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Saturday, July 1st, 2006
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Vegan with a Vengeance: Over 150 Delicious, Cheap, Animal-Free Recipies That Rock

by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

The Post Meat Kitchen

A review by Jill Owens

Yes, this is a vegan cookbook. I'll start by saying that although I am a vegetarian, I'm not vegan. And thus far, all of the recipes I've made from this cookbook have been served not only to vegetarians, but also to red meat-eaters (well, one of the recipients only eats fish, but still) to great acclaim and, more often than not, requests for the recipes. So although that seems like the inevitable disclaimer that must accompany any vegetarian or vegan cookbook (carnivores will love the food!), in this case, it's true -- I've tested it. While Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is still my all-time favorite cookbook -- in part because of its more comprehensive nature -- Vegan with a Vengeance is running a close second.

Isa Moskowitz is from Brooklyn, and several of her recipes are inspired by Jewish cooking (I have yet to try the Matzoh Ball Soup, but I am intrigued). She co-hosts a public access cooking show called Post Punk Kitchen, which also has a very active website (www.theppk.com), for those interested and not in the New York area. Vegan with a Vengeance is infused with her DIY attitude and distinctive voice, which, though it can be a little cutesy, I found largely charming, as well as extremely informative. This cookbook is both explanatory and flexible; the suggestions for substitutions are excellent, and I greatly appreciate her emphasis on economical solutions. Moskowitz is very up-front about when an ingredient might be expensive, and suggests other ways to use up the rest of it (if only a little is needed) or something cheaper that can be a substitute. She also offers innovative takes on how to get around using expensive kitchen equipment.

And the recipes -- the most important part -- are stellar. Some of the ones I've made are along the lines of comfort food (the Seitan-Portobello Stroganoff was unbelievably rich, creamy, and hearty), while others like White Bean and Roasted Garlic Soup and Potato-Edamame Samosas with Coconut-Mint Chutney are lighter, healthier, and more traditionally gourmet. (Moskowitz is fond of hyphens, it's true.) They're simple, too, with easy-to-find ingredients, and most of them have fairly short cooking times. Moskowitz includes a super-quick way to make seitan from scratch, which is much, much cheaper than buying pre-made, and tastes much better, too. (There was something kind of magical about starting out with, essentially, flour, water, and seasonings, and ending up with a ton of seitan.)

Vegan with a Vengeance has a wonderful section on desserts (which includes Fauxstess Cupcakes, a lovely substitution for the original). It also includes lots of pizzas from scratch and a great brunch chapter, alongside curries, sandwiches, casseroles, etc. -- all the things you'd expect from any great, across-the-board cookbook, and, of course, these recipes are healthier both for you and for the planet. Absolutely packed with flavor and suitable for any occasion, the recipes in Vegan with a Vengeance will change your mind about vegan cooking.


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