Vegan with a Vengeance
by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
Foreword by some jerk
2005, Marlowe & Company
Last year was a pretty amazing year for vegan cookbooks. High profile ones like La Dolce Vegan and Vive le Vegan! as well as ones released more quietly like The Veggie Queen and The Glad Cow Cookbook are well worthy of note. They’re all part of a new wave of vegan cookbooks that not only make vegan cooking accessible to the mainstream, but also bring new, creative dishes to vegans who have tried everything.
One of the most entertaining and useful of the new wave of vegan cookbooks is Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Vegan with a Vengeance. Isa and her partner Terry made a name for themselves starting in 2004 with The Post Punk Kitchen, a Brooklyn-based public access cooking show. The show is shot a small apartment kitchen and features not only creative recipes, but some great music and personality. It’s the one show that most deserves to be on The Food Network and for that very reason, never will be.
Isa’s debut cookbook is as entertaining as it is useful. “Punk Points” scattered throughout the book give helpful cooking tips and shortcuts while Isa’s cat Fizzle keeps you filled in with further detail about ingredients. In addition, Isa includes short essays about running a breakfast cafe, shopping for kitchen gear at thrift stores, and the Food Not Bombs program. Vegan with a Vengeance at times reads more like a zine than a cookbook. (That’s a good thing.)
Even though it came out at the end of the year, we’ve already tried more recipes out of this cookbook than any other one we own. It’s fast become a favorite in our house. One big reason: we’ve rediscovered breakfast.
We’ve had more weekend breakfasts and weekday breakfasts-for-dinner in the last four months than we’ve had in the last four years, I think. We have yet to come across a mediocre recipe. The Pumpkin Waffles are like having pumpkin bread in waffle form: absolutely delicious. My wife declared the Oatmeal Banana Raisin Waffles “the best waffles ever” and combined with some well-marinated tempeh bacon, they make the perfect breakfast. And if you’re the type that always used to order chocolate chip pancakes as a kid, you’ll love Isa’s Chocolate Chocolate Chip pancakes. They’re sweet enough to be eaten for dessert.
Other American fare is well represented. The recipe we’ve made more frequently than any other is the Tempeh Reuben, a truly amazing creation that captures the flavor and texture of the original reuben without the disgusting ass corned beef. And even if you don’t make the whole sandwich, the vegan thousand island dressing part of the recipe alone is worth the effort.
It’s not all Euro-centric fare, though. The Potato-Edamame Samosas with Coconut-Mint Chutney is one that fans of Indian fare will want to try. Though my attempt came up short, it was probably due to my own poor skills with dough than the recipe itself. The filling was extremely tasty, so I suspect that this one will become a favorite once I stop being so lame with dough.
Among the other internationally-flavored meals include Falafel, Ethiopian Seitan and Peppers (one I’ve been meaning to make for months now), and Kabocha Squash Stuff with Butternut Vindaloo.
And, it should come as no surprise to anyone that’s tried any of the sweets on the Post Punk Kitchen site (five words: Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies), the dessert section of Vegan with a Vengeance will help you on your way to a sugar headache mighty fast. One taste of the Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies will have you rethinking the boring old pumpkin-in-a-can recipes you’ve come to rely on. Also wicked good: Blueberry Coffee Cake. Favorites on the PPK forums include Fauxstess Cupcakes, Raspberry Blackout Cake with Ganache-y Frosting, and Fig Not-Ins. Believe me, they’re all on my “to make” list.
In addition to being packed with great recipes, Vegan with a Vengeance is a pleasure to use. It’s well-indexed, features eight pages of gorgeous food photography (“food porn”), and history behind the recipes. It’s nearly as much fun to read as it is to cook from.
Since it came out, when someone asks for a recommendation of a vegan cookbook to try, I immediately recommend Vegan with a Vengeance. The food is accessible, the recipes are well varied in difficulty, and it fights the notions that vegan food is either uninventive (does anyone really still believe that?) or that it’s too reliant on processed faux meats. Plus, the stuff just tastes good. Can’t ask for more than that.