Sunday, February 13, 2011

New Cookbook Romance: Vegan Fire and Spice

Last week I was thinking about cookbook marriage: the cookbook relationships that last, that stand the test of time, that aren’t so sexy but are oh-so-reliable. But this week I’m thinking about the beginning of the relationship: that first flush of cookbook romance.

You know how it is. A new cookbook enters your life. Maybe you sought it out after reading reviews. Maybe you asked for a recipe after a potluck, and received a glowing review. Maybe the cover art grabbed you as you browsed in your favorite bookstore. Suddenly, you’re hooked.

New cookbooks, like new romances, occupy your time. This week I received Robin Robertson’s Vegan Fire and Spice. This is a book I researched, for two reasons. First, although I’m an omnivore, our family is committed to shifting to a more plant-based diet – Mark Bittman calls this approach “flexitarianism.” Second, I’m at the age where the things I eat have health consequences. Many vegetarian cookbooks rely on cheese and dairy products to replace some of the richness of a meat-based diet – I wanted to learn a different approach.

Like a new romance, new cookbooks expand your horizons. Reading them stimulates new ideas, diversifying – and hopefully improving – your cooking style. Last night I accompanied my family’s favorite meatloaf with a vegan potato salad I wouldn’t have thought of putting together, thanks to Fire and Spice. Robertson’s Veracruz Potato salad includes capers, cilantro and Serrano peppers, and is coated in lime vinaigrette. Of course, new romances, cookbook and real, require compromise, and I played around with the vinaigrette portion of the recipe, knowing what my family likes. And the salad was, indeed, a huge success – I’m already looking forward to the leftovers in my lunchbox on Monday!

I have another meal from this cookbook on the menu tonight: Japanese Soba Noodles. It includes ingredients my family loves, and I’m always trying to expand the grain menu beyond rice and wheat. We’ll see how it goes. Right now, Vegan Fire and Spice looks like it has serious work horse potential. But I also know these things take time to figure out! If the book is showing some wear-and-tear in the next few months, I’ll know this is the beginning of a long-term relationship in the kitchen!

Thanks, as always, to Beth Fish Reads for hosting Weekend Cooking! It's open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.


  1. It's nice you found a book that you can cook from for a long time to come! Like you, I always have to adapt recipes for my family's tastes but that is quite often not a problem - I've got quite adept at it.

  2. I lean toward a plant based diet, but my husband is a carnivore to the core. I'm still trying to convert him. Maybe recipes from a book like this would help me find dishes that would help me sway him.

  3. leeswammes-- The second meal came out well too, but was a bit bland for us -- still a lot of potential in the cookbook, though.

    bermudaonion--Absolutely! My family is totally placated by big flavors, and I think that's what Robertson is going for with this book. My meat-lover husband has loved both of the recipes, so that's a good sign.

  4. If the book as workhorse potential that means it's definitely worth checking out. We eat vegetarian for about half our meals, but not always vegan.

  5. I am really excited to pick up this cookbook - I am a vegetarian and am trying to return back to my vegan ways. I even started a part-time blog on WordPress ( to hold myself loosely accountable with maintaining a vegan habit. When I first switched my eating habits three years ago from an omnivore to a vegan, I noticed an immediate improvement, and I miss that feeling. I started to eat cheese in Italy for my honeymoon a year and a half ago, but I loved being a vegan. I just felt so much better then!

  6. Beth F -- so far I'm optimistic!

    CaaBC -- Good luck. Now that I'm focusing on it, I see there are more possibilities than I thought in vegan cooking. I don't see myself giving up dairy completely, but I certainly have cut down the animal fats by focusing on vegan days :)

  7. I hadn't really thought about having a romance with a new cookbook, but you are right on about that happening.


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