Friday, October 03, 2008

The Cookbooks

Ah yes, my reference books, my inspiration, and my answer to anyone who ever asks "what do you eat?"

Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson is a gem. This book is my Joy of Cooking for vegan food. Anything you want to know is in here. There are no glossy photos, but that doesn't bother me since the recipe titles sound sumptuous enough. It also means I won't be disappointed when my dish doesn't look as good as the picture (impossible I know, but it could happen).

I've made many recipes from this book and have never been disappointed. Robertson has a wide variety of meals that are grouped into ingredient and cuisine. She has chapters that reflect ingredients such as Going with the Grain and The World of Beans, but she also has several chapters that offer a variety of cuisines such as, The Global Oven and New World Pizza.

My most recent successful recipe from this book was Black Bean and Sweet Potato Enchiladas. It may turn into one of those well-loved recipes like The Ultimate Shepherd's Pie which has completely separated from the binding and is frayed around the edges. On the flipside of this recipe is the Winter Vegetable Pot-Pie. These two comfort foods are well loved here in whoville and I guess the tattered page is proof. Unfortunately, the publisher's choice of binding for this book is not very sturdy and now my book is falling apart, but then I remember my mom's Joy of Cooking doing that as well. Perhaps it's a sign of a successful recipe book (or maybe it really is just poor binding).

Some of my favorites that are regular dishes around here are:

Pseudo Caesar Salad (hands down the best caesar around) Pesto Tossed Golden Potato Gnocchi Pad Thai Carribean Rice with Red Beans and Chili Sesame Soba Noodles Mac and "Cheese" White Bean Cassoulet Tempeh Goulash West Coast Chili Mom's Best Chocolate Chip Cookies - Only Better Chocolate Pudding Parfaits Ginger-Spiced Scones with Cashews and Dates

My latest cookbook addition is Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. If you know about VeganMofo then you know about the Post Punk Kitchen (PPK) and that Veganomicon is partly a product of this successful vegan foodie blog.

I've reviewed this cookbook before and as I've said before it is fabulous. There are glossy pictures as enticing as the ones on PPK. The recipes are tried and true and also varied as with Vegan Planet. Unlike Vegan Planet this cookbook is hardcover and solidly bound.

What I really enjoyed about this book after receiving it for Christmas was that I could actually sit down and read it for enjoyment. The writing entertains as it guides you through what's-what in ingredients, how to prep those ingredients, and what are essential and useful kitchen utensils to help you with said ingredients. I've never read a cookbook in this way before, but the writing is just that good. And the recipes match.

Veganomicon (a clever name referencing one of my all time favorite movies) has consistently tastey recipes. Often the recipe will offer variations of ingredients you can add. What I also appreciate is the appendix listing recipes that are gluten-free. Now that I'm a gluten-free vegan this is very helpful ("farewell, Chickpea Cutlets it was a good run!"). Of course I'm getting use to adapting recipes to be gluten-free and I've done so with recipes in this book including Blueberry Corn Pancakes and the Mushroom Gravy (the best Mushroom Gravy recipe I've tried).

Some of my favorite recipes that I've tried from this cookbook are:

Herb-Scalloped Potatoes Roasted Portabellos Cheezy Sauce Broccoli Polenta Easy Stir-Fry Leafy Greens Mexican Millet Potato and Kale Enchiladas with Roasted Chile Sauce Eggplant-Potato Moussaka with Pine Nut Cream (oh the pine nut cream!) Red Lentil-Cauliflower Curry Mac Daddy (with variations) Crumb Crust (for desserts) Berry Coconut Crisp

I hope to find a gluten-free way to make the Coconut-Lemon Bundt Cake because it sounds divine.

Those two books are regular references for me, but I also am starting to use Nonna's Italian Kitchen:Delicious Home-Style Vegan Cuisine more often.
There are some classic Italian recipes adapted in this book and the author, Bryanna Clark Grogan, goes the extra step offering substitutes if you want to make the recipe soy free or gluten-free. She'll adapt measurements for you depending on if you're using rice flour or not or soy or almond milk. I find this very useful. Her cashew cream is the best way to make a dish creamy without using soy and her Eggplant Parmesan turned out very well. I also use her recipe to make my favorite Tuscan dish Fagioli all' Uccelletto (white beans and sage in a tomato sauce).

Our favorite recipe from this book is her Parmesan made with almonds, nutritional yeast and miso. So simple and it adds another texture and flavour to top our pasta. Mostly I prefer to sprinkle it on my salads.

These are the most prized cookbooks in our kitchen, but we have others that we refer to as well when needed (the Candle Cafe cookbook, A Celebration of Wellness)or for special occasions (the Artful Vegan cookbook).

We do collect cookbooks(two years ago I bought Robin Robertson's Slow-Cooker vegan cookbook, but have yet to get my slowcooker!), but really the three above are the most used and most treasured in our kitchen. I'm sure there will be references to these books during VeganMofo, maybe even pictures.


Sarah said...

Yay! Thanks for these reviews. Goddess knows I needed to learn about some more Vegan cookbooks. I think I'll check out the Vegan Planet. The more food ideas I can get my hands on, the better!

Bex said...

I don't have Nonna's Italian Kitchen yet but it's on my wishlist, you just bumped it a little closer to the top :)

sarchan said...

What a great post. I've had a love affair with cookbooks since I was about 8 or 9, and I enjoyed your post. Thank you for reminding me to check out Vegan Planet again from the library. It's been a couple years, actually since I cooked anything from it, and while I liked much of what I made, I attempted a chocolate cake, and the results were pretty disappointing. For regular food, though, I remember it being a great resource.

How do you like Artful Vegan and The Candle Cafe book? (I actually ate lunch today at the latter, and thought afterwards, "I need to get my hands on their cookbook," impractical as it would be for everyday meals...)

Vegan Run Amok said...

Oh, Nonna's Italian Kitchen was the cookbook that made it possible for me to transition from cheesitarian to vegan.

Great post!