In recent years veganism has moved toward the mainstream in a big way. As more and more people become aware of the many benefits of adding plant-based foods to their diet, demand for vegan cookbooks has steadily increased. The sheer volume of new vegan cookbooks available today indicates that publishers have also clearly understood this trend. “Big Vegan” by Robin Asbell and “Vegan Holiday Kitchen“ by Nava Atlas are two new additions made to this growing collection during 2011.
“Big Vegan: More Than 350 Recipes, No Meat, No Dairy, All Delicious“ is a celebration of the vegan way of life. From breakfast to snacks to elaborate dinners, recipes range from simple to stylish. The ingredients are listed in English and metric measurements, recipe directions are straightforward and easy to follow, and each recipe tells you how many servings it will make. Although recipes are drawn from various global cuisines, Asbell tweaks them with her own intriguing combinations for adding color, taste, texture and complexity.
One of the recipes I tried was for spinach chickpea fritters (it is vaguely similar to Indian spinach pakora) and it was wonderful. Asbell’s addition of drained canned chickpeas to the batter definitely added to the taste and texture of the dish.
Besides underscoring the abundant flavors in natural foods, Asbell incorporates the fundamentals for adopting a vegan lifestyle. She encourages veganism for its health benefits. The key to a nutritionally sound vegan diet is variety, and a healthy and a varied vegan diet includes fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, whole grain products, nuts, seeds and legumes.
Most of the ingredients needed for the dishes in “Big Vegan” are widely available. And, if not, Asbell has included a list of online and mail-order sources in the resource section. There is also a large section explaining what vegan pantry staples you will need to stock up and an ingredient glossary.
Also, the book is filled with tips and tricks for bringing out the best from vegan ingredients. The book design is clean and simple. Sixteen recipes are beautifully photographed by Kate Sears; wish there were more. A wide selection of recipes, from simple to elaborate, and a very comprehensive approach makes this one of the best vegan cookbooks around.
“Vegan Holiday Kitchen: More Than 200 Delicious, Festive Recipes for Special Occasions“ is the latest cookbook by Nava Atlas, author of numerous vegetarian and vegan cookbooks. The book is meant for holidays and special occasions but the delicious and easy-to-follow recipes would be welcomed at the dinner table any time of the year. Several recipes are exquisitely photographed by photographer and vegan blogger Susan Voisin.
This book organizes its recipes differently than most cookbooks, with each chapter concentrating on a specific holiday or theme. The book begins with Thanksgiving and includes Christian and Jewish (including Sephardic and Ashkenazi variations) holidays. The last two chapters feature festive recipes for Independence Day and summer entertaining followed by a chapter on brunches, appetizers and potluck dishes, all the while keeping with the festive theme. Recipes in each chapter are organized by specific menu.
I find this unusual organizational style quite interesting. The chapter design is color-coded by type of holiday — orange for Thanksgiving, red for Christmas and so on. Each chapter begins with a description of the holiday and some of the customs and etiquette associated with each.
Recipes start on a fresh page, and the layout is clear and clean. Each recipe has a brief head note, followed by detailed ingredient list and straightforward instructions. Most ingredients are easy to find and there are no unfamiliar cooking methods. Recipes also have notations at the top that tell you if they are gluten free, nut fee or soy free; a big help when cooking for people with allergies.
Sample menus are part of each chapter. Scattered all through the book are help boxes that give interesting additional information on how to put together a healthy Easter basket and how to set up a Passover table. Atlas also includes tips on planning holiday feasts and what dishes can be prepared ahead for each holiday.
Planning a festive meal for family or group that includes vegans or vegetarians can be daunting to a host. Thanks to Atlas’s vegan versions of traditional holiday favorites in “Vegan Holiday Kitchen,” vegans and vegetarians also may enjoy sumptuous traditional feasts.
Zester Daily contributor Ammini Ramachandran is a Texas-based author, freelance writer and culinary educator who specializes in the culture, traditions and cuisine of her home state Kerala, India. She is the author of “Grains, Greens, and Grated Coconuts: Recipes and Remembrances of a Vegetarian Legacy” (iUniverse 2007), and her website is www.peppertrail.com.
Top photo composite: Covers of “Big Vegan” by Robin Aspell and “Vegan Holiday Kitchen” by Nava Atlas.
Credit: Ammini Ramachandran