An Edible Mosaic

Cookbooks of every subject imaginable fill my constantly growing collection, an all-inclusive library of texts big and small. Predictably, the vast majority bear not even a passing mention to meat or dairy products, but it may come as a surprise that I don’t buy exclusively vegan cookbooks. In fact, part of the fun is finding something new that hasn’t yet been made in a vegan format, or provides new insight on why particular techniques evolved throughout the years. Particularly true of “authentic” recipes from other cultures, it really is much more effective (and delicious) to go straight to the source.

In the case of An Edible Mosaic, the source turns out to be close to my heart, if not in physical distance. Faith Gorsky, food blogger extraordinaire, talented photographer, and now accomplished cookbook author has been churning out mouth-watering dishes for years, sharing them with infectious enthusiasm. Showcasing all of her skills in one gorgeous hardcover text, it doesn’t take a cook or a foodie to appreciate the luscious photos within. Lavished with full-color images throughout, it would be a worthwhile investment if only as a coffee table book.

Happily, An Edible Mosaic is worth far more than that, as my first pick of Garlicky Potato Dip (Mutabbal Batata) (page 67) made readily apparent. Easily veganized by swapping in vegan yogurt, the whole recipe came together in a snap. Redolent of robust garlic essence, the thick potatoes make for a very rich, intense eating experience. Continuing to thicken as it cooled, and even more so after a rest in the fridge, it did seem like passing off mashed potatoes as a dip. A topping of spicy olive oil is a must for added contrast. Fresh herbs do wonders to brighten up the whole combination, although I did of course skip the cilantro in favor of parsley. While excelling in flavor, a bit more yogurt might improve the texture, helping to reinforce its place on the hors d’oeuvres tray rather than the dinner table.

Shawarma is one dish that is still hard to find without meat, and even harder to find done right. With Faith’s spicing guidelines in hand, the Spiced Shawarma Chicken Wraps (Shawarma Dajaj) (page 92) were the perfect opportunity to attempt making my own vegan version. Favoring rehydrated soy curls rather than poultry, the remaining procedure was just as simple as promised, yielding great rewards for such little effort. My only other alterations were the standard yogurt switch and baking for only 30 minutes, since the curls didn’t need to be “cooked through” the same way as meat would. Quite frankly, this was awesome. Killer spices, so much better than anything I had previously muddled together, make this dish a success no matter what you cook in them. Wraps aside, I would gladly devour those soy curls in salads, over rice, or by themselves. That marinade will go on to cover countless proteins to come, no doubt about it.

The Creamy Garlic Sauce (Toumieh) (page 24) served on the side, however, wasn’t entirely a resounding success. Granted, the Garlic Mayonnaise was recommended for serving alongside the wraps; veganizing the sauce was a more direct conversion, thus making it a better representative of the original recipe. Made for garlic lovers only, this will give you dragon’s breath of the best sort! Intense, ridiculously creamy and buttery, it is dangerously addictive. The trouble was in viscosity. Despite adding the optional [vegan] mayonnaise for thickness, the mixture just refused to bulk up, and furthermore insisted on separating after even a minute of inactivity. That sure didn’t stop me from relishing it as a salad dressing at many later meals, of course.

Lentil and Bulgur Pilaf with Caramelized Onions (Mujaddara Burghul) (page 82) is the world’s most perfect meal, by my uninformed estimation. Think about it- How many other dishes can boast such well-balanced nutrition, between the hearty whole grains and tender, protein-packed lentils? Top it all off with aromatic spices and irresistible caramelized onions, and you’ve got a dinner that’s both well rounded and unconditionally delicious. Everyone loves this classic, which makes its accidentally vegan composition that much more delightful. I’ve eaten many a bowl of mujaddara in my day, and this one definitely ranks up in the top three. Flavored mostly with warm, toasty cumin and a gentle accent of cinnamon, it works beautifully for lunch or dinner, hot or cold. This dish knows no boundaries.

Spices are of course so critical to Middle Eastern cooking, and Faith manages to make all of the combinations both approachable and accessible. My one main criticism, however, is the way that the main spice mixtures are laid out in the beginning of the book. I feel as though I’m constantly running around in circles trying to complete one mixture, as many redirect to other spice recipes, not once, not twice, but in a few cases up to four times. Personally, I wish they were all just written out in entirety, even if it would seem redundant.

All told, An Edible Mosaic is a cookbook that everyone can enjoy. Meaty or milky recipes can be modified with just a little creativity, so vegans need not avert their eyes. It’s a small challenge with a huge payoff, as you will surely be able to taste for yourself.

24 thoughts on “An Edible Mosaic

  1. I don’t only buy vegan cookbooks either. I buy vegetarian ones, and I buy some omni-ones too, as long as they are ‘veg-friendly’. I’ve got both Andrea Ngyuen’s Asian Dumplings book and her Tofu one, I’ve got an Italian cookbook called Beaneaters & Breadsoup (though there are sections I have to skip entirely, I love the book’s concept & the recipes I can make/adapt), I’ve got Ottolenghi’s Plenty (vegetarian) but I want to get his omni books too because I know they have great vegetable sections (a recipe with samphire!).

  2. As soon as I’m done here, I’m off to the library website to reserve a copy. I just ordered Artisan Vegan Cheese, carrageenen and agar powder from Amazon today, since I’m having trouble finding the latter two. I’m psyched to try making some “real” cheese as I miss cheese a LOT. Cheese is one of those items I sometimes eat anyway. :-)

    As for cookbooks, I have lots from when I wasn’t eating mostly vegan, so I have scope to work on changing great recipes to vegan. And I’m constantly getting cookbooks of all sorts from the library. Libraries are such a treasure!!

  3. I follow the blog and love the recipes…I have a recipe that someone Greek translated into veganese for that garlic sauce that results in a very thick mayo type sauce…must dig it up and serve it at Christmas time…nothing like Boxing day goat breath! Cheers for this great review and I am going to have to add this book to my exponentially growing list of “must haves”…who knows…maybe I can coerce it as a Christmas gift from one of my daughters…might be worth a shot ;)

  4. I don’t buy all veg books either! I like having a variety and vegifying non-veg recipes is part of the fun! LOVE Faith’s cookbook. :)

  5. I got a bunch of non-vegan cookbooks too. I like looking through food magazines as well. They’re great for inspiration and fun to veganize. Although they don’t always come out as nice as yours. :-)

  6. Thank you so much for your well thought out review! It is truly lovely, Hannah, in every way.

    I’m so glad you’re having fun playing around with dishes from the book to make them vegan! There are so many more naturally vegan dishes in the book than mujaddara (just about everything in the side dish chapter, the salad chapter, and many things in both the appetizer chapter and beans and lentils chapter), I imagined that would have been a starting point, but I should have realized you are much more creative than that! Perhaps it’s more fun to put a vegan spin on a classics like shawarma. And speaking of shawarma, I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Ever since Joanne made a vegetarian version I’ve been dying to try it with some other kind of protein – I bet soy curls were fantastic. I would love to know how you veganized the toumieh! With egg as it’s main ingredient, you are seriously a hero (aka kitchen genius) for even attempting that one.

    I completely agree with you about the layout of the spice mixture recipes — oh how I wish I had any say in that, lol!

    Thanks again, my friend.

    1. Oh yes, I know I just scratched the surface on your vegan recipe options. I’m definitely not done cooking from this inspiring book! It just made more sense to get out some initial thoughts and successes sooner than later, especially for the holiday gifting rush.

      Should have figured that the spice mixture layout was not your decision… But, at least that would be an easy thing to fix for the second print run, because I’m confident that this first printing will sell out in a flash. :)

      No need to thank me, it was my pleasure!

  7. I’ve been looking forward to buying this cookbook for myself for a while now– you make it sound even more worth it! Such a nice post. :)

  8. Add me to the group who also enjoys omni cookbooks, as well as vegan ones.

    On a completely unrelated note: WHERE did you get those adorable bowls shown in the bottom photograph?? I absolutely LOVE those!!

      1. Hannah .. THANK you for the link!! It looks like it was your creativity that though about positioning 2 of these bowls with their “hooks” interlacing!! Pier1 should be taking lessons from your styling layouts!!

  9. I agree good cooks get ideas from a variety of sources which is what keeps me coming back to your site. I am not vegan but i do incorporate vegan dishes into my meals. Also it’s nice to be able to satisfy friends dietary requirements when they visit.

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