Book Report: The Happy Vegan

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Russell Simmons has done it again. Just like in Success Through Stillness, in which he distilled the practices of meditation into simple and easy to understand steps that anyone can follow, in The Happy Vegan Russells distills veganism into three easily digestible (pardon the pun) parts: compassion, health and the environment.

I have read a lot of books on the topic of veganism – you can see a list here. Some are about health and some about the animals. Some tie a bunch of topics together but none are as comprehensive at this book. Russell takes the three reasons why it is important to be vegan – for our own health, for the health and welfare of the animals and for the environment – and writes about them in a way that is not judgmental or harsh. He says it like it is and doesn’t mince words.

Russell describes the horrifying conditions in which animals are raised, how terrible it is for them, how terrible it is for the humans who work in those places and for those that eat them. He plaintively asks why anyone would want to eat any of the sh*t that comes out of these so-called farms or CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). Great question.

The most profound aspect of Russell’s argument is how much slavery and the current situation that is considered animal agriculture have in common. It is a startling and brilliant comparison and needs to be understood – where certain food traditions come from, how the animals are treated and how much what has happened in the past influences how we think today.

We will never truly be free as humans if we continue to enslave and eat animals. Russell has done his part to educate people. This book is being release on Tuesday. Please read it and share with everyone you know. It is truly a game changer.

Book Report: Vedge: 100 Plates Large and Small That Redefine Vegetable Cooking (+ Bonus Recipe!)

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You have heard of Vedge, yes? The famous vegetable in Philadelphia has been named one of the best restaurants in the land. Not the best vegetarian/vegan restaurant. The best restaurant. Period. I have not been to the actual restaurant yet (soon, I hope!) but I was able to get my hot little hands on a copy of the cookbook so I could play at home.

What a treasure trove of vegetable recipes! The main idea of the book is that vegetables are the main idea. Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby have come up with clever ways to incorporate flavorful seasonings and sauces to complement the vegetable at the center of the recipe.

The book covers the basics, including stock and seasonings, small bites, and soups and stews. There is a section called “the dirt list” that includes tons of great appetizer ideas and a section called “plates “aka mains”” which are more main dish ideas ideas.

Of course there is a chapter that covers desserts including pies, ice creams, and puddings that are at once clever and elegant. To round out the book, Landau and Jacoby offer recipes for breads and cocktails.

There is a lot of roasting going on and a lot of vegan mayo based sauces. There are some ingredients I have never heard of and probably won’t ever cook with but overall the book is easy to read, fun to look at, and inspiring. I have already made a few recipes and look forward to making more.

I was able to get permission from the publisher to reprint this recipe using one of my all time favorite ingredients: hearts of palm. Enjoy!

Vedge.Hearts of Palm Cakes

Hearts of Palm Cakes on Curried Lentils

Hearts of palm are unsung heros in the vegetable world. Vedge’s hearts of palm hail from the Wailea Agricultural Group on the big island of Hawaii. Sustainably farmed and flown to us each week, fresh hearts of palm have a flavor and texture that can’t be beat. Their crunchy, clean-tasting white flesh is reminiscent of a fresh artichoke heart. If you don’t have a small tropical farm filling your produce orders on a weekly basis, canned or jarred hearts of palm make for a very good runner-up.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced green bell pepper
2 tablespoons minced scallions, white and light green parts only
One 16-ounce can hearts of palm, drained, cut into 2-inch chunks
4 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup minced onions
4 cups Vegetable Stock
1 cup dried yellow or red lentils, picked through and rinsed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup vegan mayo

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the bell peppers and scallions and cook, stirring, until brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the hearts of palm chunks, 2 teaspoons of the curry powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning, then transfer the mixture to a large bowl and let cool. Pulse the mixture in a food processor to achieve a coarse, shredded consistency. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saucepan over high heat. When the oil begins to ripple, add the onions and cook, stirring, until brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons curry powder and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Add the stock and lentils. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the lentils are tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and the cilantro. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

Fold the vegan mayo into the cooled hearts of palm mixture. Form the mixture into four balls. Transfer the balls to a sheet pan, flatten them into round cakes about 2 inches thick, and bake until the edges turn brown, 6 to 8 minutes.

To serve, spoon the lentils onto four plates and place one hearts of palm cake on top of each portion.

Recipe from Vedge: 100 Plates Large and Small That Redefine Vegetable Cooking, copyright © Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby, 2013. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold.

Image from Michael Spain-Smith.