by Selma Miriam

I have so many cookbooks at home that if a new one catches my fancy, an old one must go.

Last spring, I weeded my collection to make room for three exceptional ones that enlarged my vegan repertoire, each for different reasons.

Meera Sodha’s Fresh India, though not vegan, is easily made so—there are no eggs in the book and milk is easily changed to almond or soy milk. Only yoghurt for raita is hard to duplicate well, though a constant stream of new vegan yoghurts have been appearing, so stay tuned. I own more than a dozen superlative Indian cookbooks, so what’s special about this one?

Sodha takes the classic dishes such as korma (vegetables cooked in a sauce), kofta (“meat” balls) and makes them simpler but still authentic—in a word, fresh. In particular, I liked the cauliflower korma, the tamarind rice and the mango salad. And there are many more recipes to try.

Sweet Potato Soul, by Jenne’ Claiborne, is inspired by African American southern cooking and her love of sweet potatoes.

What made me want to delve into the recipes closely was the introduction. Her perspective on why she is vegan is identical to my own, and it is beautifully written.

So, I tried the crab cakes made of hearts of palm with Old Bay seasoning and her roasted red pepper aioli, and both are delicious, instant hits.

The Superiority Burger Cookbook by Brooks Headley tells how to make some of the meals available at his vegetarian, mostly take-out, restaurant in New York City. As for the burger, he says, “This is not fake meat, nor is it meant to be.

The un-likeness to the real thing is canny…. These are vegetable and grain croquettes that get put on buns…and are meant to be a Luddite response to the modern gaggle of vegetable patties that bleed and squirt.”

The downside of his book is that he uses some unusual ingredients (not fakes!) not available in your local supermarket. The upside: his attention to blends of texture and flavor that make one think, especially in his sorbets. One does need malic acid (from apples) and dextrose (a corn sugar). The results are extraordinary, and the directions encourage one to use any fruit and then flavor to your own desire. I also love the small introductions to each recipe. It is not an easy book to cook from but rewarding once you do.

While there are several very good vegan mayos available at stores, his recipe for chickpea mayo is amazing. By chance, I discovered that recipes from each book came together nicely. I used Headley’s chickpea mayo recipe to make Claiborne’s red pepper aioli, a condiment I adore. Then I discovered what to do with the leftover chickpeas, as I only like fresh cooked, in Sodha’s Fresh India.

She has a recipe to fry them: Pour a little oil into a frying pan and heat it. Add the cleaned, dry chickpeas. (If not cleaned, they will spit and burn and not get crisp, so prepare them properly.) Fry over medium heat, stirring, until they brown a little and get crisp. Turn out into a bowl and sprinkle with a little garam masala, some kosher salt and ground cumin. Season to your taste, and snack. Sodha says Indian mothers never tell their children not to snack between meals! It’s wonderful to have inspiration from new cookbooks and to experiment and put your own twist on recipes to suit your needs.

Here’s my homemade vegan mayo recipe inspired by Claiborne and Headley: