It just makes so much sense for a vegan cookbook to be a practical how-to vegan handbook, and not only that, a basic but comprehensive vegan cookbook.
Nava Atlas has done it with her most recent cookbook, 'Plant Power', which recognizes that many of us going vegan have no idea where to start, and even, in many cases, how to cook for ourselves.
Plant Power deserves to be a best seller. It's one of those books that belong on every vegan cookbook shelf.
If you haven't got a cookbook shelf, or you're not vegan (yet), start with Plant Power, by Nava Atlas. You'll be glad you did!
'Plant Power' Part One draws on Nava's many years of experience first as a vegetarian, then a prolific vegetarian cookbook author, then a vegan and vegan cookbook author, all while married and raising two children. Her family was also vegetarian, and then vegan.
Nava Atlas tells how to be vegan in a simple, practical and compassionate way. She touches on the benefits, the ethics, the environment, shoots down the myths, talks about nutrition and the all-important protein question, all with warmth and wisdom, then gets right down to the food. After all, she is a cookbook author, and that's all about the food!
Nava shares her personal vegan journey, and lays out vegan cooking basics. She covers useful ingredients to keep on hand, with descriptions, buying and storage tips, what you can do with them, meal planning basics and strategies for families (including those of mixed dietary persuasion), couples and singles. Not many cookbooks confront the 'single cook' problem at all, but Nava does, with style and grace.
In Part Two of Plant Power, Nava jumps right into recipes and menus. The first few pages explain the differences between this and regular cookbooks. "Rather than one big catchall chapter of 'main dishes', the following chapters all center on themes around which to build full meals. These define the various styles of plant-based meals and make it easier and more fun to answer that eternal quiestion, "What's for dinner?"
I chose Tempeh and Walnut Soft Taco Filling on Page 245 from Chapter 5, Tortilla Specialties. Nava says, "Call this style of cooking what you will - Tex-Mex, southwestern, Mexican. I call it easy, flexible, and crowd-pleasing." Personally I would have no problem living on tortillas in their various forms.
Nava goes on to explain tortilla based cooking, how it saves time & energy while making everybody happy, bought and home-made options, accompaniments, classic tortilla based recipes, how to choose a good tortilla, followed by several recipes.
Each recipe contains a helpful description, number of servings, a detailed ingredient list, clear and complete directions, nutrition info, and depending on the recipe - notes, variations and menu suggestions referring often to other recipes in the book.
Page 40 through 43 of the Tortilla Specialty Chapter has directions, tips and menu ideas for making quesadillas and soft tacos. Then comes our test recipe, Tempeh and Walnut Soft Taco Filling, with menu suggestions and more ideas for toft tacos.
Following our test recipe is a short section with recipes for fresh tomato salsa, guacamole, vegan sour cream and cashew cream, and more simple recipes that go well with the tortilla specialty recipes. I thought, "How handy is that, right next to the recipes they go with!?", rather than off in in an add-on chapter at the back of the cookbook.
A similar format is used in the followng equally useful chapters: Wraps, Sandwiches and Burgers; More Veggie Love (salad and vegetable entrees and sides); Breakfast, Lunch, Snacks and Healthful Sweets.
The beauty of this approach to cookbook writing is that after reading through each chapter, the reader understands the basic principles, ingredients and cooking techniques behind each broad food category, can put together a variety of meals with each recipe, and easily make up more recipes using available ingredients and personal preferences. That applies to beginning as well as experienced cooks.
All cookbooks should be written like Plant Power - that's what I think, after reading it. It's brilliant!
I thank Nava Atlas whole heartedly for writing Plant Power. I recommend her fantastically useful cookbook for anybody who wants to make tasty vegan food, quickly & easily, without a steep learning curve or busting their budget.