28 January 2023

Fake Meat by Isa Chandra Moskowitz (Weekend Cooking)

cover of cookbook showing a vegetarian "steak" with the title and author surrounding itHappy Saturday! Last week Mr. BFR had dental surgery, which meant a week of soft(ish) foods. I made mac 'n' cheese, soup, an oven-baked tofu, and other easy to chew dishes. Fortunately, the surgery went well, and the only restrictions he has for the next few weeks are no seeds, nuts, or crunchy foods. I can work around that.

This week I'm talking about Fake Meat by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, a cookbook I received as a member of the Abrams Dinner Party. Spoiler alert: to be honest, this cookbook was a bit of a challenge for me.

The first thing to know about this cookbook is that title and cover photo of Fake Meat are a bit misleading. Moskowitz's recipes are meant to mimic a typical American omnivore diet, rather than rely on store-bought vegetarian meat products.

Inside Fake Meat, you'll find vegan, home-made versions of bacon, meatloaf, fried chicken, beef stew, fried eggs, and even lox. Moskowitz goes the distance and provides recipes for all the extras you'll need to make the meal complete, such as vegan versions of sour cream, ranch dressing, puff pastry, and Parmesan cheese.

Fake Meat is a cookbook specifically geared to people who are vegan but still want to enjoy the foods they likely grew up with. You'll find the expected veggie burger, but did you know you could make vegan lobster rolls? The recipe is based on parsnips. The schnitzel recipe uses cauliflower steaks, and the pork chops are really homemade seitan.

Vegans will be familiar with most of the ingredients needed for the recipes in Fake Meat, such as nuts, kala namak, tempeh, TVP, jackfruit, and agar-agar. Even the more unusual ingredients will be easy to find, such as beet powder and pea protein.

A photo of vegan club sandwichI made the mushroom bacon (see recipe below) and the dilly chickpea egg salad. I also marked a couple others to try, like the lox made from carrot strips.

Here are my thoughts on the bacon. I've always had trouble crisping things up in my oven--for example, I can't make crispy chickpeas and my oven-dried tomatoes never really dry--so I'm not sure why I thought I'd end up with dry and crispy mushrooms. In any case, the baked mushrooms tasted vaguely bacony but wouldn't fool a meat eater. On the other hand, fake bacon is a handy trick: put it out on a baked-potato bar for your vegan friends. If I make this recipe again, I'll use my air-fryer.

The fake egg salad was tasty and easy to make. The dish gets its eggy flavor from the kala namak (an Indian salt), which can also be used in tofu dishes and (so I've been told) even on fruit (?). My general conclusion was this: I have recipes for a bunch of chickpea salads, and the Fake Meat version, though good, is not likely to be my go-to.

Note too that both dishes were on the salty side for our tastes. If I made either again, I'd start with half the called-for salt.

Recommendation: Fake Meat by Isa Chandra Moskowitz would be a good choice for vegans who crave hearty, classic dishes. I bet people who keep kosher and those who have dairy issues will find a few tricks and tips for broadening their range of dishes. I, however, don't see myself reaching for this cookbook. When I want a vegetarian meal (I'm an omnivore), I'm looking for recipes that put vegetables on center stage. If I'm craving a meat dish, then I make meat. If you're at all curious about this cookbook, I suggest checking it out of the library before buying it.

Pantry Mushroom Bacon
Photo of dried mushroom "bacon" on a white backgroundMakes 1 cup

  • 1 (16 oz) package sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons liquid smoke
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
Toss the mushrooms with the olive oil and salt in a medium bowl. Let sit for 1 hour until they release their juices.

Preheat the oven to 350F (175C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Drain the mushrooms of excess liquid in a colander and return them to the mixing bowl. Sprinkle with liquid smoke and toss to coat.

Transfer the mushrooms to the prepared baking sheet and spread out in a single layer. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring the mushrooms halfway through. Remove from the oven and lower the temperature to 325F (165C).

Sprinkle the mushrooms with nutritional yeast and use a thin spatula to toss and coat. Bake for another 15 minutes. The mushrooms should be crispy and firm.

Let cool on the baking sheet before using. They can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Note: The recipe and scans are used in the context of a review; all rights remain with the original copyright holders.

Shared with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader (and Baker)


Tina 1/28/23, 9:27 AM  

We are big fans of mushrooms so I like the recipe you posted. Interesting book.
Thanks for the good wishes about the helath stuff. I can lower cholesterol by getting ore exercise for sure!

Melynda@Scratch Made Food! 1/28/23, 9:55 AM  

Great review! I have read a few books like this one and came away with similar thoughts. Later thinking I might have been too harsh. So I appreciate your straightforward info and personal likes, regarding food choices!

Jackie McGuinness 1/28/23, 11:52 AM  

This has been popping up on several sites recently. I am also put off by the cover.
The mushrooms are an interesting idea. No thanks to the eggs.

Vicki 1/28/23, 9:07 PM  

I'm not a mushroom lover at all. That sandwich does look good. Glad your husband's surgery went well!

Marg 1/28/23, 9:31 PM  

This would not even get a look in at our house at this point in time.
Glad Mr BFR has recovered well from his procedure!

gluten Free A_Z Blog 2/1/23, 9:09 PM  

It defiantly sounds interesting to me as a vegan! I do sometimes like to eat something I can bite into . I'll have to check it out

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