I am so happy to highlight this book on my blog today. Compassionate Cuisine: 125 Plant-Based Recipes from Our Vegan Kitchen by Linda Soper-Kolton and Sara Boan is coming out on May 20th and you can preorder it here! I love this book for so many reasons! It is full of original, easy to make recipes that are full of flavor. It is written by two chefs who know what they are doing and who teach vegan cooking classes at the Catskill Animal Sanctuary. And, not only did I test recipes for the book, but I edited it as well!
If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know I write book reports all the time, which is a good thing because there are a lot of new vegan cookbooks out there. If you haven’t gone out and bought any yet, and you were waiting for the one, this is it. You won’t be disappointed! But, don’t take my word for it. Read this Q and A with Chef Linda, check out three of my favorite recipes from the book – Spiced Zucchini Carrot Bread, Blistered Green Beans with Leeks and Shiitake Crisps, and Stovetop White Bean Cassoulet – and then, click the link above and order the book. I promise, you will love, love, love it!
Q&A with Linda Soper-Kolton
LPV: I love this book! What was the impetus for writing it?
LSK: It makes me so happy to hear that! We’re kind of in love with it, too! The mission of Catskill Animal Sanctuary’s vegan culinary program, Compassionate Cuisine, is to educate and inspire. We teach public cooking classes, write a food blog, and cater events. So many people who’ve tried our food or made our recipes have asked us time and time again, “when are you going to write a cookbook?” And so we finally did it!
But really, the reason for writing the book is to help change hearts and minds. If we can inspire people to try something new that’s made in a way that doesn’t harm animals and is kinder to our planet and bodies, then we feel like we’re doing our job. This isn’t vegan food, it’s just food–food that’s delicious and that happens to be made without animal ingredients. The book also gives people a peek into the magic of Catskill Animal Sanctuary – from the perspective of our food and our animals. Founder and director, Kathy Stevens, wrote beautiful, joyful stories about some of the animals who call this place home, and together with the recipes, we hope more people will become aware of us and why our mission is so vital.
LPV: In the introduction, you specifically say that “references to things like sausages, butter, milk, or meatballs are also vegan in the context of this book…these words belong to us, too.” Why was this important for you to say?
LSK: I feel like we were duped. We learned to eat what our parents and grandparents ate when there wasn’t as much awareness about where our food comes from. You just ate what you were given, what advertisers suggested, what generations before you ate. No one took us into a slaughterhouse to show us where our hamburger came from, not my generation at least. There wasn’t an awareness of the agony that’s involved in the production of eggs or milk. But those words described what we ate. They are familiar because they impart certain tastes, textures, and properties that have become universal. Now that we know better, now that we are evolving as a species, those words should evolve, too. One day, I hope, butter will always be made from cashews, oil, or beans. Sausage, of course, would use wheat or soy, not the flesh of animals. And milk? We won’t be stealing it from mothers, we’ll be using all the wonderful foods like oats, nuts, and rice to make this wonderful beverage. It’s all about evolution. Evolution of humans and the corresponding evolution of our language.
LPV: What you do you hope people will learn from this book?
LSK: There are three things we want people to learn.
1) Even though Chef Sara and I are trained vegan chefs, we have to get dinner on the table every day just like everyone else. We want people to know that eating and cooking can be simple, relaxed, and fun. If you get all stressed out about making a mistake or having to wash some dishes, then you’ve missed the enjoyment that comes from preparing food for yourself and those you love.
2) Vegan food is just food! When I’m asked, “what do vegans eat?” I tell them, almost everything you do! There are more foods in the world that are vegan than not. Our recipes show that most ingredients are accessible and familiar. Our “mac and cheese” recipe, for example, uses chickpeas, potatoes, and carrots! Yes, we have found some interesting ways of creating foods we remember, like using tofu to make ricotta cheese, but the food we use in our recipes can be found at most grocery stores today. That’s a big shift from even a few years ago when it might have been more difficult to find things like nutritional yeast, which we use to create a cheesy flavor in some recipes. In fact, the vegan food market is exploding with fantastic new options for things like burgers, sausage, milk, yogurt, and cheese. While we recommend a whole foods diet, convenience foods have their place, too, and we’re lucky that they taste better than ever.
3) And finally, we hope if people taste how delicious plant-based food can be, they’ll eat more of it and start to make the connection between what they eat and how it matters to how they feel and the future of our planet and its inhabitants. We want people to think about what they eat and not just eat mindlessly.
LPV: What is your recipe development process?
LSK: I’ve always loved food. I think I dream about it! I get excited when I visit a farmer’s market, walk into the produce aisle, or flip through cookbooks and magazines. Creating food that delights, nourishes, and makes people realize you don’t need to eat animals is always my goal. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Some of my favorite dishes are the ones that let the simplicity of the ingredients shine through. I also like to prove that we can do just about anything with plant-based food, so when I’m creating recipes for a class or an event, I want people to say “Wow!” or “I can’t believe it’s vegan!”. I think about a dish that’s traditionally made with animal ingredients and say – ok what is the butter doing here? What do the eggs contribute? How did this chef flavor their steak, fish, or chicken and then I try to figure out how to achieve similar textures and flavors without the animal ingredients. Take the Cuban Jackfruit Sandwich, for example. I saw a movie in which the sandwich was a central theme. It’s generally made with pork, ham, and cheese. I was literally haunted by how much people loved it so I researched the flavors and then tried to find an ingredient that had a similar texture. I understand that some vegans prefer not to be reminded of the animal-versions of many dishes, but when your job is to create vegans, we have to “go there” sometimes and help people realize that yes, you can enjoy similar foods without causing harm. Eating is one of life’s true pleasures and it’s so much better, in my opinion, when it doesn’t hurt animals, the planet, or my body.
LPV: What is your favorite recipe?
LSK: Wow. That’s a tough one! I feel like each one is my baby since we’ve spent so much time together during this process! I can’t wait for people to try them all. I really love the Lentils with Pan-Fried Fennel and Celery Root because it’s so earthy and full of texture and flavor. But I do love the Seaside Summer Rolls, which I could eat every day. The Lentil Meatloaf is a favorite here at home, especially when it’s drenched in Simple Golden Gravy. And Chef Sara’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles and Southern-Style Cheese Ball are both at the top of my list of decadent treats. The funny thing is, I get bored making the same thing more than once or twice, so I’ve moved on and I’m creating all kinds of new recipes for people to enjoy!
Spiced Zucchini Carrot Bread
Makes 1 loaf, about 8 to 10 slices
Chef Linda: Even a summer blight would not deny the zucchini its inalienable right to multiply and barge out of the garden in search of the spotlight: subtlety and humility are not its strongest virtues. To tame it is to strip it of its most notable attribute: abundance. A friendlier approach yields one of the season’s most comforting treats—zucchini bread. This midsummer headliner has no use for eggs or dairy, demonstrating how liberating a compassionate approach to baking can be. Hearty and humble, speckled with shredded carrots, studded with nuts, and moistened with applesauce, this bread is heady with warming spices. Sadly, summer’s bounty will leave no trace in the garden when the seasons change, but an extra loaf of this zucchini carrot bread, tucked away in the freezer, serves as a delightful reminder on winter’s darkest days.
Allergens: Contains gluten and nuts
Special Equipment: Food processor or box grater
Tip: Serve with a “schmear” of artisan vegan cream cheese for a real treat.
1½ cups whole wheat flour
½ cup old-fashioned oats
2 tsps baking powder
2 tsps ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp baking soda
1 medium zucchini, grated, about 1 cup packed
2 large carrots, peeled and grated, about 1 cup
½ cup maple syrup
⅓ cup apple or orange juice
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
2 Tbsps oil
2 tsps vanilla extract
2 tsps fresh lemon juice
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, allspice, and baking soda.
Squeeze excess moisture from zucchini and carrots with your hands or wring them out in a clean dish towel. Add zucchini and carrots to the bowl with the dry ingredients. Toss to combine, coating them with flour and breaking up any clumps.
In a small bowl, combine the syrup, juice, applesauce, oil, vanilla, and lemon juice. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Gently mix until ingredients are almost completely incorporated. Gently stir in nuts.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes. The bread is ready when the top is golden brown, the sides have begun to pull away from the loaf pan, it’s just firm to the touch, and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Leave to cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Slide a knife around the edges and invert on a cutting board or plate to remove the bread. Let cool another 5 to 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Blistered Green Beans with Leeks and Shiitake Crisps
Serves 4 to 6
Chef Linda: Blistered and adorned with buttery leeks and roasted shiitake, these aren’t your average green beans. Bringing out the best in each other, the ingredients harmonize to create a flavorful, textured savory dish. The green beans are cooked quickly on high heat—the charred taste adds a smokiness that marries beautifully with a mess of sautéed leeks and garlic. A hearty splash of balsamic and maple syrup add lively notes. These green beans are simple enough for weeknights and sublime for special occasions.
Make Ahead: Shiitake crisps can be made up to 1 day ahead and stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
½ pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and very thinly sliced
3 Tbsps olive oil
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp smoked paprika, optional
2 Tbsps high-heat oil (like refined coconut, grape seed, avocado, or sunflower)
1½ pounds green beans or haricot verts (a long, thin variety), hard stems trimmed, if necessary
2 leeks, cut in half lengthwise and very thinly sliced, white and light green parts only, about 1½ cups
3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced, about 1 Tbsp
½ tsp salt
2 Tbsps balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp maple syrup
Ground black pepper, to taste
To make the shiitake crisps, preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking tray with parchment. Place sliced mushrooms in a mound on the baking tray. Drizzle with the oil. Toss to coat and arrange in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and paprika. Roast for about 25 minutes, stopping to stir about halfway through cooking time. Mushrooms are done when they are dark brown, almost burnt. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate to cool.
To make the green beans, heat oil over medium-high in a large (12-inch) frying pan; cast iron works very well. Let the oil get hot enough so that a green bean sizzles when added. Working in batches, add enough green beans to cover the bottom of the pan. Let them cook for a several minutes without stirring so that they blacken and blister a little. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes, until green beans are partly charred and mostly crisp, but a little tender to the bite. Transfer green beans to a plate and repeat until all the green beans are cooked.
Add the leeks, garlic, and salt to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are softened and translucent, another 5 minutes. Return all the green beans to the pan and stir in balsamic, syrup, and black pepper. Serve immediately with shiitake crisps on top.
Stovetop White Bean Cassoulet
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Chef Sara: Traditional cassoulet is a slow-cooked French specialty typically containing several types of meat and white beans. In our vegan version, the beans take center stage, and the cooking happens on the stovetop instead of the oven. The finished stew is rich with fresh herbs, chunks of vegetables, and tender beans. Toasted breadcrumbs add crunch to each piping hot bowl of stew.
Allergens: Contains gluten
Special Equipment: Food processor
Tip: For additional texture and flavor, you can stir in sliced vegan sausages during the last 5 minutes of cooking.
2 thick slices stale bread, cut into cubes, about 1½ cups cubes (or 1 cup vegan breadcrumbs)
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsps olive oil
4 medium shallots, chopped, about 1 cup (or 1 medium yellow onion)
3 medium carrots, sliced, about 1½ cups
3 stalks celery, diced, about 1½ cups
6 cloves garlic, minced, about 2 Tbsps
1 pound brown button mushrooms, halved and thickly sliced, about 4 cups
3 medium red potatoes, cut into ½-inch pieces, about 1¼ cups
2 (13.5- 15.5 ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (or 3 cups cooked)
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
3 cups vegetable broth
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme (or 1½ tsps dried)
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp dried)
1 tsp dried Herbes de Provence
½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup fresh parsley, leaves only, chopped
To make the toasted breadcrumbs, place the bread cubes in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer to a medium pan, drizzle with olive oil, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the breadcrumbs are lightly browned. Place the finished breadcrumbs in a bowl and set aside until needed.
To make the cassoulet, heat the oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, carrots, celery, and a pinch of salt, and cook until the vegetables are beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms, and cook for an additional 5 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant and the mushrooms have released their liquid.
Add the potatoes, beans, canned tomatoes, broth, herbs, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower to heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and allow to cook gently for 30 to 40 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Just before serving, stir in the fresh parsley.
The cassoulet will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days. Cooled portions can be frozen for up to three months.
Excerpted from Compassionate Cuisine: 125 Plant-Based Recipes from Our Vegan Kitchen by Linda Soper-Kolton and Sara Boan, with permission from Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. Copyright 2019 by Catskill Animal Sanctuary. Photographs by Alexandra Shytsman.