With vegan cookbooks literally flooding the market, it is essential to etch out a niche, and Maribeth has done just that with a focus on quick, easy, convenience, and shortcuts in her new cookbook, The 4 Ingredient Vegan. With the exception of water, salt, pepper, and oil or margarine (the “freebie” ingredients), every recipe in this cookbook contains just 4 ingredients. That includes herbs and spices, which I do appreciate. Though many argue that “the ingredient list may be long, but it is mostly just herbs and spices” you still have to take the time to get out and measure those spices and chop those herbs! I think it is great that the author counts these in her 4 ingredient limit.
What I love most about The 4 Ingredient Vegan – simplicity. Sometimes recipes drown themselves with too many ingredients and flavors, not to mention eating up my time in preparation! Plus, this is a compilation of great baseline recipes for building your own creations upon. I’ve already started experimenting with the first two recipes I trialed …
Cashew “Cheese” Sauce
This struck me as more of a “miso” sauce with a cheesy vibe, but it was tasty and unique nonetheless. I liked the flavor, but then opted to add a dash of turmeric for a wee bit of color and some freshly ground pepper to bring out some spice. I actually think smoked paprika would go beautifully in this too. I did opt to heat it and cook it down a bit to thicken and compliment my freshly steamed veggies.
Sweet-and-Creamy Hot Rice Cereal
I loved, loved, loved this concept and the taste. I lowered the sweetener a bit, and upped the liquid as my rice sucked it up quickly. I also added cinnamon for a cinnamon-raisin hot cereal – delicious! Since my first round, I have made a “Carrot Cake” version too. This is a very easy breakfast when you have leftover brown rice on hand. Though short-grain rice works best, I had good results with medium-grain too.
A surprising amount of the recipes in this cookbook are “from scratch” (including the two above), and of course, some use convenience foods like jarred spaghetti sauce, prepared salsa, phyllo dough, and butternut squash soup (believe it or not, there are a few vegan brands on the market!). Even though I typically cook and bake from scratch, I appreciate these shortcut recipes, since I do sometimes buy things like spaghetti sauce when they go on sale for an unreal price. The ability to just flip this book open for a unique idea to use these ingredients (especially since I don’t regularly buy them) is a definite plus.
Though you’ll find a couple of recipes using items like vegan marshmallow crème and the occasional dollop of vegan mayo, this cookbook has a definite healthy vibe. This isn't too surprising, since it looks like the author is a nutritionist (she wrote another cookbook, Tofu 1-2-3, which I haven't tried, in 2006). The recipes are pretty wholesome, and I like that most are low in sugars.
Other recipes I have dog-earred to make soon: Berry Turnovers (amazingly from scratch!), Hot Spiced Apples, Lentil-Walnut Pate, and Buckwheat Pancakes.
I think my only complaint about The 4 Ingredient Vegan is that the author doesn’t note what brands she uses for the short-cut ingredients. She includes an ingredient glossary in the beginning, where I expected to see her mention which brands she recommends and/or used in creating these recipes. Though I realize she may not have wanted to pigeon-hole the recipes with brands (she simply notes “there are many on the market” for most of the prepared ingredients), I think this is particularly important for new vegans who may not know what to look for in terms of vegan spaghetti sauces (which ones qualify and are good?), vegan cheese alternatives (can produce dramatically varying results), vegan mayo (each has its own flavor), etc.