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Vegan Cooking For Carnivores, Roberto Martin (Hatchette Book Group, 2012)

Vegan Cooking For Carnivores by Roberto Martin - review by

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My wife and I have had this wonderful cookbook on our shelf for several years.  The first time we used it was to make the La Bête Noir (The Black Beast) for a significant birthday celebration.  It is still the most outrageously delicious chocolate cake we have ever had.  We recently made it again last year for a Christmas celebration and everyone was amazed by the flavor of “the Beast”.  Be forewarned, it is the richest chocolate dessert you may ever eat – and it’s flourless!

Roberto Martin has been the personal chef for Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi.  He came from a traditionally trained background to become their vegan chef.  As Portia says, “Roberto “does not cook vegan food, he makes food vegan”.  It is that subtle difference that enhances this book.  The pictures are beautiful, leaving one wondering if the foods taste as good as they look.  They do!

We made a variety of recipes, each unique.  Our favorites were the Blackened Tofu Caesar Salad, though I chose to bake the tofu instead of fry it and to dice the tofu into bite size pieces before coating it with the blackening spice.  This allowed the flavors to permeate more of the tofu. The Caesar dressing is easy to make and has excellent flavor.

The Spicy Noodle Salad was excellent as well, though we toned down the Sriracha sauce as more can always be added when serving.  The flavors were distinctive and made the dish very appealing whether served hot or cold.  Another dish that we tried and loved was Baby Bok Choy with Crispy Tofu and Sprouted Brown Rice.  Baby bok choy has a soft flavor, interesting texture and brilliant color and combining it with shiitake mushrooms, bell peppers and scallions made for a great taste overall presentation.

Another of my favorite recipes from this book is the Tofu Crab Cakes with Simple Slaw and Crab Cake Sauce.  The small crab cakes bring to mind crab cakes that I have not had in years since growing up on the east coast.  They are easy to make and when resting atop a good sized serving of the slaw are great as an appetizer.  Serve a couple of the cakes and a larger slaw serving for an entrée capacity.  We loved these whether freshly cooked, or warmed a day or two later.

Roberto’s book has a few advanced recipes (such as La Bête Noir), but most are fast, tasty and crowd pleasing.  I recommend this cookbook for novice and veteran vegan cooks alike.

Glenn McCarthy (4/24/15)

Tofu Crab Cakes with Simple Slaw and Crab Cake Sauce

Vegan Cooking for Carnivores by Roberto Martin p 67

Simple Slaw

  • ¼ green cabbage, shredded
  • ½ tsp. onion powder
  • 1 fat carrot, peeled & grated
  • ½ bunch scallions, green parts only cut on bias
  • 1 T vegan mayonnaise +
  • Kosher salt and fresh pepper to taste

+ I used a ½ cup of mayonnaise as we like food “saucy”

Mix first 5 ingredients in a bowl, 30-60 minutes before you want to eat.  Salt and pepper to taste

Crab Cakes

  • One 14 oz. container of firm tofu
  • 2 T toasted Nori
  • 2 T plus 2 tsp. high-heat oil  (or more or use water or broth to saute)
  • 1 T Old Bay Seasoning
  • 6 med celery stalks minced
  • ½ C plus 2 C panko bread crumbs
  • ½ bunch of green onions, minced
  • ½ C vegan mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder

Vegan tartar sauce

Start by draining and pressing the tofu.  Next, press the tofu through a potato ricer or roughly chop it and then pulse it in a food processor fitted with the steel blade until minced, but not pureed.  Set aside,

Heat a medium sauce pan over high heat.  Add the oil, if using (I use water).  Add the celery and scallions and cook until the celery has softened.  Allow the vegetables to cool slightly.  Mix the tofu and celery mixture in a medium bowl.  Fold in the garlic powder and nori, Old Bay Seasoning, ½ C of bread crumbs and mayonnaise.

Place the remaining 2 C of bread crumbs in a pie pan or shallow bowl and set aside.  Shape a heaping tablespoon of the mixture into a small disk and gently press both sides in bread crumbs.  Place the uncooked tofu crab cakes on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Heat a large nonstick sauté pan over high heat, add a table spoon of oil.  When the oil shimmers, place a tofu crab cake in pan and cook until brown, but not crispy.  Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to absorb excess oil.  Repeat until all the crab cakes are cooked.

I did not want the oil inherent in frying these.  I placed the crab cakes on the parchment paper lined baking pan and preheated the oven to 400 degrees.  I baked them for 25 minutes, until they were browning on the top.

On an appetizer platter, place each crab cake over a small mound of the slaw, add a dollop of tartar sauce to each cake.  Enjoy!