This is a YA blog and these books aren’t YA. I could make the connection to my teen years – that I went vegetarian when I was 15 and vegan when I was 18. I could talk about how much I would have loved these books as a young vegan and how glad I am that vegan teens today have so many more options in restaurants, grocery stores, and on the bookshelves. This is all true, but I also just wanted to highlight these two books because they’re awesome. The recipes are delicious, creative, and easy to follow. The design is eye-catching and informative. These two books are two of my new go-to cookbooks that I’ll be revisiting time and time again in the years to come. I can’t wait to see what my next great recipe is!
Bryant Terry creates amazing cookbooks and delicious flavor combinations. His book Vegan Soul Kitchen is one of my all-time favorites. There are few dishes in my life that I have loved as much as his Cajun-Creole-Spiced Tempeh Pieces with Creamy Grits. But boy do I have a new favorite in Afro-Vegan with his recipe for Texas Caviar. mmmmMMMM. It is fresh and decadent and reason enough to buy this book (though there are plenty of other reasons).
In Afro-Vegan, Terry offers over 100 delicious recipes organized by staple ingredients such as “Grits. Grains. Couscous.”, “Greens. Squashes, Roots.”, and “Okra, Black-Eyed Peas. Watermelon.” Each section’s intro and each recipe’s blurb ties back into the central themes of the cookbook – building community around food and around the table, honoring personal history and food history, and celebrating the food and the people of ancient Africa and the African-diaspora and their contributions to New World cuisine and agricultural practices.
As he does with every book, each recipe comes with a suggested music track. For example, Texas Caviar is paired with Frank Ocean’s “Super Rich Kids”. This recipe is absolutely divine and I feel like a super rich kid when I eat it. Other dishes from Afro-Vegan that I have made and enjoyed include Glazed Carrot Salad and Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Soup. The suggested tracks for these two recipes: “Sweet Bite” by George Duke and “Africaine” by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers.
The Glazed Carrot Salad is a delicious warm carrot salad with cilantro, mint, and peanuts. I’m always excited to find dishes that give me a reason to appreciate the mint that grows like a weed in front of my house. This recipe is a bit time-consuming prep-wise for a side dish, but the resulting dish is beautiful and offers diverse textures and flavors that I appreciate. The Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Soup recipe uses a great trick that I first learned in Vegan Soul Kitchen – soaking cashews and blending them with water to make a nice protein-rich alternative to heavy cream. I made this recipe for Christmas dinner and my non-vegan family members thought the creamed cashews idea was genius and the resulting recipe delicious. They were correct.
The book design is also lovely, with food photography by Paige Green, artwork by Nick James and Keba Konte, and a textured cloth pattern along the spine. I literally pet the book when it showed up at my library and thought to myself “this will look great on my cookbook shelf”. Then remembered that the copy belonged to the library, not me. Oops! I quickly remedied that situation and bought a copy of my own. Doesn’t it look so cozy with its friends?
“If A People’s History Of The United States and Joy of Cooking had a baby, Afro-Vegan would be it!”
—Isa Chandra Moskowitz, author of Veganomicon and Isa Does It
What I love about Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s recipes is that they’re really easy to follow and the resulting dishes are always delicious. What I love about her latest cookbook (in addition to the tasty dishes she introduces) is that almost every recipe is accompanied by a mouth-watering photograph. While the photography doesn’t technically make the recipes any better, aside from offering a reference for what the dish should/could look like, it does help build the excitement for trying out new dishes.
With Afro-Vegan I offered Texas Caviar as the recipe that is reason enough to buy the book. Here I suggest Jerk Sloppy Joes with Coconut Creamed Spinach as the recipe that alone is worth the price of the book purchase. I’ve had several vegan sloppy joes over the past 20 years, but this one is by far the best and I will never go back. The Coconut Creamed Spinach is a delicious addition that I never would have thought to add to a sloppy joe. Other recipes that have become go-to recipes for me in this book are the Meaty Beany Chili and the Cornbread Muffins; both are simple recipes that offer a lot of flavor. Here’s a video of Moskowitz making her Meaty Beany Chili and Cornbread Muffins (the video is by Breville, so she uses their slow-cooker and toaster oven – I use a good old fashioned pot and oven for these recipes at home, but hey, options are always good):
Other recipes that I have tried include Norah’s Lemon-Lemon Cookies and Curried Peanut Sauce Bowl with Tofu & Kale which were both delicious. I’m excited to try out more recipes this summer with all the fresh local produce available! Yum! The only trick is trying to narrow down which recipe to try out next. They all look so good!