Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Review: The Urban Vegan

I was on a cookbook fast during the year that I was looking for work. Now that I've been working for a few months, it's time for feasting!

The vegan cookbook market has exploded over the past few years. One of the benefits of having so many new vegan cookbooks is that there's room for specialty books. 2009 and 2010 brought us vegan cookbooks on brunch, Latin food, cookies, diner food, entertaining, and fine dining.

My first cookbook purchase of the year was The Urban Vegan: 250 Simple, Sumptuous Recipes from Street Cart Favorites to Haute Cuisine. Each chapter has a theme such as "Cafe Culture," "All Night Breakfast at the Diner," and "The Melting Pot."

The chickpea paprikash (at the top) from the "Melting Pot" chapter was creamy and flavorful and made a great one-dish meal. I subbed Anaheim peppers because I couldn't find the cubanelle or Hungarian wax peppers the recipe called for. We easily got enough for two dinners and three lunches from this recipe.

The baked potato, roasted asparagus, and aioli (below) made a perfect light meal. I've always eaten baked potatoes with just butter and salt (and occasionally soy sauce!), but I really enjoyed the tang that the aioli brought to potato. I suspect the sauce should be a bit thicker than this. I used the vegenaise from the end of the jar, and it tends to be liquidy.

I also tried the Welsh Rarebit (on homemade bread!), and it brought back great memories of gathering around a dish of Welsh Rarebit with my family. The recipes just calls for beer, without specifying what kind. Dewey offered to pick something up for me, and he grabbed a stout, since it's my favorite to drink. The Rarebit came out a bit dark, so stick with a pale beer.

A few recipes require vegan dairy products or harder to find seasonings, but the majority of the recipes can be made with ingredients from an ordinary grocery store. Some other dishes I'm looking forward to trying are the Rapini Panini, Curry Cashew Casserole, Spaghetti alle Melanzane (spaghetti with eggplant), and Potatoes with 40 Cloves of Garlic. Trying hard to think of something critical about the book, the closest I could come is that the constant references to busy urban life and city dwellers begin to wear a bit thin if you read the book straight through like I did. In other words, I highly recommend this.