Ann Gentry admits that adopting a vegan diet and eating healthier begins at home. So, despite owning vegan restaurants in Los Angeles, she wants you to stay home and cook for yourself. In Vegan Family Meals, she informs and empowers readers to cook fresh, healthy, flavorful food using only low-fat, low-cholesterol plant-based ingredients.
In the introduction, Gentry explains her own reasons for being vegan (admitting that she eats fish and dairy on rare occasions), and makes an appeal for why you should too. She thankfully doesn't get too preachy about this, though, and instead gets directly to the meat of the matter--vegan food can taste delicious. This makes Vegan Family Meals less about converting you through environmental and health reasons and more about tempting your taste buds. What follows are recipes for delicious dishes like oven-roasted sweet-potato fries, Szechuan noodles, adzuki bean soup, and blueberry corn pancakes.
Throughout Vegan Family Meals, Gentry introduces us to healthy pantry ingredients that include beans, leafy greens, and whole grains. She explains good fats, like coconut oil and avocados, Asian condiments such as umeboshi and miso, and alternative sweeteners like agave nectar. Tips and techniques are sprinkled throughout the book rather than condensed in an introduction or appendix, which makes you want to read this book and seek these little gems of wisdom: how to thicken soups, toast nori, and "green" your kitchen, and advice on equipment such as blenders, parchment paper, and silicone baking pans. Photos throughout are a mix of prepared dishes and techniques for prepping vegetables into matchsticks, half-moons, and roll cuts.
The recipe headnotes and directions are more about educating readers about techniques and nutritional information than about sharing a story about a dish's origins. In smoothies, for example, Gentry explains that soaking the almonds first makes them easier to absorb nutrients and digest. Many ingredients in the recipes are prepared from scratch, including things like nut milk, vegan cheese, and tempeh bacon. When possible, though, there are suggestions for using a canned alternative if fresh isn't available. And Gentry says enough with off-tasting packaged stocks, when plain old tap water (in most instances) works just fine.
Ann Gentry will be in Seattle next month to promote Vegan Family Meals. On Thursday, June 23 she'll be at University Bookstore at 7 p.m. for a reading and book signing. You can also meet Gentry at 3 p.m. that day at a reception in the home of local food blogger Myra Kohn. Send Myra an e-mail to sign up.
Check back tomorrow for Part II of this week's Cooking the Books and a recipe from Vegan Family Meals.