You can call me Edith (weizenwind) wrote in vegancooking,
You can call me Edith
weizenwind
vegancooking

Cookbook reviews

I have a ridiculously large (I just counted over 40) cookbook collection. For the benefit of anyone looking for recommendations or reviews, I wrote up a little blurb about each one. Feel free to hit me up with questions, and if y’all want to add your own reviews of these or other cookbooks in the comments we could get one seriously useful post here!

(Loosely categorized into “General”, “Specialty”, “Reference”, and “In German”, then alphabetically by title. A “(V)” after the author’s name means that the book is vegan or very nearly so. Pub dates noted where I know that there's a later edition out or in the couple cases where the book isn't actually in stores yet. Stars indicate favorites.)

General:

The Bar None Cookbook The Bar None Café went out of business, so I assume this cookbook is out of circulation, but this is just a shout-out to that fabulous little place that used to feed us on Vancouver Island, Canada. And if you find the book, the food is very good, though the recipes needed some more proofing.

Elegant Dairy-Free Entertaining (Fine) Boy, was this a disappointment. I didn’t look closely at it before I grabbed it, seduced by the piece of chocolate cake making eyes at me from the cover. It’s not anywhere close to vegan. It was written for lactose intolerant people and makes such heavy use of eggs even meat that it will be hard to glean anything useful. But it only cost me a dollar, so whatever.

The Enchanted Broccoli Forest (Katzen) I don’t use this as much as I thought I would, but you’ve gotta love Mollie Katzen’s cozy, beginner-friendly style and satisfying recipes.

The Garden of Vegan (Barnard & Kramer) (V) This has been raved about so much that I don’t know that I need to add anything.

How it all Vegan (Barnard & Kramer) (V) Ditto for this one, but I must add my pet peeve about it, which is that it lacks a damn index! WTF?? Who makes a cookbook without an index?

Inspired by Ingredients (Telepan & Friedman—pub date 11/04) This is a beautiful cookbook, and I like the premise—go to the store or farmer’s market or whatever, find what’s good right then, and go from there rather than making do with sub-par ingredients to fit a pre-decided recipe.

The International Pantry Cookbook (Cusick) Kind of a neat concept for a cookbook: lots of super-basic recipes (like “baked rice”) paired with instructions for using shelf-stable seasonings (and veggies if you want) to create versions compatible with different cuisines. For example, baked rice can be done as palau, pallella, jambalaya, etc. Omnivorous but plenty to work with.

Joy of Cooking (Rombauer & Becker) Doesn’t every kitchen need one of these? Rip out the chapters on meat if you want, but it’s such a standard it’s well worth grabbing one next time you get it used.

Laurel’s Kitchen (Robertson, Flinders, Godfrey) Mom brought me up with Laurel’s Kitchen (though omnivorous), and so now I have one. Not hip, no pretty pictures, nothing exotic, but plenty of good, healthy food and writing about how and why you should make and eat it.

* The Millennium Cookbook ( Tucker & Westerdahl) (V) Not for the novice or the rushed, but damn is there some amazing food in there, plus good cooking techniques to apply elsewhere. Oh, and jaw-dropping pictures. If the day-consuming menus are holding you back try some of the sauces, spreads, and dressings.

Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home (The Moosewood Collective) Great for beginners or anyone who just wants good, not-too-complicated food to materialize in their kitchens. I used this a whole lot when I first went veg.

Mother Nature’s Garden (Bienenfeld) (V) There are some good things in here (including some of the best black beans I’ve ever had), but be forewarned that it’s also got lots of the kind of recipes that give meat-eaters all kinds of ammunition for picking on our diet. My personal favorite from that category is the “Easy wheat-free yam-sweetened oat bran chews” (yes, they’re supposed to be like cookies).

* The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook (Hagler & Bates) (V) Everyone has this already, right? Good.

A Passion for Vegetables—Simple & Inspired Recipes from around the Globe (Gayler) Great eye candy and a true tribute to vegetables—anyone who needs convincing that vegetables are wonderful, miraculous things that need tender loving care much more than they need fancy embellishments to shine will have met their match.

Sam Okamoto’s Incredible Vegetables (Okamoto) (V) Arranged alphabetically by vegetable with info about the vegetable (some other foods, too) and a recipe. I just got it, but I really look forward to delving in.

Simple Food for the Good Life (Nearing) (V) This is only halfway a cookbook. The other half is the author pontificating (in an amusingly cantankerous way) about her views on both food and life. She’s openly anti-cooking, so if you are too and just want to nourish yourself with as little fuss as possible you might appreciate this one.

Spies, Black Ties, and Mango Pies (Central Intelligence Agency) Probably not going to find a big following with this group as it’s totally omnivorous, but in the interests of a complete survey of my collection, here it is. Each recipe is paired with a story by its contributor about some aspect of doing covert duty with the CIA. Handy reference section in the back. Makes for good reading, if nothing else.

Vegan Delights (Martin) (V) I really don’t use this one much. It does a lot with alternative sweeteners, which aren’t really my thing. The squash bread recipe I tried recently was outstanding, though, and I’ve enjoyed other things I’ve made. Just take a good look before you buy.

Vegetarian (Graimes, ed.—a Barnes & Noble book) A gift from a carnivore. Plenty of pretty pictures, but it’s ovo-lacto, and I just don’t know how much use I’ll get out of it, given the rest of my collection.

Vegetarian Times Cookbook (Editors, Vegetarian Times) Another one I don’t use very much, though I’ve had it for years. Lots of lacto-ovo stuff; I guess most of the rest just isn’t much my taste.

* Very Vegetarian (Bennett) (V) A really good cookbook that does a great job of bridging the gap between rank amateurs and those looking for richness and complexity. Multi-ethnic, good background info, and a section of kid-friendly foods.

The Voluptuous Vegan (Kornfeld & Minot) (V) This one’s new to me, but the one recipe I’ve tried was thoroughly fabulous, and everyone says that it’s great. The recipes are time-consuming and can be complex, but I really like how they arrange it as complete menus so you don’t spend hours trying to guess how different recipes would fit together after your hours in the kitchen.

With the Grain (Brown) Can’t really recommend this. Mostly talking about virtues of whole grains and unprocessed foods and vegan diet and whatnot, but not particularly well written. Recipes aren’t anything you wouldn’t get elsewhere.


Specialty:

The Art of Japanese Vegetarian Cooking (Jacobson) Good stuff. Usually a little more work than I feel like doing, but if you’re missing Japanese food this seems quite authentic and well written.

* Asian Vegetarian Cooking (Camsong & Lüffe) Really good pan-Asian cookbook. Short, but the recipes in there are delicious, mostly vegan, and have absolutely stunning pictures.

The Best Places Northwest Desserts Cookbook (Nims—pub date 11/04) Far from vegan, but if you’re into baking and don’t mind tinkering with substitutions I reckon you could get some damn fine desserts out of this one. Nice pictures, too.

The Book of Tofu (Shurileff & Aoyagi) If you’re into tofu this is a wonderful reference to have. It contains not only recipes using all forms of tofu, but tells you how to make those types of tofu (and related soy products, like okara and soy whey) along with some interesting history. I used it to make a batch of tofu from scratch, and it worked just exactly as the book described. This is easy to find used.

CalciYum! (Bronfman) Great for ideas to get calcium through vegan food sources.

* Cookin’ Southern—Vegetarian Style (Jackson) You should buy this cookbook. Really. Right now. Tons of comfort food, hard-core Southern favorites for those who might have been missing them since going veg*n, good writing, well-written recipes. Go get it.

Indian Vegetarian Cooking from an American Kitchen (Prasad) Pretty good. The samosa recipe is to die for, though the tamarind chutney I made to go with them was disappointing. Does a good job of being reasonably authentic without expecting you to have access to obscure cooking tools or super-exotic spices.

Italy: The Vegetarian Table (Della Croce) Now that I’m off nightshades I don’t have much call to eat Italian food, but there are nice, authentic (if sometimes tricky and/or time-consuming) recipes and beautiful pictures. If you’re into Italian food you should check it out.

Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure (Sass) (V) I haven’t used this much yet (still intimidated by my pressure cooker!), but it’s gotten such consistently great reviews by others here that I have no doubt I’ll grow to love it.

The Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics (Porter) I don’t know how much I buy into macrobiotics, but this is a pretty user-friendly (reminds me of a slightly over-done version of the writing in How it all Vegan) intro with some recipes. Kind of macrobiotics for dummies.

Natural Remedies from the Japanese Kitchen (Fukuhara & Takamata) Not so much my thing (this was a gift), but if it’s yours you might like it.

Sunset Cookbook of Breads (Editors, Sunset, 1966 edition) Kind of a scary, ‘60s vision of breads, but some good basic techniques.

The Zucchini Cookbook (Simmons, 1974) If you grow zucchini you should get this book for that inevitable day that you realize you will die if you eat another piece of zucchini bread or another bite of pasta tossed with zucchini and garlic. Not veg*n, but you’re clever like that.


Reference:

The Asian Grocery Store Demystified (Bladholm) A handy reference for those of us who maybe can’t read Chinese/Japanese/Korean/Thai etc. or just want to know more about what the recipe just told you to add. There are other ones in this series for different ethnicities. There are a few recipes also.

* The Encyclopedia of Herbs & Spices (Clevely, Richmond, Morris, Mackley) I love this book. Love, love, love it. Everything you ever wanted to know (plus pretty pictures!) of just about any herb or spice on the planet, along with recipes for lots of spice blends (curries, rubs, chais). If you’re into seasonings, this may just be a must-have.

Food Values of Portions Commonly Used (Pennington) Not even remotely a cookbook, but a very handy reference, recommended to me by a dietician. It has damn near every food (yes, lots of brand names) and ingredient available and breaks each one down into a near-complete nutritional break-down. Think you’ve heard that a certain vegetable is a good iron source? Look it up. Want to know how much protein is in rye vs. oats? It’s in there. If you really want to be a fancy-pants you can even see the amino acid break-down.

* The New Food Lover’s Companion (Herbst) I’m shocked at how much I love this book. It’s a small—but dense—encyclopedia of food knowledge, arranged alphabetically. Want to know what the hell ****** is? Look it up, and you’ll find one or more well-written paragraphs about it. Want to know how they make ***? You’ll find that in there, along with how to buy it and use it. Need to know what on earth that French technique is that you were just instructed to use? No problem. Want to see how likely it is that something’s vegan? You’ll probably learn a lot about that, too. Great for foodies like me, great for newbies who need help where the cookbooks often leave off.


Cookbooks in German:

Vegan-Küche: Kochen mit Gemüse und Getreide (Klingel) (V) I bought this in 1996 and I still don’t know that I’ve made a single recipe in it, though some of those desserts look awfully tempting. Frankly, most of it doesn’t look that good. I snapped it up while studying abroad because I was shocked to see that Germans would have even a single cookbook devoted to vegan cooking. As it turned out, I’ve found several more.

* Vegetarisch Kochen—International (Krüger) (V) This one’s really good. The author certainly seems to know her stuff when it comes to making things authentic to each cuisine, and she covers the globe pretty well. My one complaint is that some of the recipes go so far into authenticity that there is no chance in hell anyone would succeed in making them outside their country of origin. Still, worth a go.

Vollwertig Backen mit Pfiff—ohne Tierisches Eiweiss (Walker) (V) I haven’t made a lot from here (they expect you to have a grain mill so that you can adjust the grind of your flours, and I also haven’t gotten over my block about cooking by weight), but there are some nice, healthy versions of old German favorites, and the one thing I did make (a vegan version of Zwiebelkuchen) was really delicious and loved by even my omnivorous parents.
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