(First of all, I’ve gotta say I’m pretty embarrassed about this. I got this book several years ago from Dreena to review and thought I had reviewed it. Recently, I checked back and realized I hadn’t. So, this is a late review with many apologies to Dreena.)
The Everyday Vegan, Dreena Burton’s first cookbook, takes a different approach to vegan cooking than other cookbooks near it on the shelf. Since veganism is usually associated first with ethics and animal rights and secondarily with health and environmental issues, most of the popular vegan cookbooks have been written for those that gave up meat, dairy, and eggs for ethical reasons. However, as time goes on and “vegan” becomes a less alien word for the world at large, I think we’ll see more cookbooks marketed towards people who are simply interested in eating a vegan diet and learning more about it, no matter what path led them to it.
Here, Dreena starts out with a surprisingly lengthy section introducing veganism, food information, and the health side of things. In fact, a full quarter of the book is dedicated to covering ingredients, food preparation and storage tips, and individuals’ stories of coming to a vegan diet. The nice thing about The Everyday Vegan is that it’s about as far from heavy-handed as could be, so it’s extremely accessible for people who are just looking to add more vegan recipes to their repetoire.
Dreena covers everything from gravies and sauces to main dishes and desserts. About the only thing you won’t find is a dedicated breakfast section, though the “Muffins and Snack Loaves” section offers up some tasty suggestions that would work well in the morning.
One of the benefits of being extremely late in writing this review is that I’ve gotten the chance to try out quite a few recipes. Among the many that I enjoyed are warm, hearty recipes like the Creamy Potato Leek Bake, a very garlicky alternative to the standard mashed potatoes. It uses two bulbs of roasted garlic and five cups of leeks to form a base with mashed russet potatoes. It’s combined with a tasty sauce of vegetable stock, molasses, spices, and tamari.
Even more garlicky is the Creamy Garlic Tomato Sauce, which uses three bulbs of roasted garlic. This sauce took a somewhat long time to prepare and cook–about an hour–but it’s a great weekend sauce for those of us that love when a garlic aroma comes out of our pores.
The Everyday Vegan is single-handedly responsible for introducing my wife and I to the correct way to eat kale. Before this, we got kale and looked at it a little funny, trying to figure out how the heck to prepare it so that it didn’t taste bitter. Dreena’s simple recipe combines just the right amount of olive oil, sea salt, and shallots to result in a perfectly balanced set of flavors that make eating those dark leafies quite the pleasure.
There are a number of other quick and easy recipes for less-than-standard veggies, like asparagus (Quick Asparagus Saute) and fennel (Roasted Fennel with Carrots and Shallots).
I had slightly less success with a delicious sounding recipe in the dessert section, Blueberry-Orange Crisp Cake. Seriously, how good does that sound? While the flavorof the dish was fine, my version of it came out squishier than I would have liked. I suspect this was because I used a baking dish rather than a baking pan, because I didn’t have a pan of the right size at the time. I definitely want to give this one another shot, because just looking at the ingredients makes me hungry.
The recipes are well organized and the lists of ingredients very easy to read. Though the instructions are presented in paragraph form rather than step-by-step format, even longer recipes are easy enough to follow. There are eight pages of gorgeous color photos of the food in the center of the book, which will certainly inspire you to try them. There are no washed out, embarassing pictures of brown lentil loafs here.
The Everyday Vegan is a great addition to your cookbook shelf. Not only are the recipes accessible and tasty, but the information early in the book is a great read for people new to cooking or new to veganism while also making the reader excited about what they’re learning. It’s like, “Who put that reference book in my cookbook?” “No, who put that cookbook in my reference book?”
The Everyday Vegan is available from Arsenal Pulp Press. Dreena’s second book, Viva le Vegan was published in 2004.