Books for cooks
"Vegan Planet," by Robin Robertson (Harvard Common Press, 2003, $18.95, paperback)
Vegan cookbook adds
flavor, variety to meals
You don't have to call yourself a vegetarian to eat like one. Many Americans, even confirmed carnivores, choose to go meatless on occasion with foods such as French toast or macaroni and cheese.
But being a vegan takes vegetarianism to a much higher level. A vegan diet eliminates all animal products, including eggs and dairy. People often become vegans for reasons of health, environment, ethics or religion.
A common myth is that vegan diets are boring. Just the opposite is true. Plant-based diets can offer colorful, interesting and boldly flavored foods, as evidenced in "Vegan Planet," by Robin Robertson. Here you will find 400 lively recipes from the United States and around the world, such as Grilled Portobellos with Rosemary Roasted Vegetables, Spicy Jasmine Rice with Carrots and Cashews, and Chocolate Macadamia Clusters.
"When you cook vegan, you can have it all -- the flavors you crave, the nutrients you need and, best of all, the freedom to step beyond the confines of the same old meat- and dairy-based meals," says the author.
This 576-page book is certainly a bargain at less than $20. It begins with a chapter on "vegan basics" for those unfamiliar with the dietary philosophy. Nineteen chapters follow, including recipes for stews, chili, pizza, pasta, sauces, dressings, breakfast foods and desserts. Many are what Robertson calls "transformation" recipes, dishes that traditionally contain meat or dairy but have been redesigned into vegan versions by changing some of the ingredients, such as using tofu and vegan cream cheese to make Key Lime "Cheesecake."
The cookbook is attractively printed in two colors, with hand-drawn illustrations throughout. There are no photographs, but considering the price of the cookbook, the omission is easy to overlook.
Vegetarians and vegans alike are sometimes jokingly referred to as "salad eaters," but with salads like the one that follows, that's not necessarily a bad label.
Place the walnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat and toast, stirring or shaking a few times, until fragrant and lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Be careful not to burn.
Asian Pear and Baby Spinach Salad3/4 cup walnut pieces
1/3 cup peanut oil or other neutralizing oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar or natural sweetener
Salt and freshly ground pepper
6 cups baby spinach leaves
2 Asian pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon walnut oil (optional)
Remove about 1/2 cup of the walnuts from the skillet and set aside to cool. Add peanut oil to remaining walnuts in the skillet, and warm over low heat 5 minutes. Add lemon juice, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Return to saucepan and keep warm over very low heat.
Place spinach and all but 12 of the pear slices in a large bowl. Add dressing and toss to coat. Divide salad among 4 plates. Arrange remaining pear slices on top of the spinach, and drizzle with walnut oil, if using. Scatter reserved walnuts on top and serve immediately. Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional information per serving (without walnut oil and before adding salt to taste): 350 calories, 32 g total fat, 4 g saturated fat, no cholesterol, 70 mg sodium, 6 g protein, 15 g carbohydrate
Rating Scale: Best in its class / Highly recommended / Recommended / Not recommended
Barbara Burke is a Hawaii-Pacific University instructor who teaches and writes about food and nutrition. Contact her at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu 96813; or e-mail her at: email@example.com