I have followed Dynise’s blog, the Urban Vegan, for a few years now. Though it didn’t surprise me that she had put together a cookbook, and I knew the recipes would be tasty (I had tried a couple from her blog before), I really had no idea what to expect. With my mind wide open, I was amazed by the culinary depth and creativity in The Urban Vegan cookbook. In her first cookbook, Dynise proudly displays the global food influences she has gained living in the major metropolis of Philadelphia and traveling to thirty different countries (and counting as she reminds us!). Just a few (okay, more than a few) of the recipes that caught my eye included:
Coconut Hot & Sour Soup
Moroccan Millet Tambales
Potatoes with 40 Cloves of Garlic
Oven-Roasted Potatoes with Basil-Fennel Cream
Marsala Mushroom Crepes
Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake with Caramel Sauce
Crepes with Almond Sauce and Fresh Raspberries
You can see from this mere taste of the recipe titles that there is an extreme amount of variety and adventure in this cookbook!
In the end, I had a bit of trouble choosing what recipes to make. Not because they didn’t sound enticing, but because a good majority of the recipes in this cookbook do call for soy. Dynise uses soy flour as her main egg substitute in baked goodies. Though she does offer some other options for egg substitutes in the beginning of the book, I was a bit confused on how I would swap them out (for flax seeds would I need to reduce the liquid in the recipe or add more, and in which recipes would that be a fair substitute for?). And of course, since it is a vegan cookbook, there is liberal use of tofu, soy creamer, TVP, and other soy products. I have nothing against the bean, but we stock a very limited amount of soy products in our household (just miso and soy sauce – I never have soy flour on hand), since it really upsets my husband’s stomach. Fortunately, if you do stock soy flour, I doubt the small amounts used in the recipes would bother those who are just a little soy intolerant.
Luckily, there were still several soy-free or soy-reduced gems within that both my husband and I could enjoy. In fact, I did start by making use of that miso (you can also buy a soy-free miso if needed) in the Miso-Sesame Dressing. It was deliciously light and flavorful vinaigrette!
I served it on a simple salad of romaine, avocado, and yellow bell peppers. The only change I made was to up the miso by 1 teaspoon. After taste-testing, I was just craving a slightly saltier kick, and it helped to bring out the other flavors a bit. The only glitch I had with this 3-minute recipe was that all of the ingredients were listed in teaspoon and tablespoon measurements except for the rice vinegar, which was listed in ounces. I found this variation in type of measurements within a single recipe odd, and unfortunately, the battery in my electronic scale had just run out! I had to do a change up before I could finish the recipe.
For my second taste of this cookbook, I made the Brussels Sprouts Au Gratin. This dish was so good, that I devoured half a pound of Brussels sprouts by myself, in one sitting.
I do like my cabbage, but this simple combination of Earth Balance (I used the new soy-free version) and nutritional yeast, took the cruciferous veggie to a new level. A word of warning though: when you broil the sprouts, place them cut side up. Those delicate outer leaves burn easily and quickly. I checked in after 4 minutes (a minute early) and there was some serious charring going on! Luckily, no damage, and the crispy leaves were also quite tasty. Dynise doesn’t specify the amount of salt for this recipe, just “season with salt and pepper.” I used 1/4 teaspoon of salt and several twists of fresh ground pepper for the 1 lb of sprouts, and it was perfect.
With simple successes like these, I can guarantee that I will be trialing more recipes from The Urban Vegan Cookbook. In fact, the Super-Sonic Sunflower Squares, Curry Cashew Casserole, Foil-Roasted Beets with Wasabi Vinaigrette, and Michelle’s Peanut Butter Graham Balls are already on my “to make” list.
The Urban Vegan Cookbook Vitals:
- The recipes in The Urban Vegan vary widely in complexity. There are extremely simple recipes that can be whipped up in mere minutes using common pantry food, and there are Sunday afternoon type recipes that might entice you to use several new-to-you ingredients.
- There are 250 recipes within, yet the print is easy to read, and the page count is kept to a respectable 227 pages. They really did an excellent job with the layout.
- The chapters have a less traditional format. Titles like “Café Culture,” “Soup Kitchen,” “Happy Hour,” “Lunch Cart,” and “House Party,” form the chapter subjects rather than your traditional, appetizers, entrees, desserts type of format. I love this fun format, but admit I had some trouble re-finding a recipe that I didn’t know the exact title of.
- There are no pictures in The Urban Vegan, but that is just fine with me. I never require pictures in a cookbook and appreciate the lower cost without (this jam-packed book is just $16.95 retail!).