Sound like an oxymoron? Myra Kornfeld argues that choosing to be a vegan does not mean you have to deprive yourself--rather, you can pamper your palate with luscious, healthy food. There are those who advocate salt-free, fat-free, flavor-free food, but Kornfeld sets the record straight right from the beginning. She uses salt for seasoning, and reminds us, thank goodness, that you need fat in a healthy diet. Clear instructions, a chapter on ingredients (including sections on grains, greens, and beans--how to buy them, cook them, and use them), and a short primer on equipment make this a good book for beginners. More accomplished cooks will appreciate Kornfeld's innovation. She isn't afraid to use herbs and spices, and she knows the capabilities of her ingredients. In a simple Rich Stock recipe, for instance, she calls for celery root, and explains in a note that you can substitute celery, but that the root gives a much deeper flavor. Kornfeld's food is voluptuous in presentation, too: Smoky Chestnut and Sweet Potato Soup calls for a dash of rum, and it's served with toasted, chopped hazelnuts and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg; Hominy, Tomatillo, and Squash Stew is topped with Ginger and Lime Cream made from tofu; and a Fennel, Orange, and Pomegranate Salad is so beautiful and the flavor so complex, you'll swear you're eating four-star cuisine.
The book is a little difficult to navigate, as it's divided into "meals." So if all you're looking for is a side dish, you'll need to set some time aside to peruse the whole book. Every recipe starts with a few words of wisdom, usually information on the ingredients or a description of the final product. The final chapter is on desserts, and here Kornfeld really gets voluptuous. The recipes include Cranberry Orange Tart, Chocolate Pudding Tart, and Lemon Pudding Cake with Blueberry Glaze--there's no depriving anyone of anything here! Vegans will appreciate the creative and inventive approach, but this cookbook is also useful for nonvegans. Everyone knows someone who's trying to avoid meat, dairy, or eggs, and with loads of ideas for light meals and interesting side dishes, we can entertain our friends and eat healthy at the same time. --Leora Y. Bloom