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Vegetarians in Paradise

Vegetarian Books

Each issue the VIP birds endeavor to soar to the highest literary peak to peck out the most unique, informative, and accomplished book that contributes to vegetarian enlightenment.

This month we review an update of a classic cookbook that focuses on the innovative uses of tofu.

Tofu Cookery: 25th Anniversary Edition

By Louise Hagler

Book Publishing Company, 2008
Paperback $21.95

Soy Technician and nutrition educator Louise Hagler returns to one of her early culinary triumphs with the stunning Tofu Cookery: 25th Anniversary Edition. In this complete revision of her classic book she has made a concerted effort to update her recipes to reflect today's nutritional standards and current tastes. Hagler has wisely reduced the salt and fat content in many recipes and has provided a wider variation of sweeteners.

The original edition of the book was the result of a project initiated in the 1970s at The Farm, a vegan community located in Tennessee. The goal was to develop "a vegan, soy-based diet for the Western palate."

Tofu Cookery In Getting to Know Tofu, Hagler introduces novices to the four main types of tofu and describes their characteristics and uses:

  • Silken (the softest, most delicate form)
  • Medium-soft Japanese style
  • Medium-firm Chinese style
  • Extra-firm (dense, hard-pressed block)

She also discusses techniques for enhancing the tofu by freezing, marinating, or smoking it.

The Appetizers, Dips, and Spreads chapter leads the neophyte cook into the realm of appealing tofu creations like Veggie Sushi, Rice Paper Rolls, and Miso Ginger Dip. Most are quickly prepared in the blender or food processor like the Caper Spread that employs soft tofu blended with caper brine, a little olive oil, Dijon mustard, and salt. The mixture is transferred to a bowl and finished with minced onion and tangy capers.

Soup lovers will find 16 hearty suggestions with international touches to please their palates. Travel the world with a myriad of global flavors while sipping spoonfuls of Hot-and-Sour Soup, Minestrone, Tofu Chowder, and Mexican Corn Soup. For those hot days Cucumber Gazpacho should provide that refreshing cool experience.

"Versatile tofu can be the main event in a salad, or blended into a creamy dressing to top a salad, or both!" says Hagler. Her salads covering the international landscape include tasty concoctions like Asian Slaw, Tabouli, Salad sans Poulet, Kanten Fruit and Vegetable Salad, and Cucumber Boats. Hagler offers an impressive eighteen delightful tofu-infused dressings to top any salad. And they're so easy to whip up anyone would be tempted by Creamy Italian, Tofu Aioli, Russian, Green Goddess, and Creamy Sweet-And-Sour Poppy Seed Fruit Salad Dressing.

As one would expect the main portion of the cookbook is devoted to Main Dishes that entice with casseroles, savory pies, one-pot dinners, stir fries, burgers, patties, balls, filled roll, and pasta with tofu. Hagler is savvy to today's busy lifestyles and provides an excellent section on Portable Food. The portable food features items that can be eaten out of hand or easily transported like fajitas, wontons, spring rolls, taquitos, turnovers, and knishes. Those desiring more elegant entrees than portable foods could feast on Onion and Pepper Pie or Tofu Rancheros, or wow the guests with Curried Cashew Tofu over Pasta.

But who wouldn't be tempted to dash into the kitchen and create amazing Side Dishes like the savory, German-inspired potato cakes the author calls Tofu Kartoffelkuchen, or a Risotto Verde enhanced with healthy leafy greens?

Vegan baking may be a challenge to some who have not figured out how to create breads, cakes, and cookies without binding them with eggs. According to Hagler, tofu can be the perfect ingredient in creating yeast breads, quick breads, muffins, crackers, pancakes, and noodles.

Louise Hagler Hagler will amaze non-vegans with the number of delicious offerings she rolls out in the Sweets section. Predictably, dinner guests won't refuse Black Bottom Pie, Maple Tofu Cheesecake, Chocolate Pudding Cake, Banana-Chocolate Chip Cookies, or Mocha Tofu Ice Cream. Don't miss the mouth-watering mocha ice cream photo on page 177 and the recipe on page 179.

For those who may not be familiar with some of the items used in the recipes, the author offers a three-page Glossary of Special Ingredients.

There are two audiences for Tofu Cookery: 25th Anniversary Edition. Old- time cooks who have the original edition will be amazed by this visually appealing update with the lavish use of colors to separate the recipes on each page and the numerous photos of dishes. Newbies can't help being drawn to the book with its artisinal food styling and exceptional interior design. The big lure for them is the easy-to-prepare foods that fill this volume.

Louise Hagler really knows her tofu! After 30 years, she earned the title of the Reigning American Queen of Tofu for her masterful preparation and presentation of this versatile and healthful ingredient.

Reviewed December 2008

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