Welcome to “6 Days of Vegan Cookbook Reviews!”
One of the unexpected outcomes of blogging is that I am now invited to review vegan cookbooks. A few weeks ago I noticed that my review copies were piling up. Why? Because I like to make at least one dish from a book I review so that I can share a photo and brief commentary on my experience. I wasn’t finding the time I needed in the kitchen. Then I had an idea. Why not kick off December — holiday season for many — with six days of reviews? These reviews might help you decide on holiday gift purchases or, perhaps you’ll add one, two or six cookbooks to your own holiday wish list!
I’m going to tease you and make you wait each day for the title of the new cookbook I will review but this is what I can tell you:
- Each review will include a recipe from the book!
- The first post, today, will include a GIVEAWAY. One lucky reader, anywhere in the world, will win their own copy of today’s review book.
- The last post, day six, will include a GIVEAWAY. Two lucky readers, in the U.S. and Canada, will win their own copy of the final review book.
Please check back each day to learn about new vegan cookbooks in bookstores now!
I’m delighted to kick off this vegan cookbook review series with Celebrate Vegan: 200 Life-Affirming Recipes for Occasions Big and Small. I had the pleasure of meeting the author, Dynise Balcavage, at Vida Vegan Con. You know Dynise as The Urban Vegan. She led a writing workshop for bloggers and I learned so much.
Her writing skills, and ability to weave a story into a recipe, are wonderful elements in her latest cookbook.
Dynise is smart, funny and she has created recipes that an average Jane like me can understand.
Here’s how the book is laid out.
- New Year’s Celebrations (crossing religions and cultures)
- American Celebrations (think MLK, Jr. Day to Mother’s Day to Kwanzaa)
- International Celebration (from Earth Day to Barbados Independence Day)
- Religion-Based Celebrations (you had this Buddhist at Christmas)
- Milestone Celebrations (birthdays, weddings, etc)
- Everyday Celebrations (from girl’s night in to endurance events — let’s hear it for marathoners!)
I love the diversity of celebrations and the information Dynise provides for each event. For instance, her Seitan with Prunes recipe is for Nowruz (Persian New Year):
In Farsi Nowruz means “new day.” This first-day-of-spring celebration markes the Persian New Year — and a symbolic fresh start. Families exchange presents after the exact moment of the equniox…
Recipes range from Irish Soda Bread to Penne with Vodka Sauce to Crepes with Bananas and Giandjan and are really quite simple — and for someone like me, that’s key. If the recipe is complicated I probably won’t make it.
I’m a fan of any cookbook that kicks off acknowledging the animals and Dynise does exactly that. She frames her book as a way to celebrate “kinder, gentler, healthier holidays.” She provides some basics, such as her favorite kitchen tools, using egg alternatives in baking and ingredients to avoid. She also provides cooking notes about her recipes–all vegan is sugar, flour is half whole wheat and half spelt (unless noted) and Earth Balance is the only vegan margarine that she uses. Dynise denotes recipes with icons–Fast, Frugal, Kid-Friendly, Make Ahead and Omnivore Friendly–which I found really helpful.
For this review I decided to make one of Dynise’s Christmas Eve recipes, as it is December 1! I opted for a frugal icon:
These recipes won’t bust your budget since they are built on a foundation of cheap-and-cheerful pantry staples.
It’s true! I had everything on hand!
Polenta-Kale Cutlets with Basil Aioli
from Celebrate Vegan: 200 Life-Affirming Recipes for Occasions Big and Small by Dynise Balcavage
Reprinted with permission from the author
INGREDIENTS (Makes 6 – 8 servings)
- 1 T olive oil, plus oil or cooking spray for frying cutlets.
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 – 1/2 t red pepper flakes
- 1 large bunch kale, trimmed and finely chopped — and bout 3 cups (you may substitute spinach, collard greens or chard; frozen, thawed, and drained is fine, too)
- 2-3 T water or vegetable broth
- 1 cup soy or rice milk
- 3 cups veggie broth or water
- 1/2 t salt
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1/2 cup Vegenaise
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 slice bread, crumbled
- 3 T coarsely chopped fresh basil
- Salt and pepper to taste
INSTRUCTIONS (edited at 8:20 a.m. EST on 12/1/11)
- To prepare the greens, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick sauté pan. Sauté the garlic and red pepper flakes over medium-low heat until garlic is translucent, taking great care not to burn. Add kale (or other greens) and cook until soft, 20 – 30 minutes (5 to 10 minutes for spinach or chard). Add water or broth as needed to help steam-cook the veggies. Set aside.
- To prepare the polenta cutlets, mix greens, milk, broth , and salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Whisk in cornmeal, a bit at a time, taking care that no lumps form. Turn heat to low and whisk continually until the mixture is extremely thick. Switch to a wooden spoon when the whisk becomes unmanageable. Stir until virtually all of the excess moisture evaporates, about 20 to 30 minutes. Pour into a 9 x 13-inch greased pan and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight. This will make it easier to form into cutlets.. Score into 10 or 12 even sections.
- To prepare the aioli, mix and ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Set aside if you’ll eat after frying the polenta or refrigerate and bring to room temp to serve.
- After the polenta has set, heat some oil over medium-high heat in a large frying pan. Remove 2 polenta squares. Place them in pan and using a spatula, lightly tap them down into a cutlet shape. Fry until golden brown, about 5 – 10 minutes, then carefully flip and cook the other side about 5 to 10 minutes, then carefully flip and cook the other side about 5 to 10 minutes. Repeat with the remaining polenta. Serve immediately with Basil Aioli or the sauce of your choice. (Other sauce recipes in the book include Yogurt-Tahini Sauce and Cumin-Harissa Sauce.)
I used fresh kale and followed the recipe exactly. It was so much fun to make! The cutlets are fantastic and the aioli is slightly addictive. I felt like a wizard in the kitchen–simple to make but I felt oh-so-fancy!
Dynise Balcavage offers a recipe index by category at the end of the book which I found incredibly helpful: appetizers, breakfast, breads & crackers, cakes, candies, cookies, desserts, drinks, entrees, pies, salads, sauces and spices, sides and soups.
As you can see, you can find any dish for any special celebration in Celebrate Vegan. And one lucky reader will win their own copy!
There are three ways to enter:
- Tweet this: “Enter to win a copy of @theurbanvegan’s Celebrate Vegan on @JLgoesVegan http://bit.ly/rFgMIf”
- Like Dynise on Facebook.
- Like ME on Facebook.
Leave a comment for EACH entry. This giveaway is open to anyone in the world. I’m taking entries until December 5, 11:59 p.m. EST. I will announce the winner on day six of “6 Days of Vegan Cookbook Reviews.” Good luck!
A note of thanks to Dynise for writing an inspiring, informative and delicious cookbook!