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05/01/2013

Cookbook Review! Plum: Gratifying Vegan Dishes from Seattle’s Plum Bistro  »

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There are a handful of vegan restaurants around the world that make such a lasting impression on their customers that word spreads like wild fire, then a cult following ensues, even among those who have never visited. L.A.’s Native Foods Cafe is like that for some, as are Chicago DinerMillenniumand Seattle’s Plum Bistro. And now you can bring Plum Bistro’s dishes to your home with a cookbook based on some of its most famous dishes as Sasquatch Books and restaurateur Makini Howell bring you Plum: Gratifying Vegan Dishes from Seattle’s Plum Bistro.

When my copy arrived, courtesy of the fine folks at Sasquatch Books, I was immediately taken with the design and feel, with its hard cover and bright yet matte colors. When I opened it and started thumbing through the recipes, I felt immediately intimidated. There is a “fundamental” section that prefaces the rest of the recipes, many of which include at least one of the “fundamentals,” like various soy creams, egg foam, pestos, relishes, etc. To someone who eats roughly 2 PB&J sandwiches a day, this seemed like a daunting task. However, I put my neuroses aside and got down to it.

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The first dish I attempted was something I had never successfully made since eliminating animal products from my life: French toast. More specifically, Plum’s “Good Old-Fashioned French Toast Stuffed with Strawberries and Sweet Soy Cream.” It was incredible. The “fundamentals” I needed to make first were super easy, much like most things in life I fret about it. The egg foam was like two steps, and the Sweet Soy Cream was me just using the blender—the complete opposite of daunting. I’d never made a cream of any sort before, and was a little apprehensive, since I’ve tasted some terrible vegan creams in my day. But the ease of this recipe made it my new jam (to borrow a phrase from our Jenny Bradley).

After pouring and mixing the soy milk, canola oil, lemon juice, vanilla extract (with no measurement suggested, I squeezed a little more than like 5 drops then panicked), and ground cinnamon (that I had to grate myself with a stick, which ruined my knuckles, but I did look classy doing it), I somehow, through science and prayer, turned it into a soy cream that I stuck in a mason jar and have used pretty much every day since. I’m literally in love. Figuratively.

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The French toast part was pretty much just like the French toast my mom used to make me. Except the mix has no unborn friends in it and, without insulting my mother, much better. The mix was vanilla soy milk (awesome), white vinegar (OK?), the vegan egg foam (weird, really really weird, but cool), vanilla extract (still scared of its potency), agave syrup (YES), more ground cinnamon (I put on medieval chainmail gloves this time), and canola oil (OIL RULES). This, also through science and vigorous whisking, turns into the French toast batter. The rest is easy, although Howell words the instructions perfectly for dumb-dumbs like me. The only other difference to my mom’s recipe was splitting each slice of bread down the middle, top-to-bottom, so they were connect by a sliver of bread much like a book is connected by the spine. This was so I could dollop some soy cream and strawberries on one half and fold over to make cute little French toast half-sammies. 

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Cookbook companies and authors use really good lighting and photographers, so the food we make almost never looks the same as their fancy pants pictures. Not this time. My dish came out almost exactly like the fancy photo, and my photo of it garnered many likes on my Instagram account. MANY.

The rest of the recipes range from just as easy as the French toast to extremely complicated and requiring devices like a Dutch oven. After laughing at the name “Dutch oven” I realized that I had to find something that was at or near my level of expertise, which can be described as infantile. But what a great idea: recipes all over the map so everyone feels both challenged and content at the tasks at hand. I approve. And to pay homage to the late film critic we just recently lost, I give it two green thumbs up.

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You can find Plum: Gratifying Vegan Dishes from Seattle’s Plum Bistro at your least favorite online book distributor. You can also visit Plum Bistro in Seattle and tell Ms. Howell she creates amazing dishes and you were sent there by a handsome man on the internet. 

Andrew E. Irons is a blogger from Long Beach, California.  He co-created and contributes to a Rhode Island based Hip-Hop website, The Echo Chamber Blog, under the pseudonym Verbal Spacey. You can track his daily diatribes by following him on Twitter.

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