Vegetarian hand-me-down

This came out of our Asheville friends' library-donation pile. Despite its 568-page heft, I eagerly packed it in my suitcase. Put polenta anywhere--the cover of a book, underneath a helping of red sauce, a tennis shoe--and I'm in.

A quick search on Amazon revealed a healthy amount of enthusiasm for The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook (60 reviews with an average of five stars!) as well as a snarky assessment from Library Journal, which dismissed this collection as "fine, but nothing special." La di da.

No doubt, Library Journal was reacting to the relative simplicity of the recipes, many of which require simple greens, good olive oil, garlic, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms and herbs, perfect for the weeknight chef, who isn't about to transform the dying basil in her garden into foam on a Wednesday. She might, however, make farfalle with sauteed fennel and fresh tomatoes or polenta with grilled radicchio, thus giving herself plenty of time to knit.

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