Deborah Madison back with ‘New Vegetarian Cooking’ 

When it’s time to prepare a meal, cookbook author Deborah Madison has some sound advice.

Learn to use a knife. Give yourself room to work. Know how to make a few things well — and don’t rush the onions.

Madison’s inspiring “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” became an instant classic when it was published in 1997. An updated and expanded version called “The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone,” published last month, features 1,600 recipes — nearly 200 of them new.

There’s more tempeh and less tofu, more vegetable sautees than stir-fries. Gone are the photographs, including the cover shot of Madison holding two wooden spoons.

She says it was time to update the book to reflect the world we live in.

“The culture has changed,” she says. “We’re more sophisticated and more exposed to different foods. We don’t get all upset about a celery root.”

Madison, who lives in New Mexico, is the founding chef of Greens in San Francisco and the author of several cookbooks. She’ll be in the Bay Area for a round of appearances, including a book signing Saturday at Omnivore Books in The City, and luncheons in The City and Larkspur.

The Left Bank lunch on Sunday in Larkspur is part of Book Passage’s “Cooks With Books” series. Madison was at the restaurant a year ago to discuss her cookbook “Vegetable Literacy.”

“She’s really a local legend,” says Marguerita Castanera, director of the “Cooks With Books” program. “For us it’s natural to invite her back.”

Madison believes in eating locally and avoiding genetically modified ingredients. Why not grow your own herbs, she says, instead of buying the pricey ones in “little plastic coffins”?

Her current go-to dish is black-eyed peas seasoned with allspice and smoked salt. Although she advocates a plant-based diet, she does eat meat, especially since she travels so much.

“I pretty much eat anything,” she says. “I’m a good eater.”

To make room for new recipes, others had to go. On the chopping block was a rich risotto gratin, a dish she loved when she lived in Italy.

While giving a talk last year, Madison mentioned the new cookbook wouldn’t include the risotto. Two women in the audience begged her to leave it in, explaining that they make it for each other on their birthdays.

The recipe stayed.

“It really touched me,” Madison says. “I loved that the dish meant something special.”

The new book is filled with helpful information. Onions are the first step of many dishes, she notes, and giving them enough time to cook is important to create a flavor base.

“I have always seen this book as your friend in the kitchen,” Madison says. “I hope people find they can create flavors that go beyond the simple words of a recipe.”


Deborah Madison

Where: Omnivore Books, 3885a Cesar Chavez St., S.F.

When: 3 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: Free

Contact: (415) 282-4712,

Other appearances

Left Bank luncheon — Noon Sunday, $105 (includes book). 507 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur, (415) 927-0960,

Foreign Cinema luncheon — 11 a.m. Tuesday, $85. 2534 Mission St., S.F., (415) 648-7600,

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Cathy Bowman

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