Does this cookbook make vegan cooking easy and doable for everyone? Yes — if we limit that to everyone who has lots and lots of time to spend in the kitchen.
Ann, who reveals that she eats dairy and seafood in this cookbook, isn't all vegan herself — but she recommends eating more plant-based meals for all. Her restaurants are all veganm with a heavy macrobiotic bent, and "Vegan Family Meals" also reflects that style with rich, well-cooked dishes like Maple-Dijon Tempeh and Vegetable Stew and Lasagna Rolls with Tofu Ricotta and Everyday Tomato Sauce.
I've enjoyed eating these types of dishes as a frequent diner at Real Food Daily. Little did I know how much time and effort creating these dishes takes! The recipes, to the simple cook, are dauntingly involved and time consuming — many requiring dozens of ingredients, multiple components that mandate lots of pre-planning, and a huge variety of kitchen tools I don't even own.
I was excited to see a "Simple Meals" section — but quickly discovered Ann and I have extremely different definitions of simple. Even the simple-sounding One-Pot Vegetables and Tofu with Sesame Rice got complicated quickly. You first have to cook brown rice, then turn it into sesame rice by sauteing with three more ingredients — at which point you can get started on the recipe, which requires 15 more ingredients and a lot of chopping, roll-cutting, coring, slicing, and stemming — not to mention grating ginger into a sheet of cheesecloth to hand-extract ginger juice.
Also, Ann is apparently a huge fan of the oven — the humvee of the kitchen, according to some green cooking experts. Most recipes — including those for the salads! — require turning on the oven. Well, it's very hot in L.A. right now, and my apartment has no air conditioning, so all those oven-happy recipes were out, which left me with few options indeed. Luckily, raw food is also very hot in L.A. right now — so much so that even Ann the oven-friendly, macrobiotic-loving chef dipped her toes into this trend with a few uncooked recipes in "Vegan Family Meals."
So I made Ann's uncooked dishes, starting with the simplest, the Super Vegetable Dinner Smoothie — which still required locating a dozen ingredients but limited the prep to hitting a button on a blender. The result? A rich delicious green soup that balanced the freshness of organic veggies with the sweetness of coconut water and carrots with the savoriness of dulse and miso with the creaminess of avocado.
Feeling bolder, I made the Living Wrap. Having done so, I must warn you again — making these live snacks is frightfully time-consuming! You have to first make a red pepper-sunflower seed spread in a food processor, then whip together a citrus dressing from scratch to toss a green salad with, cut up veggies into stick-like formations, then finally roll everything up in collard wraps! That said, these wraps were so divinely delicious, fresh and flavorful that I hope they'll show up on Real Food Daily's menu soon so I can order them next time.
Want to make these dishes yourself? Keep in mind, these raw delights are not at all representative of "Vegan Family Meals" in general, which focuses largely on heavier, richer, baked-and-roasted vegan meals. If you're looking for cool raw dishes, you're better off buying a good raw cookbook.
But if what you want to do is spend your morning making your own Maple Tempeh Bacon from scratch with the help of a stovetop smoker and oven, your afternoon mashing, shaping together, and cooking Black Bean Veggie Burgers from 18 different ingredients, then an evening caramelizing onions, whipping together a dressing, tossing a salad, and assembling everything in a pretty fashion so you can enjoy Ann's Burger in a Salad with your family for dinner, then "Vegan Family Meals" is for you. "Vegan Family Meals
" is now available in hardcover for $15.
Photos: Siel Ju