I love a good cookbook. Especially one with lots of food-porn caliber photography. Food blogs are great (and i maintain an ever-growing Evernote notebook full of recipes clipped from blogs), but there’s something about having pages to turn and ruin with splatters that is just so appealing.
Even though I don’t categorize myself strictly as a vegan or even a vegetarian, the vast majority of my cooking is, in fact, vegan. So, the cookbooks I gravitate towards are vegan, too. And, this isn’t perhaps as obvious as it sounds— you don’t have to be a capital-V-Vegan to cook from vegan cookbooks. Srsly. So in that spirit, I’m going to review a few recently-acquired cookbooks that are full of plants-only recipes. . . but I cook ‘em for my omnivore friends all the time and it usually goes well! So I guess what I’m saying is, don’t knock it til you try it! Without further ado:
- This is a book full of what I call “trick recipes.” You look at the list of ingredients and scratch your head. Some of it sounds weird. Some of them are hard to find. But then you try it, and it’s like some kind of alchemy or magic or something. The author, Kristy Turner, is a cheesemaker-turned-vegan, and it is in these vegan cheese interpretations that she really shines. I always get disappointed when a recipe for a vegan cheese-including dish includes “vegan cheese” as an ingredient. Whomp-whomp. But none of that nonsense here! Macadamia ricotta was sweet and creamy. Cashew blue cheese was tangy and distinctly umami. Not exactly like cheese, no. But hella delicious, and certainly filling a cheese-shaped hole in lots of recipes. Real winners from this book: Artichoke crab cakes with sriracha tarter sauce, Sunflower Sausage, and Buffalo Cauliflower Calzones. Seconds, please!
- Caveats: Some of these are a little time consuming, and as mentioned, need some quirky ingredients (canned jackfruit in brine, kelp granules). Generally worth it, though! They also vary in their degree of healthfulness, but pretty much always outshine the standard meat/dairy versions by reducing animal fat/protein and including lots of veggies.
- Try it if: You want to move towards a vegetarian or vegan diet at least some of the time, you like trying new things, you are afraid eating healthier food means giving up flavor.
- The PPW has some of the most gorgeous photography I’ve seen— partly because it’s both a “lifestyle guide” and cookbook. The food looks gorgeous, and so do Rich Roll, Julie Piatt, and their family. Rich is an athlete and podcaster, and this book includes some general discussion of “wellness” and “the journey” and “vibrations”, which might intrigue you or might annoy you. Either way, though, it’s the recipes that are the centerpiece. Unlike some other vegan cookbooks, this book doesn’t have tricks. Everything is simple, and this is by design. It’s very much real food, and relies mostly on whole foods. Sauces like the“Fast Raw Mole” have a depth of flavor that defies their simplicity. Veggie burgers didn’t have any surprises, but came out beautifully. “Untuna Wraps” and “Aztec Enchiladas” combined basic ingredients into satisfying meals. I haven’t dipped my toe into the desserts yet, but the tarts and “cheesecakes” are calling my name. There’s also a whole section on smoothies and juices with plenty of good recommendations. Some of these, however, call for some exotic and expensive ingredients.
- Caveats: There is some discussion of nutrition here that while generally sensible, isn’t exactly scientific. You’ll hear the alterna-health anti-gluten dogma coming through. Also, this isn’t strictly vegan— some recipes include honey, but if that bothers you you could easily substitute. Also, after look at some of the photos, you might be tempted to see if Rich and Julie will adopt you.
- Try it if: You want to get into wellness-focused eating and need ideas and advice on how to start cooking whole foods and plant-based dishes, you like simple, tasty food, you have a little bit of earth-mother hippie-chick in you.
Happy cooking, guys!