Friday, November 12, 2010

Essential Cookbooks

If you came over to my house, and walked into my kitchen, you would see a shelf by the stove overcrowded with cookbooks. The top of the fridge is also an overcrowded home to cookbooks. And then there’s the box in the office of cookbooks I need to get rid of. Not all the cookbooks are vegan, but you can bet your ass they all get veganized. Some I use all the time, some I use as reference points, and some I use on occasion and mostly serve as total food porn. I thought today I would share some of my staples, and I promise not to include ALL the books in my collection, as the point of this post is not to lull you to sleep.

Vegan Brunch: I used to only have friends over for dinner parties, but lately I’ve been feeling the desire to start having friends over for Sunday brunches. Isa’s book makes me want to NOT wake up with a hangover reminiscent of my college days just so I can make Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes, Potato Spinach Squares and Cherry Sage Soysages.

La Dolce Vegan: when I need to know how to make mock meats, this is where I turn. It’s got a ton of other amazing foods, like vegan mac and cheese, and fun craft projects, but mostly it’s my faux meat bible.

Soy Not Oi: Give Big Brother the finger and go vegan. Long before vegan was chic, the Hippycore Krew put out a gem of a cookzine with “over 100 recipes designed to destroy the government.” You won’ find Daiya Shreds or Gardien Steak Strips in here, my friends, but what you will find is a collective of recipes, most of them of the “throw veggies and spices in a pot, cook, and bring with you to a basement show” variety. Almost every recipe has a suggested soundtrack, and if you can’t get behind a punk-wok stir-fry, well, you can just bugger-off.

Veganomicon: I firmly believe Veganomicon is the single most essential cookbook for anyone who eats or cooks vegan. It’s like the Joy or Cooking, but for vegans. And not stupidly complicated. Inside the covers lies recipes for croquettes, samosa, sammies, mix ‘n’ match sides, hot and sour soup, French lentil soup, southwestern corn pudding, chile verde, asparagus risotto, and a whole section for sauces and fake cheeze, breads, and desserts. I pity the fool that doesn’t have this book.

The Conscious Cook: Not only does Chef Tal offer up an amazing array of French and Asian inspired dishes like “Gardien ‘Chicken’ scaloppini with shitake sake sauce, braised pea shoots and crispy udon noodle cakes,” he includes sections on his favorite herbs, sea vegetables, and citrus fruits (to name a few), which I appreciate, and he has a whole section on cashew cream. The whole book is food porn at it’s best.

In Search of the Lost Taste: Ploeg uses nutmeg in savory dishes, which I always appreciate (like in “meatballs”.) He also uses accessible ingredients, and his flavor combos “wow” me. Like the Lemongrass-Basil “Ice Cream,” which is on my list of things to make.

Hot Damn and Hell Yeah! Recipes for Hungry Banditos and the Dirty South Vegan Cookbook: I LOVE COOKZINES! People put ingredients and flavors together in fun ways, and none of it ever seems to be health food driven, just tasty food to share. This split cookzine includes all sorts of shit- from injera, to “sort of alfredo”. biscuits, gravy, dirty rice, peach turnovers, coffee cake bars, pot pie, enchiladas and cranberry Scones all make an appearance; so if you really just don’t know what you’re in the mood to eat, look here.

Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker: For people who stay home but don’t have a lot of time, this book totally rocks. I work from home, and can prep a dish the night before, plug it in during the day, let it percolate, and dinner is done! Not to mention it has a kick ass recipe for pumpkin bread pudding that takes about 15 minutes to prep. I make it most thanksgivings. Easiest. Dessert. Ever.

Vegan Soul Kitchen: Collard greens. Fried chick’un. Biscuits. Gravy. Makes me feel like I’m back in Georgia enjoying an iced beverage on a hot summers night on someone’s back porch. I love the northwest, but sometimes I miss the south.

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: Cruelty-free cupcakes are delicious. I heart them.

My Sweet Vegan: Hannah does amazing things, like making lemon curd using potato flakes. I kid you not, there’s a whole world out there of vegan desserts that don’t include cupcakes (but do include coconut cream pie and butterscotch blondies,) and Hannah brings it ON (like Donkey Kong).

Recipes for a Small Planet: When I was a small creature, I remember grabbing my moms copy of Diet for a Small Planet, which was basically the 1960’s reader on the novel concept that humans don’t need to eat meet. Recipes is the companion- with fun complex protein charts and other nerdly wonders. The recipes are a throwback to the ‘70’s, when tofu and tempeh were all there was, and whole grains were bountiful. I like my 197o’s whole foods recipes, what can I say? Plus, the pages are yellow and smell like a basement, and reading it makes me feel like I’m discovering someones buried treasure.

Fields of Green: With veggies I’m not sure what to do with, I turn here. Most of the ruffage in the book is easily found in the Pacific Northwest and the recipes are simple regional food that lets the ingredients speak for themselves. The downfall of the book is there is quite a lot of dairy, but, if you’re like me, you can always just turn it into a challenge and have fun veganizing.

There are two cookbooks on my wish list (The Art of Simple Food and the Alice Tolklas Cookbook), and then I’ll be done for a while. I read something a few days ago that resonated with me, and that was: “What will my book add that other cookbooks have not already said?” This statement is geared towards writing cookbooks, but it’s also true when adding cookbooks to your collection. There’s way too many cookbooks on the market as is, and if a cookbook isn’t adding to your knowledge or cooking repertoire, why bother? Leave it on the shelf for someone else to enjoy.


  1. Great post. I too have a ton of cookbooks. I always find them hard to get rid of when I purge. Thanks for the wonderful info on these.

  2. thanks! i hope you check some of them out

  3. I soooo want Soy not Oi! but it's 14 dollars for shipping!

  4. Ha ha - just found it on ebay for 7 quid including delivery!