In one of those funny zeitgeist-y coincidences, the same week Tal Ronnen was on Oprah to talk about his new vegan cookbook, The Conscious Cook, friend and colleague Fran Costigan emailed me to tell me that I absolutely had to check out this guy and his book. Yup, Tal Ronnen.
The publisher sent me a copy of this coffee table cookbook and it’s been sitting on my review pile for far too long. It’s well-laid out without being too fussy or text heavy; there’s a brain behind the food; yes, the recipes have steps and different ingredients but this isn’t your mother’s Moosewood and it’s full of great ideas to up the ante on your vegan lifestyle.
Not a vegan? That’s cool. I sense that Ronnen wants to hit everyone (meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans alike) with his clever chefy suggestions, interviews with chefs and suppliers and luscious pictures of ingredients. He’s a true flexitarian without ever saying the word. It’s how I eat and the lifestyle that suits me at this point in my life and so I definitely gravitated toward his philosophy.
The first recipe that struck me was in apps. Every now and then I’ll make avocado sushi rolls at home: nori seaweed, white rice, avocado, cucumber, sesame seeds and umeboshi paste. During college, my best friend Vivi (still my BFF) taught me how to hand roll the nori (it’s always looked so complicated) and I’ve been making them ever since. This Maki roll of Ronnen’s uses quinoa instead of rice. Duh, why didn’t I think of that? Turns a avocado roll into a power house of vegan protein. Here's a picture (copyright Linda Long) and the recipe (courtesy of William Morrow Publishers).
If there's any downside of The Conscious Cook for the food allergic community it's two ingredients. Ronnen relies upon cashew cream in many recipes (raw cashews pulsed into a paste that substitutes for cream and cheese etc.) and a faux-meat product Gardein, a mix of soy, wheat and pea proteins. That may knock out many of you – it did me as I’m tree nut allergic and wheat and soy intolerant. However, I still found much that was interesting and useful in The Conscious Cook to play with, new ways of using ingredients or new views of old standbys. If you’re dairy free and have no nut allergies you might love this tome. If you’re a meat eater, have no wheat/soy protein issues, and thinking about going vegan, you may want to check The Conscious Cook out. Or if you’re like me, you may still find much that’s useful here to incorporate into your diet: more veggies, more grains, more legumes. Keep in mind: there’s always room to add more, even for someone with a restricted diet.