Even before I became a vegetarian I was looking for ways to cut back on my meat consumption and try cooking with different foods. Robert and I had adopted Meatless Mondays, but I was often at a loss as to what I should cook besides spaghetti. Then I saw Cherise Grifoni’s The Part-Time Vegan at Barnes and Noble and started thumbing through it. I was surprised; most of the recipes looked easy (a requisite for me) and tasty. So I picked it up.
The first recipe I made was Mexican Spiced Tofu with Cashew Sour Cream. This was for a taco night and was the first time I ever used tofu. I was intimidated at first, thinking that the tofu would be tasteless, but since this recipe called for marinating it before rubbing in spices and baking, it actually came out with a lot of flavor. I was mostly surprised at the cashew sour cream, as I had never tried a replacement dairy food before, homemade or store bought. It had a great sour cream flavor with a nice tang thanks to the addition of apple cider vinegar. The entire recipe called for 11 ingredients, most of them spices, and apart from the 1 ½ hours needed to marinate the tofu and soak the cashews, it took only about 20 minutes to put together.
Since then, I have made many other dishes from this book, most recently a baked eggplant ‘parmesan’, which Robert loved the hell out of. I’m still on the fence about whether I like eggplant (I have a thing about the texture of food and eggplant has an odd texture to me) but I can’t deny that that the flavor in the breadcrumb mixture was great and it gave the eggplant a much needed crunch. Again, the entire recipe had 11 ingredients, most of which I already had on hand and came together very quickly. Although it was funny; this recipe didn’t say what to preheat the oven at so I had to do a quick Google search to see what eggplant parm is commonly cooked at (350 degrees for 25-35 minutes, if you’re wondering 🙂 ). That’s the only omission I’ve seen so far.
The book is organized in a classic fashion, with sections that include breakfasts, tofu dishes, apps, grains and even entire dinner plans. These are not necessarily elegant recipes. You won’t wow anyone with dishes that feature exotic ingredients or hours of prep. They are recipes that can be made at the end of a busy day, with ingredients that are easy to find and usually very affordable and appeal to vegans, vegetarians and omnivores alike. Grifoni’s humor comes through in the intros to the recipes and her directions are clear and concise. I know that in a pinch I can find something quick to make for dinner that will taste good. My favorite recipe is the orange-glazed ‘chicken’ tofu because it tastes just like the orange tofu I get at our local Chinese food restaurant. And I actually know what has gone into it!
I have acquired many vegan cookbooks in the last year, but I will never lose my love for the one that got me started and more comfortable and familiar with vegan cooking. Grifoni has a blog called Your Vegan Zombie, but she hasn’t posted on it in quite some time. I hope she returns to it soon, because I would love to see what she has been up to and what new easy vegan meals she has come up with.