I’ve been having so much fun cooking from the great vegan cookbooks published so far this year that I haven’t been very inclined to experiment with my own historical weirdness. It’s amazing to see how vegan recipes have evolved in only a couple of decades from obscure underground zines to glossy best sellers, and the standard of the food itself from bog-standard grilled tofu dishes to a genuinely distinctive and varied cuisine. Here are a few 2009 cookbooks I’ve been exploring lately:
The lovely and talented Isa Chandra Moskowitz, author with Terry Romero of Vegan with a Vengeance and Veganomicon, has published Vegan Brunch, with more than 175 recipes for what is arguably the best meal of the day. She includes a handful of indespensible brunch items reprinted or slightly revised from her previous books, standards such as pancakes or tempeh bacon, but the bulk of the volume is filled with original and innovative brunch ideas, such as a variety of tofu omelettes flavored with the uncannily egg-like taste of black salt and several waffle ideas including gingerbread, peanut butter, and chocolate beer.
I love Donna Klein’s books Vegan Italiano and Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen because they include so many recipes that are quick and inexpensive. Most other cookbooks I whip out for special occassions or a random indulgence, but a number of Klein’s recipes have become my regular standbys. She uses very few obscure, foodie ingredients, just basic fruits, vegetables, grains, and other readily available staples. Her most recent book, Tropical Vegan Kitchen, is similarly quick and easy to use, with recipes from tropical locations around the world, such as coconut tofu with spicy pineapple chutney or African black barley stew with okra and tomatoes. Her recipe for Bangkok-style basil sesame noodles has become a regular in my kitchen.
In Vegan Soul Kitchen, food activist Bryant Terry reinvents African-American cuisine with healthy, animal-free recipes like black-eyed pea fritters with hot pepper sauce, spicy mafé tempeh, and savory triple-corn grits. A nice added touch is the “soundtrack” with each recipe, suggestions like Toots & The Maytals’ “Water Melon” for the citrus and spice pickled watermelon rind or Booker T.’s “Green Onions” for the pan-fried grit cakes with caramelized spring onions, a gentle reminder of the intersection of food and other aspects of culture and community.
I’ve also been recently inspired to start pickling with the publication of the revised edition of Linda Ziedrich’s The Joy of Pickling. It’s not a strictly vegan book—there’s one short chapter in the four-hundred-page tome on pickled meats and eggs—but it seems to be an excellent primer on preserving vegetables. I say “seems to be” because I’m still awaiting the chance to deliver a verdict on the Japanese kimuchi that’s currently fermenting away and stinking up one of my cupboards.
Anyway, I promise I’ll tear myself away from these books sometime soon and get back into the wonderful Victorian world of boiled celery on toast. On second thought, I might just spend a little more time with my new cookbook purchases…