(I am way, way behind in my cookbook reviews and I’ve been getting more and more to review — three just last week! — so this is the first in what I hope will be a frequent series of catch-up reviews.)
With so many great vegan cookbooks on the market, it’s easy for some to slip under the radar and get overlooked. Lacey Sher and Gail Doherty’s You Won’t Believe It’s Vegan! is one of those books surely due to a poorly chosen title that not only infers inherent poor quality of vegan food but also brings to mind stacks of overstocked, generic $5 cookbooks in a bin in front of Borders.
But guess what? This book is anything but generic. In fact, it’s often downright inspired.
Sher and Doherty may be known to vegans in the Northeast as the owners of New Jersey’s Down to the Earth, an organic vegan restaurant that they ran until 2006. Their 2008 reprint of their 2007 Down to Earth Cookbook falls neatly between an accessible everyday vegan cookbook and a gourmet cookbook like The Artful Vegan. The recipes are all within the reach of most home cooks, but combine to make dishes with an impressive complexity that isn’t always immediately obvious.
Our family’s tried a number of recipes so far. Among them, two soups: a filling Mediterranean Lentil Soup and an amazing Potato-Leek Soup with Lemon and Dill that far surpasses any other Potato-Leek soup we’ve tried. From the salad section, we enjoyed both the easy-but-satisfying Chickpea Untuna Salad and the Quinoa Salad with onion, peppers, and corn. Also, thumbs up for the tasty Tofu Hot Wings with Ranch Dressing. They definitely bring the flavor.
The most interesting dish we’ve encountered is the “Love Bowl,” a giant dish of layered brown rice, black beans, greens, and marinated tempeh, topped with scallions and sesame seeds. The recipe says “serves one,” but it’s huge bowl that is hearty and filling for two people, easy. (My notes for this one indicate it could have also been titled “A Bowl of Things Ryan Would Never Have Eaten Ten Years Ago.”)
The only not-so-great recipe we tried was the falafel, whose texture and flavor were off and not what we were hoping for. Thankfully things like the pizza and easy Raw Cashew Cheese recipes made up for the one subpar recipe.
You Won’t Believe It’s Vegan! features 200 recipes divided into breakfasts, drinks/juices/smoothies, sides, soups, salads, sandwiches/wraps, appetizers, entrees, raw/live foods, desserts, and there’s even a section for kids’ food. Beyond what we’ve tried already, I look forward to trying out their Chickpea Socca, Tortilla Torte with Creamy Pumpkin-Seed Pesto, and of course the entire dessert section.
Sher and Doherty’s book is a pleasant surprise that proves the old adage, don’t judge a book by its title. Or something like that.
You Won’t Believe It’s Vegan!
Lacey Sher and Gail Doherty
Da Capo Press