by: Chef Mark Thompson
It’s no secret to anyone that knows me that I love books. A lot. Real books – printed books that I can hold, flip through and put on my bookshelves. Old school. No e-books for me. But if thats your thing, don’t let me stop you.
Culinary books are a great resource – for techniques, flavor combinations, ideas and inspiration. Oh, and recipes. There are tons of tomes out there, but these are my personal favorites when it comes to plant-based cooking.
The Vegetarian Flavor Bible
The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity with Vegetables, Fruits, Grains, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds, and More, Based On the Culinary Wisdom of Leading American Chefs
by Karen Page
That’s one heck of a subtitle. But it’s true. This book has been indispensable to me. Hands down the book I use the most often. It was preceded by Culinary Artistry (I bought three copies, because friends kept ‘borrowing’!), then an updated and expanded version was released, The Flavor Bible. This vegetarian version came out in 2014. The bulk of the book is dedicated to ingredient matches and affinities. Want to know what goes with mangoes? It’s there. Really want to know? Everything from almonds to yuzu. Classic and clever pairings garnered from the input of some of the best chefs in America. As well as methods of preparation, seasonality, flavor profiles, sample dish ideas, nutritional profile, botanical relatives and tips. Also, there is a fascinating timeline of vegetarian history, great quotes, information on eating plant-based, menus from top restaurants and more. Learn about it, and buy it here.
The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking
by Michael Ruhlman
A New York Times bestseller, Ratio, like the Flavor Bible, is another book to help break beyond recipes and find a new freedom in cooking. Recipes, of course, are helpful, especially when starting out or experimenting with new cuisines. However, knowing a basic ratio makes cooking easier and more intuitive. For example, a classic vinaigrette is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. Where you go from there is completely up to you (and half the fun!). Oil? The standard is olive. But what about avocado or hazelnut or sesame? Instead of the traditional white wine vinegar, try sherry, raspberry or balsamic. Or go crazy and use lemon juice! It’s your world now. Add in some salt and pepper, it’s that easy. Other common additions would be shallots, dijon mustard and herbs. Just the beginning… There are 32 other ratios with countless variations. While not a vegetarian book, it is incredibly helpful nonetheless.
This book is also available as an app. Which, even given my affinity for books, I will admit is pretty handy. Ruhlman also has a very informative blog, as well as many other great books. I like them all, including the ones having nothing at all to do with cooking. Such as The Elements of Cooking, Ruhlman’s Twenty, The Making of a Chef, House, Walking on Water and Wooden Boats. You can find it all here.
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food
by Mark Bittman
I’ve liked Mark Bittman for some time now. Up until recently he was a columnist with the New York Times, but has since left to work with a vegan startup. He is also an outspoken commentator on our broken food system appearing often on news programs, in documentaries and writing other books like Food Matters. His column, The Minimalist, was known for straightforward, simple recipes. This volume, one of a series, carries on that theme. This is a more traditional cookbook, but a massive one. And while there are over 2,000 recipes, there are also variations and substitutions and techniques to help facilitate spontaneous and seasonal cooking. The recipes run the gamut of soups, salads, breads, desserts, grains and way more. My personal favorite is the section on spices, condiments and sauces. It’s a great way to build up your pantry with natural, homemade goodness, without all the chemicals and superfluous ingredients found in mass market convenience products. With this book, you can make your own pesto, ketchup, eggless mayo, mustard, vegan fish sauce, barbeque sauce and mix your own curry powder, chili powder, garam masala and tons more.
This book is also available as an app, which makes a convenient, searchable, portable companion. Other books I like by Bittman include the aforementioned Food Matters, as well as VB6 and Kitchen Express (not entirely plant-based, but easily customizable). For more information, visit his website here.
CHEFS & RESTAURANTS
Extraordinary Recipes from the Restaurant That is Reinventing Vegan Cuisine
by Tal Ronnen with Scot Jones and Serafina Magnussen
Just know this – Bill Clinton, Paul McCartney and Jay-Z are all fans of Ronnen. So, you don’t really need me to tell you. But I will anyway. This is vegan food taken to the highest level. Primarily Mediterranean, it is beautiful just to peruse, but there is plenty here that you could make at home. The first thing I did was make his simple, but tasty Walnut Parmesan. Some very interesting flavors and a section on basics, with recipes for almond Greek yogurt, cashew cream, vegetable stocks and a demi-glace that is next up on my hit list. He also has another book, The Conscious Cook, which is also worth checking out.
Dirt Candy: A Cookbook
Flavor-forward Food from the Upstart New York City Vegetarian Restaurant
by Amanda Cohen & Ryan Dunlavey with Grady Hendrix
My new favorite cookbook. Funny, clever and filled with great recipes, ideas and techniques. Written in graphic novel form, it is part memoir, a history of her NY restaurant, and a cookbook all in one. Learn the trials of opening a restaurant and how to make Smoked Corn Dumplings or Huitlacoche Cream. What I like most is ideas for components to reinforce and add extra layers of flavor. For example, her recipe for Roasted Carrot Buns also includes a carrot & cucumber salad, carrot hoisin and a carrot halvah garnish to really bring out the carrot flavor in different ways and textures.
The Accidental Vegetarian
Delicious Food Without Meat
By Simon Rimmer
The chef at the Greens, in Manchester, England, Simon Rimmer has put together this tasty collection of dishes that could please anyone, omnivores included. Pulling inspiration from around the globe, there are dishes with Thai, Indian, Japanese, Middle Eastern and Italian influences. Most of the dishes are simple enough even for a weeknight, but there are plenty to impress at your next dinner party as well. Samples include Leek & Potato Rosti, Phyllo Strudel with Port and Eggplant Tikka Masala.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma
A Natural History of Four Meals
by Michael Pollan
Basically an exposé of what it takes to get food on your plate. An attempt to answer the question, “What should we eat?” Delves into the benefits and problems with organic production, fast food, the meat industry, and foraging. A fascinating look into a broken system. The book earned Pollan a James Beard Award. There is also a young readers version available. Also great is In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto and I also enjoyed Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education.
The China Study
Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health
by T. Colin Campbell, PHD and Thomas M. Campbell, MD
An eye-opening look at the effect our diet has on every facet of our health. The book is based on the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted. The main focus is the correlation between animal protein consumption and chronic illnesses. It can be a bit tedious, but the information is incredible. The study is featured in the film Forks Over Knives.
600 Recipes, 1500 Photographs, One Kitchen Education
by James Peterson
Somehow this guy seems to know everything about cooking. I mean, he did teach for seventeen years and write the advanced curriculum for The French Culinary Institute. So there’s that. He also has a degree in chemistry. He’s also written over a dozen books. This is the culmination of all of them, in one convenient package. It won a James Beard Award, as have several of his others. This is not all plant-based cooking, this is all cooking. So if you would be offended at pictures on trussing a veal roast, skip it. If you want to learn how to make concassée, Borscht, grill zucchini, and find out what the heck herbs de Provence is, then this is the book for you.