Paul Gayler, executive chef at the Lanesborough Hotel, the U.
K.'s five-star hotel for cuisine, started his cooking career in the vegetable section.
He has remained enamored and, inspired and "seduced" by the Mediterranean and the Far East, he has amassed a collection of unforgettable recipes with vegetables in the starring roles. A Passion for Vegetables is not, however, a vegetarian cookbook, as there are a few recipes that call for ingredients such as shellfish, sardines, and beef stock, although any of those recipes can be adjusted. "Taste buds are at their sharpest at the beginning of a meal," says Galer, so he offers some of his most exciting recipes right from the start. Potato and Goat's Cheese Soup with White Truffle Oil, Corn Bisque with Cheese and Smoked Bacon, Baked Artichokes with Coddled Eggs Niçoise, and Beefsteak Tomatoes with Sardine and Fennel Risotto are all memorable. Stunning photography convinces you not to skip over recipes such as Pan-Fried Asparagus with New-Season Morels and Mediterranean-Style Fennel. Chapters on main courses, side dishes, and desserts follow. Divided by type (fungi, cabbage, pods and seeds, vegetable fruits, etc.), Galer is creative, enthusiastic, and sometimes downright brilliant with his combinations. Stuffed Artichoke Rosti with Brie, Bacon, and Cumin is shown "cut open ... to reveal an oozing blend of soft cheese and smoky bacon." Marinated and Broiled Teriyaki Shiitakes made with sake, mirin, and garlic are inspired. Baked Eggplants with Samfaina (a type of Spanish ratatouille) are the epitome of comfort food, as is the Thai Coconut-Scented Eggplant with Nam Pla. And Galer doesn't forget dessert. Among them are Fennel and Caramelized Banana Stacks made with phyllo layers, a wonderful, light fennel mousse, and richly caramelized bananas. For the more adventurous, there's Coconut Milk, Yoghurt, and Red Chile Sorbet. Galer is a master chef, but his recipes are clear and easy to follow. The lists of ingredients are not complicated, and he is generous with his tips. From a shortcut to peeling small onions and shallots to the difference between types of potatoes to warnings against adding cream before puréeing, Galer is encouraging, informative, and a pleasure to cook with. --Leora Y. Bloom