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Unlike many cookbook authors, Isa doesn't have childhood memories of generations of her family gathering in a big kitchen, cooking ethnic dishes for hours in preparation for Sunday dinner. Instead, she is the product of convenience foods, and only after deciding to become a vegetarian did she learn to cook, relying on cookbooks, spunk, and some help from her mother and sister.
Because she's a city gal, Isa's recipes can all be made in cramped urban kitchens, on old appliances, and with little counter space. In fact, the focus of Isa Does It is to show how easy it can be to put together healthful meals without breaking the bank, needing tons of fancy equipment, and taking more than 30 minutes of cooking time.
The pastel color scheme, fun fonts, and cute line drawings found throughout the book seem to reflect Isa's easygoing, open personality. But after looking at the gorgeous photographs and reading the informative recipe introductions and notes, you can tell this cookbook offers seriously good advice on how to create delicious meals.
Isa believes that anyone can cook and bake vegan, and she offers chapters full of tips and tricks, techniques and tools as well as solid pantry advice. There are almost no "weirdo" ingredients, and when she calls for one, she makes sure to provide an alternative. Although a good number of recipes use tofu or tempeh, many recipes are soy-free. In addition, Isa doesn't use fake, store-bought meats. If she wants to replicate a specific texture or flavor, she does it using simple ingredients, sometimes building on a soy product, but not always.
Isa Does It starts with soups, which are some of the easiest dishes to make. It's also the chapter I'm likely to use most often. Her salads are beautiful to look at, go together in a snap, and are extremely versatile. Try a greens and roasted vegetable salad as a main dish or bring a grain or pasta salad to a picnic or pot luck. I was in awe of the great variety of veggie burgers, wraps, and tacos. No need to be bored eating the same old bean burger for every cookout.
True to her roots in a small kitchen, Isa includes chapters of fabulous one-dish meals, including stews, chilis, curries, stir-fries, and oven dishes. There's a world of flavors here, from French to Indian, Mexican, and Italian. I love her tricks, such as creating creamy dairy-free sauces for a vegan mac and cheese and roasting tempeh for a hearty Belgian stew. I was also happy to see that her directions are direct, clear, and well thought out, making it easy for any level cook to create healthful and flavorful meals.
Whether you're a full-time vegan or a once-in-a-while vegetarian, Isa Does It is likely to become one of your favorite cookbooks. Boring hippie food and ultra-fussy New Age gourmet recipes need not apply; Isa is all about weeknight eating for real people who don't have time to spend hours shopping and cooking.
Instead of sharing just one recipe, I decided to direct you to Isa's fabulous blog, Post Punk Kitchen, where you can find all kinds of dishes to try, from breakfast to dessert. Don't miss the fun, spooky Halloween treats and videos that she posted this month.
Note on the photos: The photos were scanned from the cookbook. The Babushka Borscht is from page 40 and the Everyday Pad Thai is from page 178. The photographer is Vanessa Rees, and all rights are as stated on the copyright page of the cookbook.
Hachette Book Group / Little, Brown & Co., 2013
Source: Review (see review policy)
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