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Vegan for the Holidays

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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 a cookbook that reveals some sublime recipes from one of the country's most famous vegan restaurants.

The Sublime Restaurant Cookbook:
Florida's Ultimate Destination for Vegan Cuisine

By Nanci Alexander

Book Publishing Company, 2009
Paperback $19.95

Nanci Alexander's compassion for the plight of food animals inspired her to found the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida in 1989 and evolved into opening Sublime, one of the country's most treasured vegan restaurants. In The Sublime Restaurant Cookbook she features the restaurant's most popular dishes and shares its cherished recipes.

Four years in the making, the restaurant's unique ambience turns vegan dining into a memorable visual experience as well. Owner Nanci's vision was to create a beautiful dining environment that would raise plant-based foods to their most sublime position.

Sublime Restaurant Cookbook Sidestepping the usual how-tos, kitchen tools, and pantry suggestions that appear in many cookbooks, this book focuses on the recipes that have elevated Sublime to its status as one of the most admired restaurants in the United States. Clearly the emphasis is not only on foods that are delicious and beautifully presented, but also on fresh ingredients that are genuinely healthful.

After familiar hors d'oeuvres like Baba Ganoush and polenta are given the Sublime treatment, they arrive at the table with innovative touches. Potato pancakes are topped with a rich Cashew Cream, while Stuffed Mushrooms are laced with onions, garlic, and chives.

Appetizers with an international bent frequently become the main course when guests order several and share them at the table. Asian influences include vegetable-stuffed Rice Paper Spring Rolls and Frito Misto, a tempura-battered cauliflower tossed in Sweet Chili Sauce. Fried Green Tomatoes, Eggplant Rollatini, and Mushroom Ceviche complete the international starter offerings.

When the hot weather hits, home chefs can turn on the blender and prepare a refreshing bowl of Chilled Cucumber Coconut Soup finished with a few drops of Chili Oil. Hot soup fanciers can enjoy Tomato Fennel Soup or the 50 Onion Soup that requires 50 onions when the Sublime kitchen staff prepares it for the restaurant.

Uncomplicated Salads that are elaborate in flavor make Caesar, Chopped Salad, and Tomato Carpaccio some the restaurant's top choices. Because sushi is a specialty of the house, the book offers five innovative creations including black rice-filled Yin Yang Roll and Florasian Roll stuffed with avocado, mango, and coconut.

Given the Sublime treatment, pizza and pasta are transformed from the ordinary to the spectacular with recipes like Seven-Layer Pizza and Fusilli Bolognese. Entrées provide the family cook with the opportunity to bring bright colors to the plate along with superb flavors. The Sublime Loaf combines black beans, caramelized onions, and soy crumbles into individual loaves deliciously enhanced with rich Onion Gravy. Those who favor seitan might choose Picatta with its Lemon-Caper Sauce or Grilled Seitan Steak topped with Watercress Salad and accompanied with Tzatziki Sauce. The traditional meat and potatoes dish finds its creative counterpart in the Portobello Tenderloin, a truly unique medley of flavors in a dramatic presentation.

Sublime Restaurant Cookbook Basic sauces and vegetable stock preps are covered in Fillings, Toppings, and More Sauces, while the divinely anticipated desserts keep everyone waiting until the end of the meal and the end of the book. The desserts do not disappoint. The Coconut Cake is a pleaser with its two-layer yellow cake base, filled and topped with coconut-rich icing, and served with Almond Cookies. Homey and simply crafted are Brown Rice Pudding, S'mores Brownies, and Baked Apple Napoleon.

Graphically well-designed and enhanced with several full-color photos, especially the mouthwatering full color photo of the Coconut Cake, the book entices with its good looks and attractive use of the earthy green ink applied in the chapter division pages, headnotes, ingredient listings, and featured food ingredients.

Two exceptional features of the book are the heartwarming Foreward written by Neal Barnard, M.D. and the statement on the back cover that says, "100% of Sublime's profits benefit animal welfare." No doubt, Barnard, who writes about the restaurant with sincere passion, has feasted on Sublime's famed cuisine.

The Sublime Restaurant Cookbook recipes are surprisingly easy to prepare, yet designed with a unique flair, making this volume a welcome addition to the home cookbook shelf. Whether its dishes for everyday fare or something special for expected guests, the book is all-inclusive and presents its offerings in a clear, concise, and totally doable style. Those who wish they could dine at Sublime regularly can easily consider the cookbook an excellent stand-in for being there.

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