Cookin’ Crunk!: Veganizing the Dirty South »
I don’t know exactly when it happened, but sometime in 2012 I found myself in the biggest creative slump. Even the once exciting outlet of cooking for myself had become a drag, and I knew I needed some inspiration, but from where? Fortunately for me, inspiration came in the mail, in the form of Bianca Phillips’ recently published cookbook, Cookin’ Crunk: Eatin’ Vegan in the Dirty South!
You’ve probably stumbled across (or follow!) Bianca’s blog, Vegan Crunk (a Vegansaurus favorite!), which has been around since 2007. I found it a couple years ago while traveling through the South, looking for a vegan place to eat in Memphis. Bianca had me covered with her Memphis vegan dining guide, and so I got to eat tofu scramble at Brother Juniper’s (which I would love to tell you was delicious, but unfortunately I was so very sick, and therefore had to douse it in hot sauce to clear my sinuses. It looked scrumptious!). Anyway, I was super delighted to find that she had published a cookbook and even more stoked to be generously given a copy for review!
I own many cookbooks that I just love, and Cookin’ Crunk has definitely made its way to the top. The recipes are straight-forward and quite manageable, while the task of gathering the accessible ingredients can be accomplished at one grocery store. Of this Bianca says (via email), “I was raised in a small town in Arkansas, and it’s Whole Foods-less. So I was thinking about those people in small towns. … Of course, there are some things, like nooch and black salt … but I figure most vegans can find those things, even if they order online.”
Another feature of this book I’m taken with is that the recipes are so flavorful, sometimes with only a few ingredients: She knows how to spice food up! Last but not least, the narratives and anecdotes presenting each recipe are warm, funny and make me feel like Bianca’s in my kitchen, guiding me through these culinary adventures, dishing out the history of these meals. Cookin’ Crunk was one of my favorite vegan finds of last year, and I honestly cannot wait to make everything in it. I definitely recommend you add this cookbook to your collection. But don’t just go and hit up Amazon; if you buy it through Vegan Crunk, you can purchase a signed copy!
All right, onto the food!
The very first dish I made was the Jalapeño-Lime Watermelon Salad. Now, I was taken aback by mixing jalapeño, lime, and basil with my watermelon, and thought for sure I’d hate it. Turns out, I don’t know if I can eat watermelon all by it’s lonesome in the future, EVER AGAIN.
The second thing I made was the Mess O’Greens with Turnips. I’m embarrassed to admit that this combination of food is too bitter for my California palate, so now I substitute kale and sweet potatoes for collards and turnips!
Here we have the Deviled Tofu Bites, which were reminiscent of the food at my own family get-togethers growing up.
Entree-style is the Country-Fried Tempeh Steak with Soy Milk Gravy (and a side of the Mess O’Greens), which is one of the best things I have ever tasted. It was better than any comparable restaurant version I’ve had, for real. Full disclosure: I used the bake option instead of frying it. Looking at this picture reminds me that I need to make this baby again real soon!
Of course there’s a dessert section! Pictured above is the Old-Fashioned Coconut Pie and it’s KILLER. I’ve made it about five times, I love it so much. I make desserts for a living, which means I’ve both baked and eaten A LOT of vegan treats; let me tell you, this pie is beyond words. I could probably eat the whole thing in one sitting, which is coming to you from someone who usually wants nothing to do with sweet and decadent desserts in her off-time.
What are you waiting for? Go get yourself a signed copy of Cookin’ Crunk!