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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 two books from opposite ends of the vegan spectrum. One emphasizes the delight in making your own ice cream. The other reveals exotic Indian dishes that can be prepared at home.

Click here for a review of Paakam: Everyday Indian for a Vegetarian Lifestyle

Creamy, dreamy, vegan ice creams your mouth will love

By Cathe Olson

Book Publishing Company, 2009
Paperback $14.95

Lick it!, cookbook author Cathe Olson's latest book, promises to reach deep into one's earliest childhood memories when an ice cream cone filled with something cold, sweet, creamy, and delicious was an anticipated treat. Often thought of as a summertime dessert, ice cream is easy to enjoy year round with vegan recipes in a stunning book that makes this dessert an all-year-round can-do.

Olson's long-time love affair with ice cream spurred her to create the multitude of innovative flavors as enjoyable for her family, friends, and neighbors as it was for her. One of her childhood memories is her whole family walking downtown on hot summer nights to get cones of ice cream. During her teens she worked in an ice cream parlor inventing new float or sundae creations. Seems it was only a matter of time before she shared her ice cream passion with others. Lick It

With the goal of making non-dairy ice creams taste as good or better than the best dairy versions, Olson succeeded in offering flavors and textures that gave her testers no hint these were made without cows milk and cream. These non-dairy recipes are ideal for anyone with dairy allergies or intolerances or for those who avoid animal products for ethical reasons.

Olson discusses the details of the ice cream machine, the function of salt and ice, and the laborious but workable process of making ice cream without a machine. Tips for making ice cream successfully focus on starting with cold ingredients, adding already frozen fruit to fruit-based ice creams, adjusting the sweetness level upward because ice crystals can dilute the sweetness, and waiting until the ice cream is almost firm before adding items like chocolate chips or nuts. Her comments about specific ingredients include hints for toasting nuts, freezing fruit, and making coconut milk. She also cautions that homemade ice creams will only keep for about two months in the freezer because they contain no stabilizers or preservatives

The book contains a variety of traditional ice cream flavors like basic vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry along with numerous variations of these favorites. The basic recipe for Vanilla Ice Cream can easily morph into Cherry Vanilla, Chocolate Chip, Cookies-and-Cream, or Vanilla-Fudge Brownie ice cream. Further adventures lead to a decadent Vanilla-Blackberry Truffle Ice Cream richly made with coconut milk, blackberry jam, and chopped Chocolate Truffles, which is another melt-in-the-mouth recipe in the book.

Wild and imaginative flavors feature spices like ginger, cardamom, pumpkin spice, and cinnamon as the dominant flavors, while herbs like rosemary, lemongrass, and lavender take the spotlight in a host of easy recipes. Headnotes are rich with suggestions for serving specific ice cream flavors after an Indian meal, a Japanese miso soup, or pairing the desserts with seasonal fruit, cake, or other recipes like her Whipped Orange-Cashew Cream.

Cathe Olson The Fresh and Fruity chapter centers on ice creams and sorbets with innovative fruit combos like Lavender-Blueberry Ice Cream, a flavor so pleasing it might encourage one to grow lavender in the home garden. There's even a chapter on low fat ice creams with flavors like Low-fat Banana-Nog Olson says is "perfect for the holidays with pumpkin or apple pie." Yogurt, too, joins the dessert scene with treats like Dark Cherry Frozen Yogurt, while the unique Kiwi Sorbet takes the lead in the sorbet section.

Ice cream in Olson's world does much more than simply fill a cone or dessert dish. Ice cream becomes the ultimate dessert in the form of pies, cakes, and tortes. Truly Breaking the Mold is a banquet of Bombes and Terrines that require no special mold, only stainless steel mixing bowls or metal loaf pans for easy release. Imagine Cherry-Ginger Terrine with Lemon Sauce, a dessert that combines Cherry Sorbet with Ginger Ice Cream and Lemon Sauce, all included in this dreamy volume. The final chapters appeal to kids of all ages with recipes for sundaes, ice pops, bonbons, cones, bars, ice cream sandwiches, shakes, sodas, floats, sauces, toppings, and mix-ins.

The book is just as graphically attractive as the mouthwatering recipes. While there are no full-color pages, varying shades of passionate purple accents are placed throughout the book for side bars, photos of fruits, herbs, and foods like chocolate chips and nuts. The purple chapter introductions make one want to grin at the engaging close-ups of smiling faces thoroughly enjoying ice cream cones or cups.

Lick It! is everything an ice cream lover could dare to dream! Never too young nor too old to enjoy a chilled dessert, readers can find a plethora of irresistible ice cream flavors that can be quickly prepared ahead. The recipes are so clear and easy; even young children might find their kitchen niche and enjoy making dessert for the whole family. Every household needs Lick It! for the fun of it!

Everyday Indian for a Vegetarian Lifestyle

By Anu Canumalla

AuthorHouse, 2008
Paperback $43.00

Ever wonder if Indian cuisine prepared at home is far different from restaurant offerings? Anu J. Canumalla proves home cooked Indian dishes are a world apart from the restaurant experience in her striking, color-packed cookbook Paakam: Everyday Indian for a Vegetarian Lifestyle. Many years of exploration went into compiling these long-standing family recipes accompanying her original dishes that fill this beautiful volume.

During her years studying chemistry in an American university, Anu missed home cooking so much she frequently called her family in India for recipes she could prepare in her adopted country. Beginning with treasured recipes from family members, she devoted many years to honing her cooking skills and passion for her home cuisine. In time she developed expertise in working with the vast array of vegetables and spices that make Indian cuisine so distinctive. Paakam

Aware of the health benefits of fresh natural foods, Anu's recipes are largely vegan with some vegetarian recipes that use yogurt and milk. These can easily be made vegan with unsweetened soy yogurt and soymilk. She explains the many aspects in the meal require balancing the spices, flavors, textures, and nutritional quality, while noting that as early as 1500 BC, there existed an awareness of Nava dhanyas or the use of nine grains. Still a focus of today's cooks, the nine grains include wheat, oats, green gram, Bengal gram, pigeon peas, black-eyed peas, sesame seeds, black gram, and horse gram.

While it is typical to measure exact ingredients for a recipe in American cooking, it is uncommon in traditional Indian cuisine where creating the flavors becomes an almost intuitive technique. Further setting the cuisine apart from American tradition is that the foods are commonly eaten with the fingers, and licking the fingers at the end of the meal is not frowned upon. A multitude of culinary traditions of the various regions of India appear throughout the book, either in the headnotes or the extensive descriptions of the spices and herbs that explain how they are prepared and used.

The chapter on chiles reveals that though chiles are not native to India, they are liberally embraced in the cuisine. Indian cooking is noted for its spiciness, a feature that makes so many people fall in love with the food. Because Anu is aware some of the recipe ingredients are unique to Indian cuisine, she provides helpful details on their use and handling. Many of the individual foods appear in thumbnail-size color photos to help identify unfamiliar items like snake gourd or amaranth leaves.

Those new to Indian cuisine will appreciate the suggested Menu List that illustrates how to assemble a typical Indian meal and even a special party meal from the recipes in the book. Readers may be surprised to learn that Indian foods are not typically served in courses, though starters might be offered before a meal or as a snack in the evening along with a cup of hot tea. Appetizers feature delicacies like Aloo Bonda, batter-dipped potato balls with an array of herbs and spices like cilantro, mint, chiles, ginger in a batter of Bengal gram powder.

The vegetable and legume dishes comprise the largest proportion of the recipes. Those who frequent Indian restaurants will find familiar dishes like Baingan Bhartha and Vegetable Kurma among the Vegetable Dishes, but most of the recipes are beautiful assemblages of dishes served only at home. While few Americans are fortunate enough to experience a tasty homemade Indian meal, they can become proficient home cooks with mouthwatering recipes like Anu's Stuffed Karela guided by a beautiful photograph of the finished dish.

Red Pumpkin, a home cooked specialty of South India, appears in an appealing color photo of red pumpkin cooked with grated coconut and black and Bengal gram along with a host of exotic spices that compliment the sweet pumpkin. Served with rice, the pumpkin can also be substituted with other squashes that are not sweet. Anu Canumalla

The legume section features a spicy garbanzo recipe called Cholé, a whole meal in one dish and an excellent party food. Along for the ride are garbanzos, onions and tomatoes to form the base of the meal. The ample seasonings include powdered spices and spice pastes, giving the dish a well-balanced complexity of flavors. Anu recommends making this dish a day ahead for even better flavor absorption.

Among the rice dishes is Green Pulao, Basmati rice enhanced with a banquet of spices and herbs one can almost taste while reading the recipe. Cilantro, mint, green chiles, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, cashews, and cumin are just a few of the items that comprise this abundantly seasoned rice specialty.

Paakam: Everyday Indian for a Vegetarian Lifestyle includes recipes for breads, salads, chutneys, relishes, and desserts, each clearly explained in this well-designed, graphically stunning, oversized cookbook printed on acid-free paper resembling a delicate gray faux parchment. Even the innovative cover design is composed of food ingredients featuring many colors of lentils, beans, cardamom seeds, turmeric, and chiles on a backdrop of white rice bordered by green beans and cinnamon sticks. This gorgeous volume makes Indian cooking so enticing it almost compels one to want to learn this ancient art. The feast of spices included in the recipes makes Indian cooking seem far less daunting than other Indian cookbooks and far more inviting.

Click here for past book reviews

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