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Modern Vegetarian

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Written by foodie pam   
Monday, 20 July 2009
ImageI'm not a vegetarian, but in the past I have gone through periods where I avoided meat.  I also really enjoy the diversity of flavors obtainable from vegetables, herbs and spices.  Yet, I frequently find vegetarian recipes lacking, not necessarily in flavor but in oomph - they don't always satiate.  The Modern Vegetarian by Maria Elia is an unexpected gem that most certainly has oomph and satiates.  So much so that I suspect even a few meat lovers will find love in the Modern Vegetarian.

Maria Elia has combined her intimate knowledge of Greek cuisine with world travels and culinary training to present exactly what the book title claims - a modern take on vegetarian food. It has so many elements working to its favor, making some of its dishes worthy of appearing in top restaurants. Part of what is great about this book is that the recipes Maria presents are the mixture of cultures; another part is her somewhat unexpected choice of ingredients.  For example: in Halloumi, Raita, Endive Salad with Crispy Papadums the twist is a fruity spice paste; in Lemongrass and Sweet Corn Soup with Crème Fraiche (see recipe below)  the twist is lemongrass; and in Beet Tzatziki the twist is just that Beet Tzatziki!  The culture mix is apparent in the above recipes as well as in many other recipes such as Sumac-Spiced Eggplant "Schnitzel" with Tabbouleh.  These combinations ring out and if you're not thinking about it you may well forgot the dishes are vegetarian.  

Maria also shares a good amount of herself in the book, including her passion for watermelon - yup watermelon is highlighted in more than a couple of the recipes.  The more tantalizing of the watermelon recipes, and more proof of the modern approach Maria follows, is the Watermelon Curry with Black Beans and Paneer, but as a panzanella fan I'm leaning toward trying the Watermelon Panzanella first.  Either way, with Maria guiding me I'm sure either will be a hit.

Lemongrass and Sweet Corn Soup with Crème Fraîche

From Modern Vegetarian by Maria Elia, Kyle Books 2009

One Friday lunchtime at Delfina's we were extremely busy and, although it was a summer's day, there was an unexpected run on the soup! I knew there wouldn't be enough for the evening and there were no ingredients left to make more. Faced with such situations, I usually go to the walk-in fridge and look for possible ingredient combinations. On this particular occasion, my eye fell upon sweet corn and lemongrass. I was saved and this soup was born!

Fresh, seasonal corn is best for this, but you can always use frozen or canned if none is available. Cauliflower and lemongrass is also a wonderful combination-simply cut a small head of cauliflower into florets and follow the recipe as below. Then try roasting some thinly sliced florets in a hot oven and adding to the remaining relish ingredients.

Serves 4

  • 3 ears of corn
  • 1½ tablespoons butter
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 red chile, seeded and finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 liter milk
  • 5 stalks lemongrass, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons crème fraîche
  • salt and pepper


Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the corn kernels from the cob. Set cobs and kernels aside.

Gently heat the butter; add the onion, ginger, and chile. Sauté until softened but not browned (about 5 minutes). Add the flour, stir and cook for 1 minute. Add the milk, the lemongrass, corn and the cobs and stir, bringing to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Discard the corn cobs and blend the soup in a food processor until smooth, then pass through a sieve and season. Serve with a swirl of crème fraîche and Sweet Corn Relish (see below).

Sweet Corn Relish

From Modern Vegetarian by Maria Elia, Kyle Books 2009

Serves 4

  • 1 corn cob, husked
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 red chile, seeded and finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, finely chopped


Roll the corn in a little of the olive oil, season with salt and pepper and cook on a preheated grill pan or over a charcoal fire until tender. When cool enough to handle, remove the corn kernels from the cob, place in a bowl and mix with the remaining ingredients. Adjust the seasoning to taste.

About Modern Vegetarian

ImageOver 120 sumptuous recipes full of sensational flavors, colors, and textures that will stop you in your tracks. With chapters divided into Stylish Starters, Sensational Mains, Sofa Suppers, Sassy Sides, Simple Staples and Stunningly Sweet, this is truly a vegetarian adventure.

Available at Amazon.com

Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.

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Last Updated ( Friday, 27 August 2010 )
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