eat, drink & be vegan

As our vegan cookbook selection expands–for that matter, as the selection of vegan cookbooks on the market expands–my wife and I find ourselves using certain cookbooks more and some less… or not at all. As with vegan restaurants in cities like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, simply existing isn’t good enough anymore. You’ve got to be good to be competitive. This development is good for consumers and for veganism, since there’s no tolerance for lousy, difficult vegan food when there is plenty of good eating to be had.

eat, drink & be vegan, Dreena Burton’s latest cookbook, tops even her own first two books, The Everyday Vegan and Vive Le Vegan!. Dreena excels at concocting practical recipes that taste satisfying and–oh, by the way–happen to be pretty darn healthy. Bonus!

ED&BV is attractively designed and, like her previous books, focused on the practical, featuring dozens of helpful tips on getting your kitchen equipped (hint: none of these are fancy-schmancy Williams Sonoma items, and will serve you well no matter what book you’re cooking from), food preparation, and cooking and baking notes. Most of the recipes come with helpful tips and recommendations on pairing with other recipes in the book, as well as serving suggestions. Dreena will have you putting meals together like a pro.

While some ingredients may not be available in just any store (quinoa, agave nectar, arrowroot powder, etc.), overall ED&BV is one of the more accessible vegan cookbooks out there. The book doesn’t rely heavily on ingredients like these and, besides, most can be found at Whole Foods Markets, which are more ubiquitous than ever.

What I liked most about the recipes I read through and tried was how healthy the focus was. Dreena keeps it simple and focused on feeding yourself well without too much fuss. Even the sauces and gravies recommended to season things up rely on maple syrup instead of refined sugar, for instance. I feel like I could eat anything from this book and not have to worry that I’m splurging all the time.

My wife and tried a few entrees, including the Quinoa Chickpea Confetti Casserole (p. 140) with Balsamic Maple Sauce (p. 76). All I can say about that sauce is, move over teriyaki! It really made the dish. While the casserole itself is hearty and filling, it was relatively plain, but the recommended sauce knocked it out of the park.

I also really enjoyed the Roasted Red Kuri Squash with Gnocchi (p. 141). We did have one hiccup on this one, as the directions offer a range of 1-3 pounds of squash without adjusting the recipe according to the amount you have on hand. For people as literal as my wife and I, this meant that our 1 pound of squash was slightly overwhelmed by the rest of the recipe, particularly the lemon. However, it was still really good (we used linguine instead of gnocchi), and the Back to Basics Balsamic Vinaigrette (p. 77) we had with our side salad was the best I’ve ever had from a recipe, so I think we’re finally ready to stop buying bottles of dressing.

[UPDATE: Dreena has posted some helpful ED&BV edits to her cooking blog, including an explanation for the squash confusion. The publisher is already getting ready to do a second printing, so future editions will incorporate these corrections.]

ED&BV is definitely another everyday classic. I know my wife and I will be exploring this book from cover to cover for a long time to come, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to develop his or her repertoire of tasty, wholesome dishes you can feel good about, both for the animals and for your health.

With the recent release also of Veganomicon and The Joy of Vegan Baking, 2007 has proven to be a watershed year for vegan cookbooks. And, hey, just in time for the holidays!

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