Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Breathing Some Soul Into My Kitchen

You would think that since I grew up in the South, my formative years were filled with Southern comfort and soul foods. Truth be told I was never a fan of fried chicken, grits, collard greens, or most of the staples of the South. But all of that seems to have changed in the last few years (except for the chicken part, of course), and now I savor the flavors of soul cuisine. So when I was asked to review Vegan Soul Kitchen, a new cookbook by Bryant Terry, I took that chance to breathe a little bit of soul into my kitchen.... and here's what I came up with.

One mandatory recipe to make (for anyone who gets this book) is the one that inspired the book itself; citrus collards with raisins redux. This was my first time cooking collards in my kitchen, and I was worried that the bitterness would be too much for me. Wrong! The burst of citrus and sweetness of the raisins was the perfect compliment to the greens.

Along with the collards, I made whole-grain mustard and cornmeal crusted seitan and sweet cornmeal-coconut butter drop biscuits. The biscuits ended up looking more like cookies, but none of that mattered once you slathered on a little Earth Balance and took a bite... these just melted in my mouth. I also loved the crunch I got from using coarse cornmeal.

Another meal I made was the blackened tofu slabs with succotash salsa. The blackened tofu was quite a hit, and I liked his suggestion of chilling, slicing, and putting it on a salad. The succotash was alright, I don't think it turned out so well because I used both frozen corn and lima beans (fresh is recommended), plus my tomatoes were less than stellar. But during the right season (summer) I think this would really compliment the tofu.
And to round out my review, tonight I whipped up a trio of salads for dinner, including: carrot-cayenne coleslaw, chilled citrus broccoli salad, and roasted red potato salad with parsley-pine nut pesto. The pesto had a very unique flavor, thanks to the addition of miso I am guessing. Next time I would use more red pepper, but this is a potato salad that would certainly please a crowd. The broccoli was also full of flavor, though the citrus wasn't too overpowering. The only unfortunate thing is that the acid in the citrus turned my bright green broccoli into a mucky brown color! The coleslaw wasn't much of a standout, and I didn't end up tasting the cayenne at all. But my cabbage-loving husband still devoured it with pleasure.
Overall, I have really enjoyed the recipes from Vegan Soul Kitchen. Bryant Terry gives us quite a variety of traditional southern recipes, but with a modern twist. The tone in his directions is smooth and relaxed (he actually told me to "massage" my broccoli!). And his soundtrack selection for each dish allows the food to really sing to you in more ways than one (though I didn't have too many of them on my iTunes playlist). Surprisingly, though, I'm not even sure Bryant Terry is a vegan (based on his comments in the introduction... haven't confirmed this!). I guess this is one detail I am willing to overlook, because I sure do like his soul food!


ChocolateCoveredVegan said...

Yum! I saw those pics on facebook and wanted to come right over ;)

LizNoVeggieGirl said...

LOVE that cookbook!!!

Eddie G said...

Holy cow! That all looks fantastic :)

Animal-Friendly said...

Everything looks great! I'm especially intrigued by the cornmeal coconut butter biscuits- YUM!

Anonymous said...

Another collards recipe to try--yay! And the biscuits do look great. Wondering why you think he's not a vegan?

Anonymous said...

You've been busy! Looks gorgeous!

Anonymous said...

oooh, those all look so good! I am very curious about this cookbook.

jb said...

Yum, everything looks so delicious, especially that last picture- so colorful!

Jenni (aka Vegyogini) said...

Oh, my goodness, you're so lucky that Bryant Terry's team sent you a copy of the new book to review! It's been on my Amazon wish list since it was still a pre-order. The food looks wonderful and I can't wait to try some of his recipes myself. I wish they'd sent me a copy, too!

Unknown said...

Mmmmm... I need to come over to your place for dinner! The tofu looked really good!

the little one said...

Thanks for the review. Your comment about whether he's a vegan or not raises some important questions. Should us vegans buy books from folks who are just capitalizing on the market rather than buying books from chefs who are vegan? I'm not taking a position, but I think it is an important question.

Amy said...

Yum! It all looks fantastic! I have so many cookbooks I desperately want from the US but with the exchange rate what it is at the moment they end up costing me a small fortune (that I sadly don't have :(). This one's on my wishlist though!

Melisser; the Urban Housewife said...

I have a copy of this as well! I need to find some time to cook from it, I love soul food!

Virginia said...

i saw that cookbook on amazon a while back and it wasn't available yet. i guess it is out now?? if so, i need to check it out!

Anonymous said...

I am not very familiar with Southern US cuisine, so thank you a lot for this review! Terry's cookbook sounds fantastic and I assume I could learn a lot from it.

Jes said...

Great review! I used to hate southern food, but like you, I've (re)discovered it as I've grown older. I've been eying this book since it came out, but now I think I might "need" it!

Leslie Richman said...

Wow- the dishes you made look great. I like all the citrus twists on traditional foods.

jessy said...

thanks for the cookbook review! i'm gonna have to get this one! they citrus collards with raisins redux look spectacular and sound amazing - and so do those drop biscuits! mmmmmmm! i could use a little more soul in my kitchen, too! yay!

Bert said...

Sounds delicious, I might have to get that book sometime. Right now, still working my way through Veganomicon though... Your photographs are excellent as always!

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allularpunk said...

wow, thanks for that review! i never really know what to think about the non-mainstream vegan cookbooks... (mainstream meaning the isa & terry books, dreena burton, the dolce vegan set, etc) sounds like a pretty decent buy. i still have yet to figure out how to successfully cook greens, so this might teach me!

by the way, your picture of the tofu with the lima bea/corn/tomato stuff is so pretty!

MeloMeals said...

Yum! Everything looks great. I really love adding raisins to bitter greens..

Amey said...

Vegan Noodle!
How is it POSSIBLE that you hadn't cooked collard greens before now?! I think collards are probably my favorite of all greens. I love 'em! I just got this book last week and I have a few meals planned for tonight and this weekend from it. I can't wait. There are quite a few nice looking recipes in there... What fun.

I think it's actually really cool that someone who isn't vegan would take the care to write a vegan cookbook. In the introduction he mentioned Myra Kornfeld and Peter Berley as two of his main inspirations. Those two have written some of my all-time favorite cookbooks, despite the fact than neither of them are vegan either. Definitely Vegan Friendly, though!

Nice pics... now I'll add these to my "to-do" list. I really want to try the blackened tofu, but thought I'd wait for a bit more summery produce at the farmer's market


Anonymous said...

Soul food vegan style? Right on! How exciting to be asked to review this great-sounding book. Oh, and lovely photos, too!

Anonymous said...

Soul food vegan style? Right on! How exciting to be asked to review this great-sounding book. Oh, and lovely photos, too!

miss v said...

sounds yum! i've been privy to bianca's test recipes (@ vegan crunk) and everything sounds good. yum to collards!

Bianca said...

I adore Bryant Terry! I'm reviewing the book for the newspaper I work for next week and then I was gonna throw a review up on my blog (or link to the news story) as well.

My book came in yesterday, and I'm so excited to try this stuff. Bryant is from Memphis originally, so I gotta rep my hometown boy...and you know this type of cuisine is right up my alley.

Also, on the collards...I can't believe you've never cooked collards!!!!

aTxVegn said...

I too am shocked these are your first collards! Lucky you to get asked to review this book. Looks like you picked some good recipes to test. Sometimes vegan food is so ethnic we neglect the good ol' American stuff.

I do want to buy this book. While I prefer vegan cookbooks written by vegans, I have plenty of nonvegan cookbooks that I love.

Jacqueline Meldrum said...

I really like the trio of salads. That really appeals to me. Can I ask what collards are?

River (Wing-It Vegan) said...

They were smart to ask you to review this book, you made it look wonderful! The pictures are stellar and you plated everything so beautifully!

The blackened tofu looks really delicious. I am not having soy for a while and just looking at that picture is painfully tempting!!

A_and_N said...

Great post! The biscuits look really good! Those are my favorite of the lot :) I still dont like grits....too bland for me ;)

Anonymous said...

The collards sound tasty. I never made them before, I was always worried about the bitterness too.

dreaminitvegan said...

Thanks for giving me the push to order this book! Everything you made looks so good! It reminds me of a Soul restaurant down the street where I used to work. Oh so good!

dreaminitvegan said...
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ChocolateCoveredVegan said...

Woah! I didn't even realize it was your photo! Haha I did a google image search and it was the first thing that came up! Honestly, it was so professional-looking I just assumed it was from their own website!

Is it ok if I use the photo? If not, it's TOTALLY ok! I can get one of their website. As usual, your photography skills astound me, Miss Amanda (as do your fondant skills, but I won't even go there...)

Lisa said...

great review! I can't wait to explore this book a little more. Your collards photo is delicious looking.

Nicole said...

Mmmmm, everything you posted looks outrageously tasty!

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Erin said...

Everything you made looks great! Thanks for the review. It seems like fancied-up soul food to me, which could be a good thing.

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