The first time I really got turned on to "bowls" was during a trip to Portland, OR. I'm sure most of you already know, but just in case... a "bowl" isn't just the bowl itself - it's a complete meal all in one bowl: usually grains, veggies, proteins, and some sort of cohesive sauce. Portland is really the vegan bowl capitol of the world, and there are so many great choices there. Ever since my first "bowl" experience, I was ready for more... but it's not really a phenomena around here where I live. I make some pretty successful bowls of my own -- but when I heard that my internet-friend Zsu Denver was going to be writing a whole book of Vegan Bowl recipes, I knew I wanted to be in on that action!
I received a copy for review, and was asked to participate in the Official "Vegan Bowls" Blog Tour... huzzah! Plus, I'll have a copy to giveaway to a reader here in the United States (at the end of my post). I usually make at least 5 dishes from a cookbook before reviewing it... but I just got home from my trip to NYC and I only had time to make 3 recipes. No worries though, because they were all good solid recipes and I don't have any doubts about this book.
Hungarian Seitan Salad Bowl from the "Salad Bowls" chapter
I think Zsu's heritage is Hungarian, and there are quite a few Hungarian or Hungarian-inspired dishes in this book, which is pretty cool. I had some store-bought seitan in my fridge, so I saved time by using that, though I would like very much to try Zsu's recipe (in the book) for "Slow-Simmered Seitan." This salad had 4 components: the dressing, the potatoes, the seasoned seitan strips, and the salad veggies. Still, it came together quite quickly, because it was easy to make the dressing and the seitan while the potatoes were simmering. I especially loved the super garlic & paprika blast in the seasoning mix for the seitan, and I also loved that the dressing had caramelized onions in it. With the addition of the potatoes and seitan, this was a really filling lunch that felt healthy and nourishing.
Braised Greek Kabocha Squash Bowl from the "Sauteed Bowls" Chapter
Mmmmmm. I can be a bit sentimental about saying farewell to the summertime produce, but Kabocha squash helps heal my spirits. I love it so much. This bowl had 4 components: quinoa, roasted squash, seasoning mix (with onion, garlic, fresh & dried herbs - yum!), and the veggie braise. A proper bowl should have multiple elements, in my opinion, and I appreciate that the preparation times can overlap for a satisfying meal without too much time required in the kitchen. We both really enjoyed this dinner - the velvety bite of the roasted kabocha cubes were a great contrast to the cooked quinoa texture, and the combination of light and hearty flavors was perfect. I'd definitely make this again!
Oh yeah! This veganized version of a Vietnamese salad bowl was a total homerun. We both absolutely loved its combination of heat (from sambal oelek) and bright citrus (from the lime juice) flavors - plus it's packed with flavorful and aromatic fresh herbs, crisp napa cabbage, crunchy peanuts, and toothsome tempeh chunks. I can't wait to make this again. It came together quickly and was completely devoured by both of us. The recipe said "serves 4" but we had it alone for dinner, and it served us two hungry piggies just fine. Ha ha.
Over-all thoughts about "Vegan Bowls":
This book has many different chapters: Grain Bowls, Sauteed Bowls, Pasta Bowls, Grilled Bowls, Salad Bowls, Soup Bowls, Breakfast Bowls (and a Basics chapter)... so you can basically live off bowls morning, noon, and night.
The design of the book is very user-friendly: One page per recipe (no turning the page to continue the recipe); All the ingredients are in a column on the left, and sorted by component (example: All the ingredients for the dressing are grouped together, then all the ingredients for the veggie component are grouped together); Clear and well-organized lay-out of instructions; "Quick tips" are offered to help streamline the preparation process.
Recipes are marked if they are soy-free or gluten-free (or if such options are provided - there are a lot of recipes for both of these dietary needs!). Many, but not all recipes feature beautiful color pictures.
I found the instructions all to be very clear, easy to follow, and didn't have any moments where my experience in the kitchen was not matching up with the directions in the recipes. I love that!
Here are a few of the recipes I have bookmarked to try:
Whole Wheat Parker House Rolls
Braised Butternut Bowl with Sage and Chard
Sausage-style Tofu Bowl with Squash and Potatoes
Green & White Chili Bowl
Hearty Sambal Bowl
Ful Medames Breakfast Bowl
and many more!
Soooo... if reading this review has put you in the mood to cook up some homemade bowls of your own, you're in luck! The publisher has offered one copy of Vegan Bowls to a lucky winner (open to readers in the United States only). To enter, please leave a comment on this post, and tell me about your favorite bowl recipe or even just your favorite actual bowl in your kitchen shelves. I really like bowls and I have far, far too many. I'll pick a winner one week from today, on Thursday Oct 15th!