Vegan cookbooks aren’t just for people who follow the meat and dairy-free lifestyle. You are unlikely to find a person who enjoys meat and dairy as much as I do. Yet, I still see a lot of room for vegan recipes in my kitchen library, for several reasons. First, I’m a forager by trade, and have a deep love of wild vegetables. Over the years, I’ve often found the best way to showcase wild foods is to find how a similar commercial vegetable is used in a vegan recipe.
Also, vegan cookery is handy when entertaining. It is rare to throw a party these days without at least one vegetarian, or person with food-sensitivities in attendance. Dishes that are free of meat and dairy are the lowest common denominator for dinner parties. A host who offers a scrumptious vegan dish has covered many of those bases by cooking a dish most guests can enjoy.
If you are a card-carrying carnivore like me, perhaps you are under the impression that vegan fare is dull. Three new cookbooks from the Vegan Heritage Press offer up a wide array of vegan dishes that are anything but boring salads, sad crudite platters, and frighteningly wobbly eggless egg salads of eras past.
Seasonal and accessible “The Blooming Platter Cookbook” by Betsy DiJulio artfully takes advantage of the seasonal cuisine trend. Each chapter, from starters to soups to brunches, is arranged by season, with a visual icon (flower, sun, leaf, or snowflake) clearly marking each. Cooking this way just makes sense because you are using the tastiest fresh produce. With DiJulio’s versatile recipes, you could refresh in the springtime with a menu of fresh pea and tarragon hummus, caramelized onion and spinach quesadillas, and a slice of chocolate carrot cake. In the fall, you could cozy up with beet muhummara, white bean sausages and red apple sauerkraut, and pumpkin apple-butter cheesecake pie.
As someone who just loves good food, when I look through a cookbook in any genre, I expect to find appealing recipes. Even though I’m not a non-vegan, several recipes in “The Blooming Platter” had my mouth watering, particularly in the appetizer and salad chapters. Seasonal fruit and red wine onion jam? Yes please. Beet salad with horseradish-walnut vinaigrette? Don’t mind if I do. Thai rice noodle and plum salad? Yes, you could put some right here on my plate. Tunisian couscous salad with cumin-pomegranate vinaigrette? Make extra for me.
One aspect of DiJulio’s cookbook that I found particularly intriguing was the appearance of several meat and cheese-replacement recipes, which were make from white beans. Previously, I had thought that it was fairly standard to make this sort of thing with soy products. After having had some unpleasant tofu experiences, I think that white bean sausages sound like an appealing alternative.
Flavors from around the globe
“World Vegan Feast” by Bryanna Clark Grogan contains recipes that originate in more than 50 countries. Here Grogan offers a crafty answer to the question: “How do you make flavorful food if you can’t eat meat or dairy?” The answer, as it turns out, is to make use of the spices and seasonings of world cuisine. This book offers up such globe-trotting dishes as masa crepes with greens and black bean and corn salsa, Vietnamese-style mango salad rolls with smoked tofu, Greek nugget potato and kalamata olive stew, Egyptian-style beans, and Peruvian carmel-filled pastries.
Diner food without the meat
“American Vegan Kitchen” by Tamasin Noyes promises “delicious comfort food from blue-plate specials to home-style favorites.” At first glance, it would seem this book’s target audience is a younger crowd, possibly those who are vegan for political, rather than health reasons. I envision the college kid who just wants to eat the same foods her buddies are enjoying.
But let’s face it, everyone enjoys fun food every now and again, and this book delivers by retooling classic American fare. You could satisfy your cravings for diner food by saddling up to fried pickles, a mushroom burger, fries and coleslaw. Put a cap on a night out with stick-to-your-ribs pot stickers. Enjoy the big game with a room full of friends and spicy balsamic maple wings. Or kick back after a hard day at work with loaded baked potato soup and seitan on a shingle.
I’m guessing that even picky eaters could be won over by some of the popular dishes Noyes cooks up.
If you think that vegan food means endless meals of brown rice and kale, it is time to reconsider. Even while avoiding meat and dairy products, the modern vegan can take advantage of a colorful and flavorful assortment of foods, and even satisfy all of their cravings.
Vegans, non-vegans, and people who just love plant-based dishes will enjoy these books.
Zester Daily contributor Wendy Petty lives in the Rocky Mountains, where she is a forager, photographer and wild foods consultant. She writes about her adventures with mountain food on her blog, Hunger and Thirst.
Photo: Vegan cookbooks. Credit: Wendy Petty
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