This month we feature two cookbooks. One is the collaborative efforts of prominent chefs in the Pacific Northwest. The other is an updated vegan version of a previously published book of vegetarian soups.
The Veg-Feasting Cookbook:
Favorite Recipes from Local Restaurants
and Leading Chefs in the Pacific Northwest
By Vegetarians of Washington
Book Publishing Company, 2005
Washington and Oregon have a long-established history of vegetarianism where many religious groups like the Seventh Day Adventists as well as food co-ops, yoga instructors, and health advocates promoted the benefits of a vegetarian diet. It was only natural that the Pacific Northwest would be home to numerous vegetarian restaurants and health food stores where bulk bins of grains and legumes are commonplace.
The Vegetarians of Washington were so successful with their travel guidbook, Veg-Feasting in the Pacific Northwest published in 2004, they received numerous requests for recipes from the restaurants in their guidebook. Eager to please, they created The Veg-Feasting Cookbook. This dedicated and inspired group also sponsors an annual Seattle VegFest event that draws thousands, not just from the vegetarian community, but from the general public. The event could be called veg-feasting with noted speakers, cooking demonstrations by vegetarian cookbook authors and chefs, and samplings from vegetarian food companies.
In A Wise and Delicious Choice, Vegetarians of Washington Vice President Stewart Rose says, "You can enjoy the most delicious food you can imagine, and at the same time greatly improve your health, while easing your conscience about the animals and the environment" Stewart also provides a chapter of fascinating facts on how industry has changed the eating habits of the Western world and created diseases like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and several digestive disorders.
The group's president, Amanda Strombom, discusses The Four New Food Groups and explains how Nobel Prize-winning doctors along with Surgeons General recommend a vegetarian diet for longevity and lowered disease risk. In this chapter, Amanda details the use and importance of including foods like legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits in the daily diet. She covers the nutritional data with specifics like the protein, fiber, vitamin, and mineral content as well as how to incorporate these into family meals.
Cheryl Redmond, food editor, offers insights into The Vegetarian Kitchen and focuses on a glossary of typical vegetarian pantry items that may be new to those just introduced to the vegetarian scene. She guides readers on the details of soy foods, legumes, whole grains, flours, sweeteners, herbs and spices, and condiments and offers tips and tricks on how and when to use items like sesame oil, walnut oil, and flaxseed oil.
Exceptional breakfast dishes include a recipe for Soysage from D'Anna Deli Café in Bellingham, Washington. This tasty, homemade veggie sausage features a base of frozen and fresh tofu and whole-wheat flour plus a blend of herbs and spices. Then the easy-prep mixture is kneaded by hand and baked.
Familiar appetizers include Bruschetta and Hummus, while on the unique side are Walnut and Pomegranate Spread from Pilaf Restaurant in Ashland, Oregon. This spread blends walnuts, bread crumbs, red bell peppers, and spices in the food processor, and then finishes with a drizzling of olive oil and pomegranate molasses.
Soup offerings are numerous and tantalizing. Who can resist a steaming bowl of Black Bean, Rice & Squash Soup by Chef Barb Bloomfield, Chickpea Mash Stew by Chef Dreena Burton, Turkish Lentil Soup by Cyber Dogs in Seattle, Washington, or Persian Barley Bean Soup by Chef Omid Roustaei, each brimming with irresistible flavors?
Many of the recipes include Chefs Tips or explanations of unique ingredients like galangal or nutritional yeast. These appear at the bottom of the recipes.
Adventurous foodies will look forward to summer when they can prepare the Watermelon, Scallion and Mint Salad, a unique blend of sweet and savory flavors. Contributed by The Deli Next Door--Skagit Valley Food Coop, the salad combines fresh watermelon, scallions, mint leaves, jalapeno, vegetable oil and white wine vinegar and is a welcome treat when served chilled.
Because this volume is a compendium of the tastiest, most unique recipes from restaurant chefs and cookbook authors, it has the distinction of featuring many styles and approaches to creating tasty, wholesome foods. While one chef may favor delicate flavors, others lean to zesty seasonings, some choose savory flavors, while another shares a sweet and sour dish.
Chef Ken Charney offers his Mushroom Walnut Roast from his book The Bold Vegetarian Chef. Combining walnuts, tofu, and oats plus seasonings like Dijon mustard, soy sauce, and garlic, the result is a great-tasting vegetarian "meatloaf."
Dessert couldn't be easier with Chef Louise Hagler's Chocolate Truffle Pie. A well-seasoned cookbook author, Chef Louise masterfully creates a dessert sensation with only five ingredients. Other unique dessert treats include Cocoa Halva from the Patty Pan Grill, Cashew Coconut Date Cookies by Chef Cheryl Redmond, and The Locomotive's Lavender Sorbet made with real lavender blossoms.
The cookbook team of six vegetarian devotees includes the president and vice-president of the Vegetarians of Washington plus other members who excel in editing, graphic design, and administration of the project. The team demonstrated how steadfast dedication, perseverance, and a labor of love can result in an outstanding volume of delicious recipes gathered from a rainbow of sources.
The Veg-Feasting Cookbook is well-designed and easy to use with its lay-flat binding and informative tidbits. Newcomers to the vegetarian scene will appreciate the recipes for their clarity and easy-to-follow format, while long-time vegetarians will relish the unique collection of recipes and the opportunity to become acquainted with chefs not only from the Pacific Northwest but also from across the country.
Vegetarian Soups for All Seasons
By Nava Atlas
Amberwood Press, 2006
Who better to write Vegetarian Soups for All Seasons than a cookbook author for all seasons? Long established author Nava Atlas really knows how to tempt the soup aficionados with her mouth watering original recipes. Having made the decision a few years ago to transition from vegetarian to vegan, Nava displays her compassion for animals and the environment in this revised vegan edition.
If you're in the mood for soup, you needn't worry that your choice of recipes will be out of step with produce availability because the book conveniently organizes the recipes by season.
In Cooking Notes Nava expresses her preference for cooking dry beans from scratch rather than using the canned when preparing bean-based soups. She uses canned beans when the soup requires small quantities. To remove the excess sodium in most canned beans, she advocates thorough rinsing before adding them to the soup.
One of her favorite kitchen tools is the immersion blender, a hand-held, wand-like device that is immersed into the cooked soup. With the push of a button, the soup is quickly pureed, the device easy to clean and store.
While freezing works well with some soups, those with potatoes, lentils, and raw vegetables turn watery. On average, her recipes yield six to eight servings that she recommends enjoying while freshly prepared.
In Seasonings for Soups she points out that the flavor and freshness of the ingredients is key to the finished soup, but she suggests that some basic items like ginger, lemon, and herbs and spices can add zest to a simmering kettle. Whether the soup is thick or thin is much a matter of personal preference.
Nava prefers rice milk to soymilk for its neutral flavor and consistency and offers an easy recipe for Vegan Sour Cream that she prefers over the commercially prepared variety.
Tasty soup always begins with a well-flavored stock. Readers will appreciate the choices in the section on Stocks and Broths--Basic Vegetable Stock, Onion and Garlic Broth, Simple Miso Broth, Basic Dashi, and Asian Mushroom Broth that create the soup base.
In winter, find comfort in the Sweet and Sour Cabbage and Bread Stew. Welcome spring with Spicy Asparagus and Green Bean Stew. Invite a friend to enjoy a bowl of Greek-flavored Spinach and Orzo Soup.
Delight in the summer garden's gifts with the unique Cream of Lettuce Soup with fresh summer herbs. Stay cool in hot weather with a refreshing bowl of Creamy Avocado Soup. In the fall, ravish the harvest bounty with Creamy Golden Potato-Squash Soup,
Adventures into ethnic dining include the Japanese Soba Noodle Soup, Creole Eggplant Soup, Taco Soup, or Brazilian Black Bean Stew.
And while that kettle of soup is simmering on the stovetop, reach for the baking supplies and prepare some of Nava's irresistible quick breads to serve alongside. Quick Sunflower-Cheese Bread begins with a base of whole-wheat pastry flour and draws its unique flavors from mustard, maple syrup, nondairy cheddar cheese, and toasted sunflower seeds. Whole Wheat Vegetable Muffins are loaded with minced vegetables and made healthful with whole-wheat pastry flour and wheat germ. Onion-Rye Scones stand apart with their topping of sliced onions and a dusting of poppy seeds.
Any way you ladle it out, Vegetarian Soups for All Seasons is a must have. Often repeated are the familiar words " soup comforts the soul like no other food can." Soup is elegant, soup is earthy, soup is for special occasions, and soup is for everyday eating pleasure. Nava Atlas truly knows how to cook up vegan soup with flair. Inspired by the enticing recipes, we filled our stockpot with a selection from the Winter chapter. Our Creamy Parsnip-Vegetable Soup is ready and its fragrant aromas are urging us to the table!
Reviewed February 2007