When I first got Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, I thought the name was silly and the writing style a bit too breezy for my taste. Then I showed it to my kids and a couple of their friends and they loved the name (apparently being a fan of Evil Dead has something to do with it) and thought the writing was terrific. I realized that this book is written for them, I don't really come into it. The book is firmly directed at people in their 20's, both in the writing and in the style of recipes. My son and his girlfriend are both excellent cooks and very comfortable in the kitchen. My daughter is also an excellent cook but a bit more tentative in the kitchen and the fourth person who looked at it has almost no cooking experience at all. They all found recipes that they wanted to try.
This is an all-purpose cookbook. It is filled with all kinds of helpful things for beginners such as a chapter on cooking terminology, chapters on cooking grains, vegetables and beans and icons at the beginning of each recipe to let you know if it is soy or gluten free, low fat, if it is quick to make and if you can get the ingredients at the grocery store, rather than having to search out a health food store. The book is peppered throughout with helpful tips and provides some menu suggestions.
These are all great things, but the real test of a cookbook is in the cooking and this book passes with flying colours. The recipes are appealing, with lots of variety. They are concise and easy to follow and above all, everything I have tried tastes great. When I made the Walnut Mushroom Pate the kids loved it and we ended up casually passing the container of it around and spreading it on melba toast while we played cards. I thought their take on the usually pretty common hummus was delicious. I made an Asparagus Spinach Dip which I used as a dip, then as a spread in grilled vegetables sandwiches, then as a pasta sauce and finally as the topping to a frittata. I wanted to try one of their main course recipes and I chose the Leek and Bean Cassoulet, mostly because I had the ingredients on hand already. It was so good I had to have another taste everytime I passed the stove, and I ended up using an awful lot of spoons. I altered the recipe a little bit, adding some asparagus and cauliflower because I had them and using fresh peas rather than frozen. I omitted the carrots, because my husband breaks out in a cold sweat if he sees peas and carrots in the same bowl, a holdover from the canned vegetables of our childhood.
Most importantly, you don't have to consider yourself a vegan to love this book. It is a terrific book to dispel any fears people may have about cooking vegetarian and specifically vegan meals. It's a great book for any beginner cook and there is plenty in it for more experienced cooks as well.
Leek and Bean Cassoulet
2 yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/2" dice
3 cups vegetable broth
3 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp olive oil
2 leeks, washed well and sliced thinly
1 small onion, cut into medium size dice
1 1/2 cups carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2" dice
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 heaping tbsp of chopped fresh thyme
freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp salt or to taste
3/4 cup frozen peas
1 can navy beans, drained and rinsed
1. Place the potatoes in a small pot and cover with water. Cover and bring to a boil. Let cook for 10 minutes until the potatoes are just fork tender. Drain immediately.
2. In a large pot, heat the oil and saute the leeks, onions and carrots until very soft and just beginning to brown. Add the garlic, thyme, salt and pepper and cook for one more minute. Add the cooked potatoes and frozen peas.
3. Mix the cornstarch into the vegetable stock and add to the vegetables. Raise the heat until it simmers, then lower the heat and let cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix in the beans and heat through.