A title like that truly needs no further introduction, but I still can’t resist gilding the lily a bit. To anyone in the market for a well-rounded cookbook with delicious ideas from breakfast through dessert, all developed with an eye towards wholesome ingredients, there isn’t a title I can recommend more highly than Dreena Burton‘s latest masterpiece, Let Them Eat Vegan! I won’t hesitate to admit that my advice on the matter is entirely biased, though; It was my incredible fortune to supply the photographs found inside, tasting my way through the whole experience. A dream job if I ever did land one, these dishes came together with ease, and were so naturally enticing that they practically styled themselves.
Pan-Fried Falafel Patties (page 145), Smoky Spiced Tahini Sauce (page 54), and Quinoa Taboulleh with Olives (page 40) all go together to create one transportive middle eastern feast. Preparing three recipes for one photo can be a daunting task, but not so for this trio; each component was a snap to whip up, and keeps beautifully if made in advance, too. I do love all things falafel, and these bad boys have the edge on the competition, because they’re cooked in only a dab of oil, rather than the traditional vat for deep-frying. The texture and taste don’t suffer one bit from this adaptation- If anything, it allows those complex spices to shine through even brighter.
Even something as unassuming as a tempeh sandwich- or “Tempeh Tickle“- (page 122) with Spinach-Herb Pistachio Pesto (page 154) is a meal to remember. Satisfyingly hearty without being overtly “meaty,” it’s something both crunchy-granola vegans and staunch carnivores could enjoy in peace.
Rarely do brownies sweep me off my feet any more, as reliably rich and chocolaty as they are, but Dreena’s are something else entirely. Layered with a decadent, lightly tangy blanket of “cream cheese” and topped with whole chocolate chunks, each bite is a delicious study in complimentary textures. An additional pinch of salt crowning the whole tray is truly better than the icing on the cake. Even if you’re as jaded on these classic bar cookies as I am, give this recipe a shot. In Ms. Burton’s talented hands, brownies are still every bit as revolutionary as when they were first “accidentally” invented in the early 1900’s.
Creamed Cheese Brownies with Salted Dark Chocolate Topping
From the book Let Them Eat Vegan! by Dreena Burton. Excerpted by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2012. www.dacapopresscookbooks.com Photo by Hannah Kaminsky.
“No faux cream cheese to be found in these deep, rich, fudgy brownies. Cashews stand in for a cream cheese–like layer, which takes these brownies to, ‘OMG these are freaking good!’ ’Nuff said—go make them.”
Creamed Cheese Layer:
1 cup soaked cashews
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp pure maple syrup
2 tbsp vanilla non-dairy yogurt (if using coconut yogurt instead of soy, add another 1 tsp lemon juice)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp (rounded) sea salt
1 cup + 2 tbsp sifted (or light) spelt flour
¾ cup unrefined sugar
½ tsp sea salt
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tbsp arrowroot powder
3 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ cup + 1 tbsp plain or vanilla non-dairy milk
3½ tbsp neutral-flavored oil
1/3 – ½ cup chocolate chunks (use a good quality dark chocolate bar, and break/cut into small chunks)
Few pinches coarse sea salt
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8-inch square cake pan with parchment paper.
Prepare cream cheese layer: Puree all those ingredients with an immersion or high-speed blender until very, very smooth (a mini food processor can also be used, but it usually doesn’t produce as smooth a texture as does an immersion blender). Process for several minutes, if necessary, until very smoothed out.
Prepare the brownie layer: In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt, and sift in the cocoa and baking powder.
In a small bowl, first combine the arrowroot with the maple syrup, stirring until smooth, then add the vanilla, milk, and oil. Add the wet mixture to the dry. Stir until evenly mixed and thick. Transfer about two-thirds of the mixture to the prepared pan. Use a square of parchment to help the press mixture into the pan evenly and spread it out. Spread the cream cheese layer over the top. Then, as best as you can, spread the remaining brownie batter over the cheese layer. You can take pieces and lightly spread first with your fingers and place in patches over the cream cheese layer—and it doesn’t have to fully cover; there can be spaces—most will fill in and come together while baking.
Add the topping: Place the chocolate chunks on top, and then sprinkle with the salt. Bake for 28 to 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan, running a spatula around the outer edge to loosen. (The brownies will appear not fully cooked, but do not cook longer—I repeat, do not cook longer! Instead, let cool and they will become fudgy!) Once cooled, score the brownies with a sharp knife to ease cutting the chocolate before it completely hardens. Then refrigerate brownies to cool more, cut into squares and dig in! Makes 16-20 brownies.
If This Apron Could Talk: Trust the baking process! The amount of batter used for the base—and then topping— looks like it cannot possibly fill out to form a beautiful brownie. Lucky for us, the oven creates some magic in about half an hour!
Now that’s just barely even the tip of the iceberg. It would be a shame to keep such a gem to myself, so I’m thrilled to offer one lucky reader a copy of Let Them Eat Vegan!, as generously furnished by Da Capo Lifelong Books. For your chance to snag a copy, you know the drill; Leave a comment with a name and functioning email address in the appropriate boxes, and tell me about your favorite Dreena Burton recipe, from any of her equally fabulous books or website. If you haven’t yet tried any (What are you waiting for?!) talk to me instead about what you want to make first from Let Them Eat Vegan! The winner will be chosen at random May 9th at midnight EST, and announced shortly thereafter within this same post. Check back to find out who will end up 200 recipes richer!
PS, you may not want to wait for the contest to run its course, because Dreena has a special promotion going on now, including autographed bookplates and plenty of delicious extras along with your shiny new cookbook. If you end up winning a second book here, it also makes an excellent gift for anyone who likes food, so check it out!