie, the major plus to this book is the world cuisine it offers up to both vegetarians and meat eaters. With a slew of fragrant spices, the Vegetable and Chicken Korma with Cashews smells and tastes authentic. A true weekend recipe with multiple steps, Moussaka with Lamb or French Lentils is a masterpiece of slow cooking that you'll savor, even if — like me — you're too tired to make it ever again.
Particularly exciting to me are recipes that don't include any variations at all, like the ingenius Indian Spaghetti Squash Cakes with Yogurt Raita, or a one-dish dinner of Quinoa-Stuffed Heirloom Tomatoes with Romesco Sauce, or the doubly nutty Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sage and Walnut Brown Butter. I'm being generous if I say that a quarter of the recipes can easily be made vegan, though Manning's single dessert is chocolate vegan cake with vanilla frosting in a lilting recipe that sounds like a gathering dream. Yes, there's a photo of that one, folks.
Some of the recipes are a bit long and definitely not for beginning cooks, but overall Manning offers a solid selection of recipes to appease a variety of palates.
The Adaptable Feast by the Ivy Manning ($24)
Publisher: Sasquatch Books
Publication Date: November 1, 2009
Review based on a free copy of this book, courtesy of the publisher.