VeganMofo: Isa Does It

For the month of September, this blog will be devoted to VeganMofo. Tune in while I provide short reviews of some of my favorite, and least favorite, vegan cookbooks. If you are new to Libromancy, please check out some of my non-cookbook reviews, such as my review of Pacific by Tom Drury

Today I have something a little bit different from my other VeganMofo entries: a preview of Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Isa Does Itwhich will be released next month.

The newest book to come from the Isa Chandra Moskowitz vegan empire is Isa Does It, designed to teach how to make quick weeknight meals. The descent into producing a Rachael Ray-make-things-easier book was inevitable; even Jacques Pepin has two volumes of Fast Food My Way and his name doesn’t even work in a silly pun. As you may glean from my tone, I greeted this new book with skepticism.  As Tamar Adler says,  teaching how to cook quickly does little more than make cooking seem more difficult than it actually is. It’s hard to make an egg take more than 5 minutes to cook, or in this case, a tofu scramble. And in most cases, the recipes here are not significantly quicker than the already quick recipes in Moskowitz’s other works. Her works tend to be very beginner and home cook friendly already, so why should you buy this one if you own one or several of her previous works?

You should buy it because despite the “quick and easy” ploy, this book is a solid cookbook with great recipes. I have enough books by Moskowitz and her partner in crime Terry Hope Romero to fill a small bookshelf, and this may be my favorite.

The quality of this book is amazing. This is the kind of book that will convince meat eaters that vegans aren’t missing out on anything in life. Every page is glossy and colorful, and the photos from Vanessa Rees are perfectly styled and shot. This looks like a $50 book, not an $18 book. It’s published by Little Brown for heaven’s sake. Right now on my nightstand I have Pynchon’s Vineland proudly displaying “Little Brown” along the spine. Guys, we finally have a vegan cookbook being treated as well as a Pynchon!

What really matters, though, is the recipes, and these are great. Moskowitz and Romero always have one or two recipes that change the way vegans cook, and it looks like this may also include a few. The  Roasted Butternut Squash Alfredo  has already charmed the vegan Internet, and definitely charmed me and my meat eating boyfriend when we tried it. Soaked cashews and roasted squash form a creamy, sauce which doesn’t replicate alfredo. Instead it’s more strongly flavored, making it–in my opinion–tastier, but harder to pair with other ingredients. Trust me, I put it to the test. I still have some left from a big batch I made earlier this week and have been using as a dip for everything from broccoli to buffalo popcorn tofu. It’s not perfect; my first try was a bit too lemony, so I added more squash and in the future I will probably also reduce the amount of wine used. It’s still going to go into my usual dinner rotation; since that’s the goal of the recipes in this book, I would say it’s a success.

The best part about the butternut squash sauce? It’s not made with oil. The fat in the sauce is coming almost entirely from cashews and white wine. I was initially disappointed to see that this book doesn’t have nutritional facts like Appetite for Reduction, but most of the recipes are reasonably low in fat anyway. It’s just not being advertised this time around.

I know I sound gushy, but I am sincerely excited about this book. I bought Vegan with a Vengeance when it was first published and still cook some of the recipes from heart eight years later. Since then my tastes have changed, however. There was a period of time when I fell off the Moskowitz bandwagon. Cookies? Cupcakes? Not my cup of tea. And Veganomicon was too bland overall for my taste. Appetite for Reduction brought me back into the fold, being one of the few cookbooks that don’t encourage indulging but also don’t resort to “diet” food. It looks like the trend is continuing with this book, so thanks to Little Brown for bringing this into the world. Maybe I can let the name slide after all.

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VeganMofo: The Alternative Vegan

For the month of September, this blog will be devoted to VeganMofo. Tune in while I provide short reviews of some of my favorite, and least favorite, vegan cookbooks. If you are new to Libromancy, please check out some of my non-cookbook reviews, such as my review of Pacific by Tom Drury

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Alternative Vegan is the type of cookbook that would really be a recipe zine, if passing around recipes zines by hand was still something people did. It’s a 20-something vegan (and restaurant) chef describing the kind of food that he cooks at home at night, like rice and beans, throw-everything-in-the-pot-soup, and roasted potatoes. The only twist is that many of the recipes are not just bachelor food, but Indian bachelor food. The beans and rice here is Venn Pongal and the pickles he presents are Indian pickles. More experienced chefs might not want a cookbook that has a recipe that calls for nothing more than spreading hummus on lavash, but new cooks or cooks working in a constrained space like a dorm might feel relieved to know that there is something that they can make with limited resources.

You can preview many of Dino’s recipes at his blog: Alternative Vegan.

VeganMofo: Vegan Fusion World Cuisine

For the month of September, this blog will be devoted to VeganMofo. Tune in while I provide short reviews of some of my favorite, and least favorite, vegan cookbooks. If you are new to Libromancy, please check out some of my non-cookbook reviews, such as my review of Pacific by Tom Drury

raw vegan sushi rolls

Photography by prideandvegudice on Flickr.

For most of my life, I have not been a fan of raw vegetables. I didn’t even like fruit very much for that matter. I had a healthy plant-based diet for years, but it consisted heavily on roasted vegetables and warm soups. I was tempted by the pseudo-health benefits of a raw diet, but it ended up being the one diet I never tried because I knew that it would be nigh impossible for me. I could probably have given up sugar more easily than give up cooking my food.

When I first visited Blossoming Lotus in Portland, then, it was with a sense of adventure. They had, at the time, a varied menu with the kind of macrobiotic bowls that vegans used to be known for, comfort foods such as bbq tempeh and mac and cheese, and a selection of raw dishes that were unique to Portland. I could finally try a raw dish that was not just a salad, and a professional quality one as well. I had the raw pizza that day: a flax seed and nut crust, topped with a cashew-based cheese, curling strips of zucchini, and other vegetables that were both tender and flavorful. It was delicious. Based on this dish alone, I went out and bought their cookbook, Vegan World Fusion, thinking that it would usher in a dietary Age of Aquarius where I would suddenly want to eat all of the beautiful, healthy dishes my taste buds had previously scorned.

That didn’t necessarily happen, although I am still sure the blame rests with me and not with the book. The book is beautiful and packed with recipes and as varied as their restaurant menu. A raw fettucini alfredo is preceded by a thai salad and two pages before that is an okra masala. I enjoyed all of the recipes that I tried, such as the blue corn crusted tempeh, but the truth is that I actually tried very few of them. Many things in this book were turn-offs for me. Every page is glossy and in color, but most of the photography is of mountains or eastern religious iconography, not of the actual food. The recipe names obscure what is actually being presented; take Serendipity Soba, for instance, which could be more accurately described as a peanut noodle bowl with vegetables, or Mount Sinai Manna Bread, which is a versatile raw loaf recipe based on wheatberries or spelt berries. It made it hard for me to imagine myself preparing and enjoying the food. Instead I was imagining myself on a meditation retreat in Hawaii. Very pleasant, but not what I needed to inspire dietary changes.

Luckily, the restaurant is still flourishing in Portland, so I can enjoy their food for its taste alone, and I don’t even have to clean up afterwards.

Sample recipes:

Southwest Tempeh Chili

Sistah Jah Love Roasted Squash Soup

Conquering Lion Cashew Cheez

Other reviews:

Positive review from Vegan Guinea Pig

Don’t Get Mad Get Vegan tests the Green Goddess Dressing and a tofu scramble

Vegan Cookbook Challenge recreates the live pizza

VeganMofo: The Vegan Stoner Cookbook

For the month of September, this blog will be devoted to VeganMofo. Tune in while I provide short reviews of some of my favorite, and least favorite, vegan cookbooks. If you are new to Libromancy, please check out some of my non-cookbook reviews, such as my review of Pacific by Tom Drury

It seems right that I start VeganMofo with the first vegan cookbook that I’ve reviewed on this blog: The Vegan Stoner Cookbook. VeganMofoers will recognize the name instantly as that of the hugely popular cooking blog of the same name.

The cookbook is not only as cute as the blog, but cuter. Many of the recipes are repeats, but the book is still worth having in your kitchen because you need a cooking reference, so it may as well be one that makes you laugh.

See my full review here: Sprouts Illustrated

Reviews and samples from around the web:
5 Minute Churros at Mr. and Mrs. Vegan
Lentil Loaf at Karmatarian

Sprouts Illustrated

a tomato in a toque reads How to Cook Cheap Fast and Vegan

credit to Sarah Conrique and Graham I. Hayes

The Vegan Stoner is a collection of delightfully illustrated recipes produced by the same folks who run the eponymous blog.

They may call it stoner food but I refer to it as bachelor food. It is the type of thing that I ate when I was living by myself and my silverware drawer was full of plastic cutlery that I had stolen from Starbucks. Or rather, it’s what I wish I ate. At that time I did not have the innate sense of how to create something both tasteful and healthy. The Stoner crew, Sarah Conrique and Graham I. Haynes, not only manage that here with lentil topped baked potatoes and carrot pizza but also manage to do it in 7 sentences or less. It’s a cookbook that can get daily use, the kind you grab when you realize you only have a half empty container of almond milk, ketchup, and 4 items in the cupboard and you’re hungry, now!

Surely, this is a situation stoners often find themselves in, but, let’s be honest, they are by no means the only ones.

A loyal fan of the blog will recognize a few of the recipes here. The published book, however, also treats you to the ganja-fueled adventures of a cohabitating group of vegetables. In each chapter there are a few scenes of bead-wearing mushroom relaxing on a bean bag or a grumpy pear smothering his emotions with food. In addition to learning what my life would be like if all of my friends were sentient produce, I also got a glimpse of something more relevant: how much our culture has progressed into foodieism. I own another cookbook targeted at a similar crowd called the Starving Students Vegetarian Cookbook. You know what type of recipes it includes? Beans on toast. In this one you get a vegan Hollandaise Benedict.

I myself am an unabashed foodie. I realize it is politically problematic, but I can’t deny who I am. And despite its reliance on canned goods and shortcuts, the Vegan Stoner Cookbook is one I would be proud to have in my kitchen. If nothing else, it’s the cutest reference for rice and bean cooking times and water ratios in existence.
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More?

You can sample the Zucchini Bean Balls and Baked Banana Cake from their book, as well as their adorable drawings, on their blog.

Even more? Here are some bloggers trying out a few recipes:

The Divine Ms. K. enjoys the VS peanut stew
The Pantry Pocket instagrams the Tempeh Rueben
Painted Whales tries the Lentil Loaf