these thoughts usually disappear within seconds of being inundated
with the tastes, smells and textures of my meal. But in the quite
moments following the repast I remind myself that I didn't give up
eating these things because I didn't like the way they tasted. On
the contrary, giving up these foods was a sacrifice. Fortunately,
it was a sacrifice that transition foods have made easier to stomach
(pun most definitely intended).
Marie Oser's new cookbook The Enlightened Kitchen comes in. Even
before the first page the reader knows what's in store. The full-color
cover sports four delectable dishes - you're sure two of them contain
at least chicken, pork and beef. Flipping through the book, you
note the many uses of quotation marks in the recipe names, a dead
give-away that these aren't the real things. You see Balsamic "Chicken"
instead of Balsamic Chicken, "Cheese" Triangles instead
of just Cheese Triangles (a convention that I much prefer to the
endless array of contrived puns like Chick-un and Cheeze that fill
This is not
to say that there aren't any tried and true vegetables-and-grains
recipes that figure so predominantly in other popular vegan cookbooks.
They're here too. But the inclusion of so many recipes containing
mock meats ensures that this book will appeal to a much broader
audience. And it's something I have rarely seen with other vegan
cookbooks. The mock meats found on grocery store shelves are usually
substituted in favorite dishes from our past meat-eating days. Here
Oser creates new recipes specifically geared for these transition
what to serve a contingent of meat-eating friends coming over for
the holidays? Forget about the typically boring spinach-based lasagna
- spice things up with Savory "Sausage" Lasagna, probably
the best vegan lasagna I ever made (and one of the easiest). The
sauce is made with Lightlife's Gimme Lean Sausage Style, which is
readily available at most major grocery chains (I've seen it at
my local Shop Rite, Whole Foods Market and even Trader Joe's to
name a few). (Typo alert: readers should be aware that the 25-ounce
jar of fat-free tomato sauce, listed as an ingredient for the Tofu
Layer, should instead go into the sauce mixture.)
One of the most
interesting and valuable aspects of this cookbook is Oser's diligence
in not only specifying the exact nutritional information for each
recipe, but also doing the same for the typical alternative! So
when your guests are finished gorging themselves on the lasagna
you can tell them how many calories they saved by eating this version
instead of the typical version: 193 calories per serving instead
of 398 calories! Two grams of fat instead of 26 grams! Zero grams
of saturated fat instead of 12 grams! To all other cookbook authors
- please do the same!
for entertaining guests are specified in an entire section ("Enlightened
Entertaining") which contains at least two dozen festive dishes,
including Festive Holiday Roast, Tempeh Chili and Hoppin' John.
The Tempeh Chili contains tempeh, garlic, red onion and bell pepper,
portobello, stewed tomatoes, chile beans and assorted spices. The
tempeh is cubed, steamed, and then crumbled during the cooking process,
resulting in a nice concoction of flavor and texture. The Hoppin'
John, one of my favorites, is an incredibly flavorful mixture of
serrano chiles, garlic, onion, bell pepper, celery, carrots, black-eyed
peas, brown rice, tomatoes, assorted spices and vegetarian Canadian
bacon. For the last ingredient, Yve's makes a very tasty version
and it's widely available.
For the soup
lover, the "Chicken" and Barley Soup and the Chunky Vegetable
"Beef" Soup are entire meals themselves. With these two
dishes one is introduced to the Dixie Diners Club (DDC), a mail-order
distributor with the motto "Health Food That Tastes Like Junk
Food." These two soups, as well as a bunch of other recipes
in this book, require specific ingredients from DDC. Admittedly,
my initial reaction was one of impatience, being confronted with
required ingredients that weren't available at my local supermarket.
But after placing just one order with DDC for five or six of these
shelf-stable ingredients (and receiving the parcel a few days later),
I was able to prepare our pantry for loads of these recipes for
months to come. The "Chicken" soup, for instance, contains
DDC Chicken Not Strips which are reconstituted with DDC original
broth before adding them to the soup. The results are wonderful.
Furthermore, I had so much leftover from this recipe that I gave
portions to my friends, who loved it. Likewise, the "Beef"
Soup contains DDC Beef Not Ground, another shelf-stable ingredient
that seems to last forever. The resulting soup was terrific, especially
for a cold winter night.
My order from
DDC also included their DDC Roasted Chicken Not, an ingredient in
the Roasted "Chicken" and Vegetables, an outstanding melange
and one of my favorites from the entire book. The reconstituted
"chicken" is added to russet potatoes, baby-cut carrots,
garlic, red onion, cremini mushrooms, thyme and vermouth and placed
in the oven for 25 minutes. Comfort food at its best!
for more of an ethnic twist? The book is loaded with possibilities.
The "Sausage" and Asparagus Fajitas are a very interesting
spin on the typical Mexican dish. Here you use the same vegetarian
sausage as is used in the lasagna, cooking it with asparagus, russet
potatoes, red onion and several spices, topping it all with mango
salsa, and then rolling it all into a whole-wheat tortilla (non-hydrogenated,
of course). For Spanish, try the Paella. This one uses Lightlife's
Smart Chick'n Strips as well as a product called Soyrizo. I had
trouble finding the latter but eventually ordered it from Melissa's
on the web. The Soyrizo is terrific, but the Chick'n Strips are
a tad rubbery for my tastes. Still, the dish is a do-over but I
plan on trying a different brand of mock chicken next time.
Two other ethnic
dishes, neither containing mock meat, are the Caribbean Mobay and
the North African Stew (Sikbadj), both laced with generous helpings
of fruit which suffuse them with an edge of sweetness that is deliciously
different (though possibly not for all tastes). The Mobay contains
loads of nutritious ingredients: gingeroot, garlic, onion, bell
pepper, parsnips, carrots, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, garbanzos,
lime, parsley. To this mixture is added coconut milk, a cinnamon
stick and an entire cup of dried currants giving the entire dish
a delicious fruity punch. The Sikbadj contains two types of fruit
- dried apricots and date pieces. The addition of cinnamon sticks,
allspice and coriander adds to the fruitiness. The base of this
dish is 16 ounces of tempeh, once again crumbled into the mixture.
For those looking for something different and delicious, try these
contain recipes for sides, for muffins and loaves, and for desserts
- I haven't even gotten to these sections yet! When one takes the
time to absorb the magnitude and variety of the 175 recipes in this
book, it's almost impossible to comprehend that there isn't a single
ingredient derived from an animal. The next time your friends call
you a leaf-eater, and proclaim that plant-based food is boring,
hand them this book! In fact, hand everyone you know a copy of this
book. Your meat-eating friends will appreciate the mock meats, your
die-hard vegan friends will adore the variety, and your lacto-ovo
pals won't miss the dairy or eggs. Not only will you be giving them
the great gift of food, you'll be giving them the greatest gift
of health. Now excuse me while I go and dig in.
Balogh is a member of EarthSave® New York City and works
full-time as a systems engineer in the telecommunications industry.
Two years ago, he and his wife Laura pledged to become vegans if
they could find a dozen recipes that they could live with. Unable
to prepare toast without burning it, Dan decided to learn as much
about vegan cooking as was humanly possible. Since then he has amassed
a huge collection of vegan and vegetarian cookbooks and has tried
well over 300 different recipes - and most they can live with! But
he's having so much fun he keeps on searching! Today he can make
a mean toast.