Cookbook author Vesanto Melina knows a thing or two about veganism and not just about the ethical aspects of not eating meat. Melina is a vegan nutrition whiz. She's taught nutrition courses at the University of British Columbia and at Seattle's Bastyr University. More interestingly, she's written numerous books on the subject — Becoming Vegan, The New Becoming Vegetarian, and Becoming Raw.
All of those books contain awesome, healthful recipes. But they tend to focus more on the health aspects, as they're geared toward new vegans and raw foodists looking to optimize nutrition. Her new book, Cooking Vegan, builds on the foundation she already laid in her past books by offering more recipes and chapters on vegan ingredients and cooking for maximum taste awesomeness. There's even a cool table that groups foods according to whether they taste astringent, bitter, pungent, salty, sour, or sweet to help newbie cooks build their own recipes by blending ingredients with complementary tastes.
Like in most of Melina's books, the recipes lean more on the healthy side. You won't find any vegan fried chicken in the book, and that's okay. Even though comfort food is delish, we need to balance those things with whole, unprocessed foods, right?
I'm not sure why, but out of all the recipes in the book, I chose to try the Terkiyaki Tofu with Vegetables:
I usually steer clear of stir-fries because I ate way too many of them in my poor, culinarily uninspired college days. But this one called to me because it includes daikon radish and sweet potatoes ... in a tofu stir-fry! Both root veggies made an excellent addition, and they paired well with the sweet, saltiness of the teriyaki sauce. I served mine with sauteed bok choy.
Most of the recipes in this book are ridiculously easy, making it perfect for the newbie vegan cook. There's even a recipe for a Raw Vegetable Platter, y'all. While that may be pushing it a little too far, other more creative recipes make up for that. Take for example, the Spicy Eggplant Soup with Chickpeas and Olives (um, can somebody say Middle Eastern awesomeness?!), Black Beans with Coconut and Mango, or Lem-Un-Cheesecake with Crumb Crust. Those all sound like winners to me!
Cooking Vegan would best benefit a new vegan who is just learning to cook without meat, eggs, or dairy. But old-school vegans might also use this book to get themselves back on the healthy track (something I can always use a little help with).