The Real Food Daily Cookbook: Really Fresh, Really Good, Really Vegetarian

Reviewed by Caryn Harglass

Ann Gentry, owner of the three Real Food Daily restaurants in Southern California has put the restaurant's most popular 150 recipes in a lovely new cookbook. I think it should be called the Real Comfort Food Daily Cookbook. There is a wide variety and styles of foods in this cookbook from simple Stir-Fried Vegetables to the more rich and exotic like Thai rice croquettes with peanut sauce.

Before the recipes are presented, Ms. Gentry tells her story. Originally from Memphis, Tennessee, she was raised with real southern hospitality. She was never much of a cook, but through time and discovery, working as an actress off-Broadway and as a waitress, she became a vegetarian and slowly learned how to prepare healthy, delicious food. Her recipes and her restaurants clearly have a down-home, welcoming and heartwarming influence from her southern roots. For those that are new to cooking and/or vegetarian diets, Ms. Gentry includes helpful information on shopping, equipping your kitchen and some of the ingredients that may be new or different to you.

There are starters, salsas, salads, soups, breads, spreads, sandwiches, sides and desserts. The entrees are grouped for the seasons. Ms. Gentry explains the importance of eating locally grown, in season and organic. The restaurant follows these principles and so the menu will change as the different foods come in an out of season.

I decided to try out some of the recipes for my Thanksgiving dinner. I made the Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Garlicky Greens, Southern-style Skillet Corn Bread, Warm Apple and Pear Compote and Golden Gravy. I am not particularly fond of the faux vegetarian turkeys that are available to buy or make for Thanksgiving. Instead, I used some Tofurky Oven Roasted Deli Slices and some store-bought Chicken-Style Seitan. I heated them together in the seitan broth. I placed the mashed potatoes on the plate, layered the Tofurky slices on top and added small chunks of the seitan. I smothered it all with the Golden Gravy. This was a huge hit, reminiscent of how we were served turkey dinners in restaurants decades ago when I ate turkey as a child. The Garlic Mashed Potatoes were creamy, the Golden Gravy rich and fragrant with sage. The Southern-Style Skillet Corn Bread was also excellent although it was difficult getting it out of the skillet and crumbled a bit. It was perfect topped with the Warm Apple and Pear Compote. My dad asked for a second serving for dessert! I must always have dark leafy green vegetables and Real Food's Garlicky Greens were simply delicious.

Other tempting recipes include the Seitan Fingers with Tamarind Sauce, the Total Reuben with Thousand Island Dressing and the Baked Spelt Macaroni with Cashew Cheese.