When I was growing up in the neighborhood of Long Island City/Astoria, in the borough of Queens, in the city of New York, I couldn't wait for Friday nights after dancing school, because that was when my mom would take me out to dinner at the Bel Aire Diner. It's sad to say, but I look back on those meals with great fondness, because they were a welcome reprieve from my mother's cooking. Burgers, onion rings, macaroni and cheese, BLT sandwiches, malts, and rice pudding were (and still are) true comfort foods to me and could be had just two blocks from our home.
Bel Aire Diner then
Bel Aire Diner now
How exciting to find delicious recipes for vegan versions of these dishes and so many more in Julie Hasson's new book, Vegan Diner! With recipes like Breakfast Benedicts Florentine, Malted Waffles, Skillet-Baked Panko Cutlets (think: parmigiana), Not Your Mama's Pot Roast, Pastrami-style Seitan Roast, and even a Blue Plate Special, you'll think you've died and gone to vegan diner heaven! The book is sprinkled with gorgeous food photos to whet your appetite and vintage diner shots that will put you in the perfect mood to plan your diner-style meal!
As you can see from the photo, Julie's Cheezy Mac is dreamy creamy.
I'm a huge fan of Soy Curls. They're made from whole soy beans, instead of isolated soy protein. Nobody cooks Soy Curls better than Julie. And her recipe for Smoky Curls with lettuce and tomato makes the most scrumptious vegan BLT ever!
The recipe for Sandwich Slaw paired perfectly with this sandwich! But next time I will try making her husband Jay's Creamy Horseradish Potato Salad.
I honestly can't remember the last time I had dumplings. But I do remember the ones my bubbie used to make, and Julie's Veggies and Dumplings brought me right back to my childhood. Not only was this dish filling and delicious, it was really fun to make and went from stovetop to table in just slightly more than 30 minutes!
Back in Astoria, the best part of any diner meal was dessert, and there were three sweet treats I used to enjoy at the Bel Aire more than any other: Napoleons, Apple Crumb Cake a la mode, and Rice Pudding. Julie has very thoughtfully provided recipes for two of the three—there's even a recipe for vanilla ice cream for my a la mode! I haven't had a vegan Napoleon yet, but I have been enjoying a life-long love affair with rice pudding, and I feel compelled to try every recipe that comes my way. Julie's foolproof recipe for Old-fashioned Rice Pudding was every bit as good as the Bel Aire's.
So what dish will I endeavor to make next from this wonderful book? With so many taste-tempting recipes, it's going to be hard to choose. But one thing I know for sure is that any recipe I try will be wonderful. If you want a cookbook that is going to bring good 'ol American comfort foods right into your own kitchen, Vegan Diner was written for you. Don't wait another second to get your hot little hands on a copy, and get cooking, deliciously!