Book Review: The Garden of Vegan
The best thing about making cookies is that you can eat the dough. And with the Nut Butter Cookie recipe from The Garden of Vegan, the lively new tribute to eating an abundant animal-free diet by Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer, you’ll want to.
Barnard and Kramer's first book, How It All Vegan!: Irresistible Recipes for an Animal-Free Diet, quickly became a favorite among students and young urbanites attracted to its retro look, sense of humor, plethora of vegan lifestyle factoids, and simple, nourishing meals that were easy to make on the fly. Now we know some of you discerning vegans out there bought an early addition of the duo’s first cookbook and were baffled by the bee products. Here’s good news for you: The Garden of Vegan does not call for any bee products; Barnard and Kramer have evolved just as many of their readers have. And the The Garden of Vegan one-ups its predecessors still further: slightly more elaborate recipes on one end of the cooking continuum; a “Microwave Meal” section on the other. Sporting the duo’s familiar tongue-in-cheek 50s aesthetic, The Garden of Vegan also offers practical directions for preparing non-edibles such as bath salts, household cleaning supplies, eye pillows, and pet toys.
As for the recipes, a reliable testament to The Garden of Vegan was the full dinner we invited guests to enjoy.
The Sensational Sun-dried Tomato and Chickpea Soup is an entrée: a hearty, nearly spicy brick-colored purée. Some soups conjure up a particular time of year, but this is a true four-season soup. With its smoky undercurrent of sesame oil and cayenne pepper, it is substantial enough to stand up to colder weather, but the sun-dried tomatoes and swirl of fresh parsley hint at warmer days to come.
Tantalizing Tofu and Spinach Salad pairs these two items with chopped green onions and a cast of Asian flavors — miso, rice vinegar, fresh ginger, chili sauce, and gomashio, a traditional Japanese condiment made from toasted sesame seeds and sea salt. The Garden of Vegan’s version calls for kelp powder as well. A little maple syrup challenges the vinegar’s punch perfectly.
Barnard and Kramer are big fans of Bragg Liquid Amino, the soy sauce alternative from the Bragg family company. Its only ingredients are soybeans and water; yet it isn’t fermented or as salty as soy sauce or tamari. Readers who have used it for years on popcorn, vegetables, or as a marinade for tempeh and tofu will find it a new revelation in The Garden of Vegan’s olive and caper tapenade recipe. The meal is complete when this spread is tossed with pasta, or gracing fresh baguettes.
And then, dessert. In addition to actually cooking a sample of the Nut Butter dough — the results did not disappoint — we could not resist The Most Amazing Chocolate Pudding. As you can tell by now, Barnard and Kramer don’t mince adjectives. But they don’t need to: the dishes really are that good. And that is by homemade, childhood standards. Our guests ate enthusiastically all evening, took seconds on soup, and marveled at the flavorful tofu, sautéed in sesame oil until crisp. But the pudding was a triumph. Traditional, milk-based versions would curdle in comparison.
Barnard and Kramer go well beyond recipes to beckon readers into their enthusiastic, well-fed world. Their latest cookbook is will add verve to your range-top repertoire.