Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cooking with Dino

I remember when I first started discovering all these great vegan sites on the web and I started lurking in the Vegan Freak forums. There was a guy over there named Dino who would rail against poorly-prepared vegan food and post his own great imaginative recipes. Since then I've enjoyed checking in on the forums from time to time to see what Dino's cooking, and also listening to his segments on the Vegan Freak podcast. Now he's sharing his passion for food in his new cookbook, Alternative Vegan. This is more of a cookbook that you sit down and read, rather than just a collection of recipes. Though it's a great collection of recipes too, many of them Indian-inspired, from basic soups and one pot meals to more elaborate concoctions. Oh, and if you're not familiar with Dino, he eschews all so-called "omni-subs" (meat & dairy substitutes), even things like tofu, tempeh or soymilk. Personally I don't have a problem with these things but I like that there's a cookbook out there that tries to get you out of that box.

It's pretty simple, but the first recipe I tried was the Basic Kale Soup. Sounded good-for-you I guess, but it was quite yummy too. The thing about this book is that Dino really wants you to use his recipes as a guide and then go your own way with them. Many recipes have a lengthy list of suggested variations at the end, from which you can pick and choose. And if you go for something that's not on the list, so much the better. For this soup I generally followed the basic recipe (cumin seeds, onion, garlic, salt & pepper, water, kale, parsley), and I added a couple of the suggested variations (kidney beans and potatoes), along with a couple of my own variations (beet greens and tomatoes). The result was a hearty, tasty and good-for-you soup.

Next up was something from the "More Complex" section - Split Pea Croquettes. Although these turned out to be super-easy to make (and super-delicious to eat!). The story preceding the recipe tells you that these are sort of Dino's variation on falafel. All you do is soak a cup of split peas in water overnight, drain the water, then grind 'em up in a food processor. Add salt and a small amount of minced vegetables (cabbage, carrots, onions and garlic), form into patties and fry in oil. The whole idea sounded intriguing but I was a little unsure about how it would come out. I tasted a bit of the batter for seasoning and it wasn't very appetizing but after frying the patties in peanut oil until they were nice and brown it was a whole different story. Crispy on the outside and soft but not mushy-soft on the inside - perfect! Especially when served with some kicked-up ketchup (that would be ketchup and hot sauce). Oh, and more kale and some carrot sticks on the side.

Alternative Vegan is not your average everyday cookbook but I'm glad we've added it to our collection.

12 comments:

Mihl said...

Thank you so much for the review. The next time I order some books this will definitely on the list too!

Cherie said...

Those croquettes look really good!

the pleasantly plump vegan said...

Dino's style of cooking/writing sounds like how i like to cook. i'll have to check that out.
the split pea croquettes are just the perect color! nice job!

Veg-a-Nut said...

Cool sounding cookbook. I just made blackeye pea croquette and loved them. I think I would love the split pea version too! Thanks for the great review on this new kind of vegan cookbook.

Rural Vegan said...

I've heard so many good things about Dino's cooking. I will definitely have to add his book to my wishlist.

VeggieGirl said...

Mmm, the Basic Kale Soup sounds great - I like the addition of the kidney beans, and your own use of the beet-greens and tomatoes. The Croquettes look delicious as well!! yum!!

Thank you for posting about the "Alternative Vegan" cookbook - definitely sounds like it's worthy of my ever-expanding cookbook collection!

madeinalaska said...

hey Chris.. he has a blog.. http://altveg.blogspot.com/
I have been reading and well, I guess I will have to put yet another cookbook on my wish list. I love to read cookbooks-soo this one sounds right up my alley.

bazu said...

the soup and the falafels sound great! I love cooking that way (natural, whole foods, lots of beans and veggies), but you'll have to pry tofu and especially tempeh out of my cold dead hands!

bazu said...

ooops, I don't know why I called the croquets falafels...!

aTxVegn said...

I've had that cookbook on my wish list. It's nice to see a good review with photographic proof of winning recipes!

Vegan_Noodle said...

Great review! I love listening to Dino on VFR...maybe I should invest in his alternative cookbook!

Tofu Mom (AKA Tofu-n-Sprouts) said...

I LOVE Dino's recipes and his writing style too. I don't have his cookbook yet but follow his blog and have dropped lots of hints for the book for Christmas.

Oh, congrats on the mention in VegTimes too...