Guest Author - Lisa Graf
I have read upwards of twenty cookbooks over the past year. I check the books out from the local library, browse the recipes and tips, take mental notes, and flag 3-5 recipes to try.
Most recently, I checked out "The Vegan Table: 200 Unforgettable Recipes for Entertaining Every Guest at Every Occasion" by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. I discovered this cookbook after reading her other cookbook, "The Joy of Vegan Baking." I was impressed with the use of accessible ingredients, the clear and precise directions, and the delicious cookies and muffins I prepared. So, with high expectations, I checked out "The Vegan Table." Fortunately, it has lived up to or exceeded my expectations for several reasons.
First, I love the way the author has structured her cookbook. The book is divided into several events, from romantic dinners for couples and holiday feasts to casual group meals and special occasions. Within each of these event categories, she offers four seasonal menus together with tips on hosting, presentation, and etiquette. I enjoyed and appreciated the fact that I could scan the index for seasonal menus crafted for the specific type of meal I envisioned. The index in this case is extremely helpful and truly offers a roadmap for the cookbook. The one aspect I did not like in the cookbook’s structure was the use of pictures. Pictures were only included for a small number of recipes. When trying out a new recipe, I like to view the final product first and foremost. If I’m not satisfied with the presentation, or if the recipe simply doesn’t look too appetizing, I generally search for another recipe. That being said, the recipes I did choose to prepare were among those without pictures, and they turned out great.
Second, I like the range of recipes included in the cookbook. Yes, some are very intimidating and the long list of ingredients and steps prompted me to skip over that recipe and move on. On the other hand, she offers several recipes composed of kitchen staples and five or fewer steps. These recipes are great for the beginning cook or a busy weeknight meal.
Third, the nutritional information for every recipe is included at the bottom of each page. This alone compels me to rave about the cookbook. These days it seems that nutritional information is rarely included in cookbooks other than those aimed at a low-fat diet. "The Vegan Table" is by no means a “diet” cookbook as it includes indulgences for special occasions and offers recipes that span all calories and fat levels.
Finally, and most importantly, the recipes actually result in quality food! Among the recipes I tested were delightful date truffles, tempeh bacon, home-fried potatoes, and boston baked beans. I was satisfied with each of these recipes, but the date truffles clearly took the lead. They are quick to prepare with a food processor and can be packaged up nicely to give friends and family as gifts. I wouldn’t serve these to a staunch meat and potato eater (stick to the baked beans and potatoes), but anyone who appreciates unique flavors and light desserts will surely enjoy the date truffles.
Overall, I would certainly recommend "The Vegan Table" for anyone planning for a dinner party, holiday meal, or casual get-together because of the cookbook’s structure. The recipes, however, will taste just as good when prepared at home just for you!