This month we feature a book that shows readers how to place a tasty vegan meal on the table in less than a half hour.
La Dolce Vegan!:
Vegan Livin' Made Easy
By Sarah Kramer
Arsenal Pulp Press 2005
Dynamo woman Sarah revels in the pleasures of life's every moment. She has co-authored How It All Vegan and The Garden of Vegan, made TV appearances, been interviewed on radio shows, participated in cooking demonstrations, and has won awards for her sassy, upbeat, all-encompassing vegan cookbooks. But she hasn't stopped there.
In addition to authoring best-selling cookbooks, she partners with her husband in running their tatoo shop, The Tatoo Zoo, maintains a bubbly website, finds time for book promotion events, and still finds time to walk Fergus, the family dog.
While she admits she loves to spend time in the kitchen perfecting new dishes or cooking up something special for company, her life is packed with multi-tasking challenges. But Sarah has tapped into the simple philosophy of joyfully getting the job done without making a big fuss about it.
Recognizing that many of her readers are single or couples at most, she has wisely planned recipes that make two generous servings or four small ones. Short ingredient lists and easy preps are the prime focus of the recipes with some exceptions for special occasions. Those few dishes requiring extra time are cleverly noted with a clock graphic.
Following her breezy, conversational introduction, she addresses with flip humor the multitude of excuses people have given her for not being vegan. Here she matter-of-factly discusses her commitment to veganism, her desire to make a difference, and her aim to make it all very easy. Then she amazes the reader with riot of kitchen wisdom from time management tips to creating cleaning supplies out of familiar household items, from cooking perfect pasta, rice, and tofu to baking cakes and pies with perfection. What a kick! She even has a clever list of 45 things to do with salt, like using it to fend off an ant invasion.
The book is a graphic winner with varying shades of turquoise and black accents enhancing the pages and recipe titles. Sarah and her husband, Gerry, display a bent for photography with unique interior photos lending a zesty punch to the chapter sections.
Those lucky enough to receive an invitation to Sarah's for breakfast are lavished with vegan delights like Freedom French Toast, Coconut Pie Pancakes, or Wolffie's BLT Brunch Casserole, an elaborately layered dish topped with a rich cheesy sauce. But home chefs can spend the 20 to 30 minutes whipping up those tempting morning starters or delicacies like Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes with Olivada or snacks like Carob-covered Mini-Pretzels.
Fans of Sarah's previous books were so enamored with them they flooded her with their own recipes, many of which are now part of this funky fun cookbook. Wolffie's contributions, which Sarah tells readers "never fail and are a treat to eat" include Wolffie's Derby Pie. Wolffie says about her recipe, "I swear it's better than an orgasm."
For an exceptional dish to serve for special occasions, chill out in the kitchen while assembling the Spaghetti & Tofu Balls immersed in an oh-so-Italian pasta sauce. This is one of those few recipes wit h a clock at the top, but Sarah suggests the Tofu Balls can be made ahead of time and frozen as a time saver.
Pot pie, an old-fashioned notion with a hip new twist, emerges as a Portobello Pot Pie that features earthy flavors and savory seasonings. Sarah suggests making the dough in the food processor in the morning, chilling it, then assembling the tasty pie for dinner.
Dessert lovers and those who enjoy the rewards of baking can revel in sweet nirvana with 58 desserts plus an array of muffins, sweet breads, cakes, and pies with glazes and frostings to match. There are savory breads galore with specialties like Kissing Cousins Oat Bread and Kalamata & Sun-dried Tomato Soda Bread. There's even a recipe for Homemade Graham Crackers made with maple syrup that replaces the non-vegan honey in commercial grahams.
This vivacious, super-vegan, innovative kitchen guru has an all-encompassing knowledge of everything vegan. This book is worth its price just for the know-how of preparing your own faux meat, sausage, beef, turkey, chicken, ham, and fish from instant vital wheat gluten or gluten made from scratch.
The last chapter of the book could be called Confessions of a Pack Rat. Sarah admits to being one who collects all sorts of found treasures that come her way, including things like dominoes, buttons, coins, bottle caps and faux fur fabric. In this how-to section readers can share her delight by making some of her favorite items like a punk rock studded bracelet, pendants, decorated hair elastics, and a host of sewing projects.
This is not a book to languish on the shelf. La Dolce Vegan is a cookbook that will proudly wear the stains of drips and drops from savory, sweet, and spicy ingredients used and loved by home chefs. This volume is not only a treasured collection of original recipes and readers' contributions but is also full of imaginative treatments for living life in the happy zone.
Reviewed November 2006