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Cookbooks

Cookbook Review: When You Want (Almost) Everything Vegan

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Wed, Jan 5, 2011 at 6:00 AM

click to enlarge everythingvegan.jpg
There was a time, not so long ago, when the word "vegan" meant complicated-to-source ingredients, fussy dishes and resolute advice from the occasional celebrity-driven or self-published vegan cookbook. Today it seems that every other new cookbook seems to tout one or more vegan characteristics (flashback to the fat-free cookbook era). And so it's hardly surprising that the Vegetarian Times magazine recently published its version of the vegan recipe brigade called Everything Vegan.

Yet this is not the sort of vegan cookbook that touts the health benefits of going vegan on every other page. Nor does it have a flashy title that focuses on one questionable food category (sorry, but we truly hope that vegan cupcakes don't take over the world). This is the sort of everyday reference for the home cook with easy but interesting recipes that happen to be vegan. Which is precisely why we think it's pretty great, even for non-vegan designate home cooks who happen to cook -- and enjoy -- a lot vegetables.

click to enlarge Pot Pie Goes Meatless - PORNCHAI MITTONGTARE FOR THE VEGATARIAN TIMES
  • Pornchai Mittongtare for the Vegatarian Times
  • Pot Pie Goes Meatless
Consider this sweet potato salad with apple and avocado recipe from the book, which we made last night to go with tacos (beef tacos -- sorry). It was simple, quick to make, and made with everyday fridge/freezer/pantry ingredients (apples, onions, sweet potatoes, frozen corn, cilantro, lime juice). And good, really quite good. Even if, like the photograph in the book, we didn't peel the apples as instructed in the recipe. The dish was actually much better with the skins on as in the photograph. (Do we detect a bit of magazine image insecurity?)

On first glance, the book appears to be divided into the standard cookbook categories -- starters, salads, mains, veggies, desserts. But there are eight more categories, which essentially say the same thing: Appetizers, beverages, salads, pasta/noodles, burgers/sandwiches, rice/whole grains, imitation meats (tofu/tempeh/seitan), veggies, beans/lentils, soups/stews, baked goods, other sweets, sauces/dips/spreads. You get the sense an editor really did need to assert their vegan chops on chapter header minutia. But in this case, like those photo-averse peeled apples, the book's few quirks really don't matter. Because that "new world party mix" (toasted pepitas and pine nuts, dried cranberries, cocoa nibs, cayenne and salt) sounds so much more interesting than the original version, vegan or otherwise, that we really do want to abandon the butter.

As for those "glazed chocolate-avocado cupcakes" made with soymilk and mashed avocado with a tofu-vegan chocolate icing, well, let's just say we will be happily be sticking to Ludo Lefebvre's version. And fine, in a moment of vegetable (if we can't quite get to vegan) solidarity, we are happy to ditch the foie gras chantilly for dark chocolate buttercream icing.

For us, that's exactly what this book is about. Adding a touch more radicchio, radish and fennel salad, or perhaps the wine-braised leeks with garlic toast, to our dinner plates, yet being content to pass on those asparagus with vegan hollandaise and tofu-lime pound cake in favor of the real butter-and-egg laden deals. We like to think of it as today's Vegan Times, with a side of carnivore.

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