By Liz Gay, reprinted from the Nashville City Paper, Nashville, TN

Carnivores rule the culinary world. For example, after decades in business, only recently have fast food chains such as McDonald's and Wendy's offered leafy alternatives to fries like fruit and salads. The rest of the country is catching on, but vegans (those who shun all foods derived from animals) still have to be selective of where and what they can eat.

As a result, a cottage industry has sprung up to cater to vegans. There's a whole crop of cookbooks out there, and with the recently pressed Dining with Friends (Friends of Animals), anyone can prepare gourmet vegan dishes at home. If you're not a vegan, we're not talking tofu mounds and heaping piles of raw veggies. In this book you'll find hearty fare such as Potato and Carrot au Gratin, Perfect Chestnut Soup and Chocolate Marble Cheesecake. The book caters to people who want healthy, flavorful appetizers, side dishes, main courses and desserts. The purpose is also to offer recipes that fit harmoniously into the harmonious vegan lifestyle. To wit, the foreword offers a Buddhist prayer about treating others how you want to be treated. Can't argue with that. There are an extensive glossary, shopping guide and useful tips on how to choose the ideal butternut squash, for example. But be prepared to hunt for dairy-free and soy-based products to follow the recipes precisely and tune in to the vegan vibe. Friends of Animals is a nonprofit animal advocacy organization. To learn more or to order a book, visit [online store] or call (203) 656-1522.

Stuffed Bell Peppers with Tofu and Vegetables

2 large red bell peppers
Olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small bunch basil, finely chopped
1/2 pound tofu, finely chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
2 tsp tamari or soy sauce
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup or more cooked orzo
A pinch of both red pepper flakes and salt
Freshly cracked red pepper
Cook orzo al dente, drain and set aside. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Remove pepper tops, scoop out seeds, rinse and set aside, reserving the tops. In medium pan or skillet, heat a small amount of olive oil. Add onion and cover until soft and translucent. Add garlic, basil, tofu and tomatoes. Sauté to thoroughly heat ingredients, then stir in tamari and season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Add the cooked orzo. Fill the peppers and arrange them on a well-greased pie pan. Pour white wine over the vegetables and replace the tops. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until tender.