Criscuolo, owner since 1975 of a vegetarian restaurant in New Haven, Conn., has waited too long to put out this cookbook, and that is both compliment and criticism. Criscuolo herself notes in an introduction that while Middle Eastern and Mexican foods were mostly unknown when she began serving them, ``now they're on menus everywhere.'' Exactly—and they're in cookbooks everywhere, too. However, this collection does offer solid recipes for some vegetarian favorites, and Criscuolo takes a pleasant tone: friendly and never condescending (``A good store bought pastry is fine,'' she writes reassuringly in a recipe for escarole pie). While one chapter is devoted to Mexican specialties, the strongest influence here is Italian, thanks to Criscuolo's roots on New Haven's Wooster Street—an Italian-American neighborhood—and her mother, who ``always had a pot of soup going.'' Soups and baked goods are particularly strong. A chapter on the former includes myriad creative vegetable and bean soups, including a spicy pasta-and-bean soup with a porridge-like consistency. A section on breakfast provides several good muffin options, like surprisingly moist bran- apple muffins (Criscuolo does not eschew refined sugar and white flour, so the muffins have no heavy health-food feel). Occasionally, it becomes obvious that these recipes were developed in a restaurant and not in a home kitchen. When fried over medium- low heat in a scanty half cup of oil as instructed, the zesty batter for zucchini fritters turned mushy on the outside and remained raw on the inside. On an industrial stove, results would likely have been crispier. Nostalgia food for aging hippies and homesick Yalies.
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