Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cookbook Club: Veganomicon Review

I reviewed this book as part of Cook Vegan Lover's Cookbook Club.

When I first got this book, I spent hours going through it, drooling over the recipes and reading every word of the tips, techniques, and recipes' intros. I made the following list of everything I wanted to make first, but, really, I wanted to try everything.
I made a lot (see below) and feel Veganomicon was my new best friend for the month or so that we were inseperable. Overall, I give this cookbook five out of five stars. The tons of recipes are all (well, mostly all) delicious and unique, the extra information was valuable, and I just love the authors' humor. I'll use this cookbook forever. It's the cookbook I'll pull out when I'm having a dinner party or am asked to bring something to a potluck and want to impress people. But I'll also use it for daily cooking for myself. The details...

I Loved
  • Pretty much all the recipes I tried except for one or two. The book says there are 250 recipes, but it seems like even more. I feel like I could cook from this book for a year and never run out of recipes. They span everything from quick recipes for beginners to marathoners for hard-core cooks. I loved the variety--from Middle Eastern to Indian to Mexican and everything in between. The majority of the recipes were five-star hits--dishes I'd bring to a potluck or serve for a dinner party when I want to impress omnivores. Others were excellent additions to my regular rotation of just-for-me meals. My omnivore husband, who is suspicious of vegan recipes, really liked all the dishes he tried.
  • The wealth of good information on topics like Stocking the Veganomicon Pantry, Kitchen Equipment, Cooking and Prepping Terminology, Lower-Fat Cooking, How to Cook a Vegetable, How to Cook a Grain, and How to Cook a Bean. There was one tip that, for me, was worth buying the entire book: to reduce fat, start off by sauteeing with just a bit of oil, and then add vegetable broth when it becomes dry. I will use this tip for the rest of my life! The other sections also had really good tips and basic cooking instructions.
I Didn't Love So Much
  • The large amount of oil most recipes called for, and the general heaviness (fat and calories) in many of the recipes I tried. I tried to follow the recipes exactly, so I didn't use the above lower-fat cooking tip. I lost weight last year and am diligent about maintaining it. For the first time since last September, I gained a few pounds! I know it was because I was making so many of these recipes, as I don't usually eat such heavy foods. (Though, OK, it was my own fault for eating two whole rows of the Fudgy Blueberry Brownies at a time!)
  • How time intensive most of the recipes I tried were. I felt like I spent my entire weekend in the kitchen with these recipes, though that may be because I also made the suggested sauces/side dishes too.
Review of Recipes I Tried

My "Impress" Favorites: Will make to impress people, especially omnivores.

My Own Favorites: While maybe not omni-friendly or maybe not creative enough to impress, I loved these and will make them often (some of these are likely quick to make and/or low-fat).
Good but not Special: I'm not sure I'd make these again, or I'd use them differently, or they were too time instensive for just being good but not great.

Just OK: Probably won't make again.
Tamarind Lentils

Other Reviews

The Good
  • I liked the different sections of similar foods and their intros.
  • The icons were helpful but not intuitive--I kept having to go back to the front for their meaning (I'm still not sure what "S" means).
  • The instructions were very detailed. I liked how they gave tips like, "It should be very thick at this point."
  • The tips in the shaded boxes were helpful.
The Bad
  • Yes, the tips were good, but sometimes I didn't see them until I'd already started the recipe and was past the point where they would have helped. Also, some tips apply to multiple recipes, but you don't know that unless you read the entire book and remember they're there.
  • I don't think the time estimates were accurate--they usually took longer. I'm pretty fast at chopping veggies, but I think you'd need to be the Iron Chef to meet these time estimates.
  • The typos. Oh, the typos. I'm an editor, so the typos were particularly painful. I don't blame the typos on the authors, though. It's an editor's job to catch them before publication. Isa and Terry, please send your manuscript to me next time. I will proof it for free! My favorite typo (I can't remember which recipe it was for) said "Serves 46" instead of "Serves 4-6."
I love food photos so was dissapointed at the small section of photos. They were beautiful, but scant. I'd love a photo for every recipe and would have paid extra for more photos.

Pretty much all the ingredients were easy to find or I had on hand and didn't require equipment I didn't have. I did, however, buy cooking tongs and love the suggestion. They're so much better to cook things like greens and asparagus.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with most of your review. I found some of the recipes I tried a bit labor intensive as well but also some were a little bland for my taste, but not bad for a first effort. I think this was her first or at least an early work.