Friday, October 2, 2009

Cookbook Review: Great Chefs Cook Vegan

"Following a vegan diet doesn't have to be boring if you cook with talent and heart - you'll have great and exciting dishes in front of you to enjoy." Chef Eric Ripert

In the book Great Chefs Cook Vegan Linda Long asked many of the world's great chefs (the sort of people you'd see judging on Top Chef) to send some of their plant-based recipes with gorgeous results. This book contains some of the most beautiful food photography I've ever seen and all the recipes look absolutely spectacular. I bought the book because I plan to choose some recipes by the seasonal ingredients and cook one or two a month when I feel like making a special dinner.

Some of the chefs featured include Eric Ripert, Jose Andres, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Mischel Nischan, Marcus Samuelson, Thomas Keller, Suzanne Goin - actually most of the chefs in the book have indeed been featured on Top Chef over the years. Todd English and Cat Cora's recipes really appeal to me as they are heavy on the vegetables. I consider most of these recipes splurge recipes - many use quite a bit of oil - there is one vermicelli recipe where the pasta is cooked in 1 1/2 quarts of oil before being boiled.

If you are guessing that this cookbook contains recipes that involve lots of time and not-so-easy to find ingredients, you'd be right. Here's an example of someof the more esoteric ingredients used in the book: carrageenan, Swedish vinegar, cocoa butter, sea beans, lilybulbs, soy sprouts, Indian semolina/suji, kokum, Affilia cress, cashew fruit puree, kinome seeds, and prepared fondant. Some of the chefs do list ingredient substitutions - lime juice for yuzu, apples for quince, etc. to help out those of us who are shopping-impaired. One recipe involves a cotton candy machine and there are a good amount of sorbets and at least one homemade pasta so you'll also need a pretty tricked-out kitchen to get started.

So is this book worth it? If you're like me and enjoy the process of hunting down unusual ingredients and if you think a day spent in the kitchen is always a great day, then yes, absolutely it is worth it. It is worth it if you're seeking more vegan special occasion recipes or if you are a serious Top Chef fan as well. And if you enjoy making spectacular plant-based pastries and desserts, buy this book immediately!

Note: I'm purposely not showing any of the gorgeous photos from the book because then my unspectacular photos of some of the dishes would seriously suffer in comparison.

This is Cat Cora's Basque Veggie Kebabs with Key Lime Sauce. (Sorry - I couldn't find any skewers) I switched out some of the veggies to what I already had but they were all wonderful grilled with a rub of chili powder, orange rind, and olive oil. The tartness of the sauce really worked well with the sweetness of the grilled veggies.

This is Chef Josef Huber's take on migas - Homemade Garlic Tortillas with Tofu Scrambled Eggs, Roasted Seven-Tomato Salsa, and Fresh Guacamole. The homemade corn tortillas were delicious with the addition of garlic and cilantro and once they were fried, they were impossible to stop eating. There was also a macadamia nut cream with coconut along with grilled scallions. I actually like the Deborah Madison vegan migas from her Vegetarian Supper book a bit better (plus it is much faster) because it uses fresh tomatoes instead of roasted but I am going to start making Chef Huber's tortillas for migas when I have time.

"When the heart and essence of culinary arts are applied to vegan cuisine, it exemplifies the importance of top-quality ingredients and time-tested techniques to create flavorful and extraordinary new dishes." Chef Alex Stratta


Andrea said...

This book sounds like it might be worth it for the photos! I love good pictures of food almost as much as I love good food, and can get lost in a cookbook filled with beautiful photos. Even if you don't make the dishes, the photos can be inspirational.

I think your pictures are really good, by the way.

Vegan Epicurean said...

If you try the panna cotta in the book please post whether it works or not. It was the first recipe I tried in the book and it was far too firm, nothing like traditional panna cotta. The book has remained on my shelf since that fiasco. Maybe I should dust the book off and try something else. Since you had success with the book.


Nanette said...

Andrea, I actually tried to replicate the photo in the book for the tofu migas but it went horribly wrong. LOL

Nanette said...

Thanks for that heads up Alicia! I wonder if the recipes in the book were actually tested? Of course how many book publishers own cotton candy machines? :)

Vegan Epicurean said...

I don't know if they tested any of the recipes, but I don't think the panna cotta was included. It was so firm it was like a hockey puck.

Jose loves his cotton candy machine. We have been to his Mini Bar in DC a few times (pre-vegan) and he used the cotton candy a lot. The man really is a culinary genius.


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