Are all vegan chefs from Los Angeles? Perhaps not, but Blissful Bites author Christy Morgan is, and she's bringing her blissed-out, cruelty-free vegan cooking to the Emerald City this week. Her recipes draw on influences from Japanese, Indian, and Mediterranean cooking, with a California sensibility for using fresh, seasonal ingredients.
The book is divided into chapters for breakfast food, appetizers and soups, salads and dressings, side dishes, whole grains, proteins, and desserts. There is even an entire chapter on sea vegetables. Morgan suggests they are an important missing link in a plant-based diet, and has created recipes using nori, wakame, arame, dulse, and kombu, or kelp.
Most recipes in the book are straightforward, and, other than seaweed, use ingredients widely available. Morgan includes a number of items common in the vegan pantry such as nutritional yeast, tempeh, and tofu, but also uses a great deal of nuts to add protein, body, and texture to dishes. Icons label each recipe that is gluten-free, soy-free, raw, low or no oil, or takes less than 45 minutes. Unfortunately, those with nut allergies will find a number of recipes they can't use.
The extensive introductory chapter includes information about basic cooking techniques that beginning cooks will find useful, in addition to advice for meal planning, seasoning, and kitchen tools that even experienced cooks can learn from. There is a lot of language about bliss and how a plant-based diet is better for you and the planet, but Morgan also suggests moderation to readers as they transition to a plant-based diet. She uses a policy she calls, "good, better, best" when it comes to choosing food, and says readers should ask themselves, "Is this the best choice I have at the moment?"
Throughout the book are "blissful suggestions"--little tips for ingredient substitutions, serving suggestions, and recipe variations. Each chapter is further divided into seasons, so if you are looking for a summer salad, you will find recipes for a fruity kale salad that includes jicama, dried coconut, and strawberries with a maple syrup-and-lime dressing. Side dishes for summer include wasabi sweet-potato salad and a Southwest grilled-corn salad. And there are plenty of "anytime" recipes, like an un-tuna salad made with chickpeas and a soba noodle dish with cabbage, kale, tofu, and seaweed.
One thing I found intriguing was Morgan's suggestion that vegetarians and vegans decrease their intake of the members of the allium family to feel lighter and more energetic. Garlic and onions are both known to have heavy energy, or qi, that can weigh you down and tax your digestive system. Morgan says that something that makes you cry when you chop it, makes your breath and body smell funky, and makes you pass gas is sending you a message you should wise and up and listen to. She also suggests eschewing alcohol, caffeine, and sugar, but that's just crazy talk. Or is it?
Author Christy Morgan visits Seattle this week to promote Blissful Bites. She will be at the Columbia City Farmers Market on Wednesday, August 31 from 4-6 p.m. for a cooking demo and book signing. Morgan will also appear at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park on Thursday, September 1 at 7 p.m. for a cooking demo and food sampling.