America's Test Kitchen does not simply exchange vegan ingredients for non-vegan ones, but starts from scratch to figure out the best alternatives.
There's nothing like a new cookbook to get me excited, especially one that teaches new techniques and pushes my culinary boundaries. The latest book to join my collection is Vegan For Everybody: Foolproof Plant-Based Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and In-Between, published in 2017 by America's Test Kitchen.
After cooking quite a few recipes from it and seeing how seamlessly they fit into my family's not-usually-vegan diet, I can agree with the title, that this book truly does make veganism appealing to all.
The recipes are great. They are hearty, interesting, and packed with flavor. My fears of yet another salad-and-smoothie vegan cookbook were quickly allayed by names such as Pinto Bean and Swiss Chard Enchiladas and Tofu Ranchero.
It's a vegan cookbook that allows me to satisfy the bottomless pits that are my family. The kids were big fans of the Butternut Squash Chili with Quinoa and Peanuts, a dish my husband said was even tastier than the peanut stew he orders from a local restaurant. I can't get enough of the rich Vegan Shepherd's Pie, with onion- and olive-oil-infused mashed potatoes on top of a tomato-wine-carrot sauce made meaty with ground soy.
Because so much of vegan cooking is about replacing traditional animal-based ingredients, it often results in compromised textures, especially in baking, where eggs and dairy play a major role. In keeping with America's Test Kitchen's trademark inquisitive style, the cookbook creators have gone to great lengths to figure out the best possible methods for replacing animal products.
The authors don't shy away from speaking their preferences on brand names and explaining why they don't choose certain, more common vegan substitutes. For example, when it comes to egg substitutes, they don't recommend powdered egg replacer, tofu, or applesauce, as these make baked goods "pasty, wet, and heavy." Instead, they are big fans of ground flaxseed, baking powder and soda, and -- most curiously -- aquafaba, the liquid from a can of chickpeas, that can be beaten just like egg whites to stiff peaks. It works well enough even to make meringues!
From a media release:
"One of our biggest takeaways: Simply exchanging vegan ingredients for nonvegan ones doesn’t cut it. When swapping in dairy-free milk and store-bought vegan cheese for our Fettuccine Alfredo yielded bland, grainy results, we blended cooked cauliflower and cashews into a silky, decadent but not heavy sauce."
When it comes to baking, I was especially impressed by the Fudgy Brownies, a recipe that typically requires many eggs, but in this case relies on a small quantity of baking powder to give it some lift.
While the book has the usual grain bowls, stir-fries, and curries I've come to expect from every vegan cookbook, it goes above and beyond that. The breakfast offerings are diverse, including a variety of baked goods (waffles, pancakes, scones) in addition to tofu-vegetable scrambles and frittatas.
The pasta section is impressive, with vegan versions of lasagna, mac 'n cheese, spaghetti and meatballs, even fettucine alfredo. Clearly the cookbook authors have not shied away from recreating classic foods, no matter how dependent on animal-based products their traditional versions are.
If you're looking for your next vegan cookbook, or simply wanting to incorporate more plant-based food into your diet, this is a good choice. With beautiful food photography and clearly written directions, the recipes are a real pleasure to use. That's why I'll keep reaching for this book when planning my family's meals.