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Meatless but enticing

If you were born the year Regina Campbell gave up meat, you'd be old enough to vote now, and Campbell could tell you how it was back in the day. As she vaguely recalls: There were pork chops.

Enough time has elapsed for Campbell to have built around her vegetarianism a career suiting the contemporary chef's customary curriculum vitae: books, TV cooking show, regular food column, etc. etc. Regina's International Vegetarian Favorites (HP Books, 2003, $18.95) is her second meatless cookbook and makes a compelling answer to those who might yet equate vegetarian with bland.

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Such notions won't hold up to this array of some 160 recipes, if only for the global reach. The flavors presented here run from Eastern European to Middle Eastern, Southeast Asian, Latin American, Italian and Indian - and that's just appetizers.

Consider, say, the pirozhki Campbell concocted after finding that she still had a yen for these usually meat-filled Russian turnovers. Grilled eggplant and onion bruschetta makes a fine entry point for an Italian meal, as Vietnamese salad rolls whet the palate for Asian food.

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There are soups and side dishes, salads, desserts, a few beverages and even menu-planning notions - all without the flesh of anything that walked, flew, crawled or swam. And, oh yes, main dishes. Vegetarians do entrees, too, although Campbell notes the skepticism with which this notion is often heard.

"It seems many people have a hard time getting their mind around the concept that you can have a satisfying entree entirely from the plant world," she writes.

One hearty vegetarian preparation can just about make a meal, she says, noting that the one-dish approach was rather common until the relatively recent invention of the "hot multi-course meal."

Among her selections in this category: Tuscan Melanzane (a kind of pasta-less lasagna with eggplant), Winter Vegetables With Dates, Red Pepper Ravioli and Curried Rice With Vegetables and Nuts.

This is a book for those who prefer their cookbooks sans dressing. No photographs, no expansive discourse, not even illustrations. Just the instructions for some enticing dishes, all evidently within the skill range of the moderately seasoned amateur, all geared to turn the head of the most committed carnivore.

Grilled Teriyaki Eggplant

Serves 4

1 large globe eggplant

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salt

1 large red bell pepper (prepared roasted red peppers in the jar can substitute for fresh red bell pepper)

1 bunch green onions, sliced lengthwise

freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 to 3 tablespoons peanut oil, plus extra for brushing

1/4 cup teriyaki sauce

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Peel the eggplant and cut it into strips like french fries. Salt the strips and set aside for 20 minutes.

Cut the red bell pepper in half. Remove the veins and seeds. Grill the red pepper halves and green onions on the barbecue, indoor grill or gas stove burners until they are charred. If none of these options is available, roast (or broil) them in a hot oven until charred. Place the peppers in a covered bowl and allow to cool. Peel off the skins. Cut the peppers into strips.

Rinse the salt from the eggplant and pat dry. Grill the eggplant using the same method, brushing with oil to prevent the eggplant from sticking to the grill or burners. Season both sides of the eggplant with salt and pepper to taste during the grilling process.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, combine the eggplant, peppers, onions, peanut oil and teriyaki sauce and quickly cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds. Remove the skillet from the heat. Serve over rice.


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