I discovered this book, Great Chefs Cook Vegan, through the Cookies for Cody online bake sale and was so intrigued I had to order it. Not only is it beautiful, it’s completely inspiring and a must-have for any food blogger or serious cook, vegan or not.
If you’re not “into” vegan food, don’t let the title dissuade you, this is seriously beautiful food, elevated to art. The plating and styling will inspire you, even if some recipes might be too involved to ever make at home. It’s easy to see why it won “Best Vegetarian Cookbook in the World Award” from Gourmand International. Linda Long, the author, is graciously providing one copy for a lucky reader. The cover image is a recipe by Thomas Keller of The French Laundry, Purée of Sunchoke Soup with Pickled Red Radishes and Country Bread Croutons.
It’s a fantastic concept. Linda, a food photographer and lifelong vegan, asked 25 top chefs from around the country to provide several of their favorite recipes and photographed them. She has a detailed biography on each chef so you can learn his or her history and perspective on plant-based cuisine. I loved learning more about Marcus Samuelsson, Charlie Trotter, Cat Cora, Jose Andres… it’s a long list of culinary luminaries. I also appreciated how vocal they were about the need to support people’s dietary needs at their restaurants, and hope that more chefs and restaurant owners take heed.
I now understand why fine dining restaurants are so expensive. Each dish has at least three and sometimes five or more components, each with its own recipe. Not only is there a lot of time involved, but having so many ingredients on hand makes the dishes expensive as well.
I tried the Yellow Gazpacho and Ratatouille from Chef David Burke (pictured above). The finished gazpacho was richly flavored although it would have been helpful if they had indicated to puree it without the vinaigrette, as the final soup was overly vinegary. Comparing mine to their photo, I don’t think their version included cilantro, because theirs was straight yellow. I also couldn’t figure out their instructions for straining out the pulp, I ended up with watery juice, which didn’t look like the picture, so I gave up and recombined it. The ratatouille was delicious and I had fun plating it as instructed.
I also made Beet Salad with Red Beet Reduction, Walnut Chutney, Arugula, and Horseradish from Chef Daniel Boulud. That dish has SIX (count ‘em) six components, so I only made five. I nearly burned the beet reduction (after cooking it on too low a flame for an hour, but had enough for the photo). And then I forgot to plate the croutons. I had never used a pastry brush to plate a sauce, so that was fun.
What I liked about the book: I loved the chef bios and learning about their history; seeing their portraits helps make them approachable. The photos are gorgeous, as is the creative and stunning presentation of the dishes. I love how this elevates vegan food way past tofu and seitan. I also enjoyed the glimpse into the kitchens of these phenomenal chefs. I will find inspiration in this book for years to come. Most of the recipes are gluten-free. (If you win the book and are gluten-free, just ask me if you have any questions.) There is an excellent glossary in the back to fill in some of the gaps.
I wasn’t so keen on: how some of the recipes are described and explained. They assume a very high level of knowledge that many home cooks won’t have, and the steps aren’t always described in enough detail for someone not trained in culinary school. For example, I know what “sweat the shallots” means, but I’m guessing that many will not. Because of the multiple components, many of the dishes—as presented—aren’t realistic for a home cook to make, but any one component or sauce would absolutely be worth trying. A few of the recipes require ingredients that a home cook wouldn’t have, like isomalt, Irish moss, black truffles, or fresh fava beans.
But that shouldn’t dissuade you from buying or entering to win this book, as it will completely inspire you! Please note that this is open to residents of Canada. I heard you! SWEEPSTAKES IS NOW CLOSED.
Here is this week’s question:
What is the fanciest meal you have ever eaten? What made it so memorable?
Sweepstakes Official Rules:
By leaving a comment below you are agreeing to the Official Rules, outlined here.
- NO PURCHASE NECESSARY
- Only U.S. and Canadian residents over the age of 18 are eligible to enter.
- Duration: Friday October 12 through Thursday October 18, 2012 at 5 PM Pacific Daylight Time. SWEEPSTAKES IS NOW CLOSED.
- Leave a comment answering the question to enter: What is the fanciest meal you have ever eaten? What made it so memorable? You can receive up to 4 additional entries by doing the following and leaving one comment for each additional item.
1) If you already follow me: Tweet about the sweepstakes. You can tweet up to 4 times on different days for 4 additional entries. (Leave a comment each time.)
- Cookbook is vegan. Some recipes contain gluten and/or sugar.
- The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning.
- Winner will be selected by random number generator within one day of the sweepstakes closing. Winners have 48 hours to respond to their notification email to claim their prize. If they do not respond, another winner will be chosen by random number generator. All prizes will be awarded.
- We are not liable for technical failures or typographical errors, or resolving identity disputes related to the winner.
- We will obtain winners’ name and mailing addresses in the notification email. Once prize(s) have been mailed we will maintain that information for up to one year but will not use it for any other purpose.
- This sweepstakes is sponsored by Recipe Renovator, P.O. Box 34054, San Diego, CA 92163-4054. (619) 365-5065.
VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.
- Prize description: One softcover copy of Great Chefs Cook Vegan, retail value of $24.99.
Here is the book if you want to check it out in more detail: