With a great cookbook collection comes great responsibility; Each individual novel contains dozens, if not hundreds or possibly even thousands, of painstakingly compiled and tested recipes, and nearly each one is just as worth to grace the dinner table. How can one possibly cook enough to do justice to this growing mass of text, all so lovingly created? As a cookbook author myself, I know the pain and suffering that goes into producing these titles. I’m constantly feeling torn between wanting to create my own original recipes, and just enjoy the hard work that others have already done for me, cooking and baking from the massive number of books piling up on my overburdened shelves. While I may never fully utilize the great resources at my disposal, there are some particular books that have proven to be truly useful for every day meals, and will certainly see many repeat trips to the kitchen. Just one such title is American Vegan Kitchen, by Tamasin Noyes. Filled with classic comfort foods and hearty fare to satisfy herbivores and omnivores alike, there’s so much more than just burgers and fries to enjoy here.
There’s nothing better than a big vat of soup bubbling away on a chilly autumn afternoon, so I wasted no time whipping up a giant potful of Black Bean Soup. Though a bit more involved than my typical approach to this staple soup, that complexity definitely came through in the final flavor, as it was so much more than watery beans and a few chopped vegetables. Thick to the point of being closer to a stew, it was packed with all different flavors in every spoonful, with a pleasantly smokey, spicy, and just slightly zesty undertone. Wonderfully accented by a hit of lime, it was just the acid necessary to brighten up the whole conglomeration. Happily producing enough for many meals at once, I was thrilled to find leftovers a few days later, and enjoyed a big bowlful well into the busy work week.
Straying a bit from the theme of solid “American” entrees, I was pleased to see that there were far more than just the stereotypical offerings to choose from. More reflective of our tendency to borrow flavors and ingredients from other cultures, adapting them with out own ingredients and palates, I immediately zoomed in on the irresistible-sounding Peanutty Tofu Kale Pockets. Simple in preparation but highly sophisticated in taste, each stuffed pita was a perfect portable meal. Nicely balanced nutritionally with greens, protein, fat, and starch all wrapped up in one hand-held format, this is what I wish I had packed in my lunchbox instead of so many sad school lunches. Easily adapted to use whatever veg or spice blend you prefer, the only thing I would argue must not be messed with is that killer peanut sauce. The recipe does make far too much for just sandwich servings, that’s part of its genius, as I found it’s even better on leftover plain pasta the next day.
Finally, just to make sure I had some of the basics covered, I simply had to try my hand at making the All-American Incrediburgers. Though I’m embarrassed to admit it, this was actually my first time working with wheat gluten in a savory format, and not just bread. However, I can absolutely promise it will not be the last. Honestly, these were possibly some of the best veggie burgers I’ve tasted. Unnervingly meaty in both flavor and texture, chewy but still tender, this is one that I wouldn’t be afraid to serve to a self-proclaimed meat eater. Each large burger is enough for the heartiest appetites as well. Surprisingly easy to make, these beat out the standard frozen soy pucks by a landslide.
What makes this particular cookbook stand out from the rest, is how thorough it is. I was impressed that there were recipes for absolutely everything mentioned, from suggested toppings and sides, to spice mixes and even a basic bread to build your sandwiches on. Though I’ve only scratched the surface in trying out what American Vegan Kitchen has to offer, I know that this won’t be the last of my trials; It’s one cookbook that isn’t going to be simply sitting around and collecting dust on my shelf.