While I’m not a vegan, I’ve been a flexitarian for almost ten years. I do most of the cooking in our house, and we try to stay meat free as much as possible. Eating lower on the food chain is just better for our planet and our bodies, and I have a problem with the way industrial animal-based foods are produced. However, it’s easy to fall into a rut with what I cook in the house, particularly over the winter when local produce is virtually non-existent.
I’ve always been interested in vegan cooking, but I love cheese too much to give it any serious consideration. That is, until I found the Post Punk Kitchen online and subsequently received Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero’s Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook. Moskowitz and Romero are no strangers to cookbooks. Their Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World was a best-seller, and Moskowitz wrote the cult-fave Vegan With a Vengeance. Forget the brown rice/tofu vegan health food of the 70s: Moskowitz and Romero take vegan food, modernize it with a hipster edge, and make it appealing to any cook, not just vegan cooks, straight from their Brooklyn kitchens.
Veganomicon is a must-have cookbook for anyone seeking to cook easy, delicious, meat-free dishes. More than just a collection of recipes, Veganomicon is a how-to for cooking just about any vegetable, grain, or beans. Their “Mix and Match” section, featuring simple, flavorful preparations of various staples, could produce an infinite number of meal combinations. But why stop there? There’s plenty of other recipes throughout the book exploring various flavor combinations. The chapters run the gamut from light lunch fare to hearty soups, to the fabulous desserts that made Vegan Cupcakes so successful.
Moskowitz and Romero’s writing style is casual, flexible and welcoming. In fact, their approach is rather empowering. They encourage you to eyeball things, taste and adjust, add, subtract, and approximate. You don’t have to follow their recipes exactly–they encourage you to make them your own. For example, I made a big pot of their Tomato-Rice Soup with Roasted Garlic and Navy Beans, but instead of navy beans, I used lentils, I doubled the amount of garlic because I’m addicted to it, and added some frozen corn I had. Still delicious.
Besides the delicious recipes, I must say their approach to vegan cooking is refreshing: why even mention, let alone try to replicate, animal products, when there are a plethora of ingredients you can focus on? Who cares what you can’t use when there’s so much you can use? Moskowitz and Romero make what they are cooking so flavorful that you’re not thinking about what you’re missing.
My only quibble with this book is that there are several typos, some glaring enough to make a difference in the recipes if you aren’t careful. For example, I made Rosemary Focaccia, and although the ingredients listed salt as both an ingredient and a garnish, but the directions never said when to add the salt. The baker in me should have caught it, but I didn’t, and the flavor suffered. But I made a note in the book for next time, and the typos aren’t enough to detract from the overall value of the book. Veganomicon should be a staple for any conscious cook, vegan or otherwise, and is a great resource for those looking to ease their way into eating lower on the food chain.