Review: Cook Food, by Lisa Jervis »
First, let’s appease the FTC by noting that we received a copy of this book for free, for reviewing purposes. Second, let’s appease the critics by noting that as Lisa Jervis is a founder of Bitch magazine, we are predisposed to love her. Third, I don’t have any photos of the food I made because I don’t have a functioning camera, so you’re just going to have to imagine how wonderful everything looked, OK? Fourthly, let’s write this.
Cook Food is a little, no-frills book that is crammed full of useful information. It’s written by a (seemingly) very practical person for the very pragmatic cooks among us, by which I mean she takes a very “do the best you can with what you have” approach, with her recipes functioning more as inspiration than rules to strictly follow. This, I dig; often I want to make dish but cannot find one of the ingredients, and do not have the opportunity and/or inclination to go get it. It’s rare to find a cookbook author who encourages you to wing it. This is all right.
I tried out three recipes from Cook Food, all of which I tried to follow to the letter but none of which I did, exactly. The first was Rosemary Mustard Tofu; lazily, I didn’t press the tofu at all, but I did let it sit in the marinade for a good long time. Per the author’s notes, the leftovers did make a good sandwich the next day. I accidentally put too much dijon mustard in the sauce, because I have trouble with tasks like measuring, but it wasn’t a big deal, really.
Next I made Lentils with Wine, which I loved and will definitely make again. For a dish with so few ingredients, it has a lot of flavor, full-bodied and rich and just really delicious. Red wine, red onion and green lentils are apparently the perfect combination.
Lastly, I tried out her version of peanut sauce, which, as she warned, was not at all like the Thai-style peanut sauce I had sort of wanted (despite having read the recipe before deciding to prepare it). This one I fiddled with, a little; I found it quite salty and, I don’t know, off somehow, so I added a lot of white balsamic vinegar and a couple splashes of plain soy milk, and that seemed to mend it for me. Then I ate it on everything; on Trader Joe’s vegetable gyoza; over cold mixed lettuces and hot rice (DELICIOUS, my goodness); as a dip for baby carrots and steamed broccoli. It turned out to be a very versatile sauce.
Cook Food wasn’t written by a vegan; it’s a vegan cookbook because Lisa Jervis believes that eating mostly organically and locally grown produce is healthiest for us and our environment (and she’s right, duh). It’s plainspoken without being obvious, and pragmatic without condescending. It’d make a wonderful first cookbook for new vegans—much better than those “Vegan Recipes for College Students” that teach you how to boil pasta or whatever—but once your skills have improved beyond “beginner” you’ll still find it useful.
Plus, like I said, it’s Lisa Jervis, and everything she creates is of very high quality.