Soul Food Remixed: Vegan Soul Kitchen

March 26, 2009

Cookbook Review:
Mmmm, soul food! Tender collard greens, macaroni and cheese, crispy fried chicken, candied yams, red velvet cake – are these just a few of the items that come to mind? If you’re a grandma’s-home-cookin’-wouldn’t-have-it-any-other-way-eatin’ soul, get ready for a new experience and a remix of old favorites to add to your recipe collection.

If you’re a no-meat-no-animal-products-eatin’-gave-up-pork-a-long-time-ago soul you’ll feel right at home in Bryant Terry’s Vegan Soul Kitchen. Bryant Terry, an Eco-chef and food justice activist originally from Memphis, TN, has offered us all in Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy and Creative African-American Cuisine, a different take on soul food that is familiar, yet new and especially tasty.

At this point in the post, I know I already have the vegans and vegetarians hooked, but if you’re still skeptical or scared off by the word “vegan” (as I’ve discovered that many people are), trust me – read on. You eat vegan food all the time without even realizing it (a handful of grapes, spinach sautéed in olive oil, tea, and even french fries).

Vegan simply means food that is free of animal products, including meat, seafood, dairy, eggs and honey. While I’m not vegan or even vegetarian, I eat that way often. And just how many of my recipes can be adapted for the vegan or vegetarian, Bryant encourages folks to make his recipes work for you and add meat or dairy if that’s what you need. In his words, “freestyle and be creative.” 

Image 1: Close up image of collard greens on a white plate; Image 2: Close up image of collard greens and part of bbq tempeh on focaccia bread

African-American cuisine has always been creative, often times out of necessity (eg. chitterlings, pig feet, etc.). According to Bryant and contrary to popular belief, our cuisine has also traditionally been full of healthy, fresh foods such as home-grown fruits and vegetables. “This book is about the creative use of nutrient-dense vegetables, fresh fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes that make some bangin’ dishes,” Bryant writes.

As with all of my cookbook reviews, I tried out several of the recipes myself before coming online to sing the praises of Vegan Soul Kitchen (VSK). Cooking from these recipes was fun and educational. The Citrus Collards with Raisins Redux were really delicious and proof that you don’t have to simmer your collards for two to three hours with a ham hock or smoked turkey leg in order for them to taste good. I will definitely be making these on a regular basis.

The Open-Faced BBQ Tempeh Sandwich with Carrot-Cayenne Coleslaw was also pretty tasty. It was my first time cooking tempeh, a fermented soybean patty that can be sliced, diced, marinated, grilled, baked, etc. The tempeh strips marinated in a homemade BBQ sauce and served over focaccia bread was filling and I can see myself using the marinade for chicken as well. I also enjoyed the Green Beans with Roasted Shallots and Walnuts, and the Black-Eyed Pea Fritters with Hot Pepper Sauce (aka homemade hot sauce).

Image 1: Glass pitcher of lavender lemonade (pink) with a pile of lavendar buds and a lemon in front; Image 2: Open VSK cookbook

Bryant also includes many beverage recipes in VSK, which I really like. I made the Orange-Orange Pekoe Tea sweetened with agave nectar and the Lavender Lemonade. I loved the Lavender Lemonade! Are you familiar with Pink Lemonade? I remember drinking it in the past and never thinking that it was probably colored with some kind of synthetic food dye. Well here’s your answer for an all-natural pink lemonade that’s easy to make. The lavender water made from steeping lavender buds gives the lemonade its color. Of course culinary lavender isn’t easily found just anywhere but since I pick up interesting ingredients when I come across them, I actually had some culinary lavender in my cabinet. You can purchase lavender online or in specialty spice shops.

Pricy and unfamiliar ingredients for the vegan novice are the only real caveats I have about VSK, but with a little time and Bryant’s helpful tips included in the book, you’ll learn your way around a health food or international grocery store in no time. And, if you’re already familiar with one, you’ll learn it even better as I did (Who knew the best place to find raw, shelled peanuts is in an international supermarket?).

Image 1: Greenbeans dressed in vinaigrette in a shallow white bowl; Image 2: Shallow white bowl of black-eyed pea fritters

There are so many more VSK recipes I’m looking forward to trying including the entire chapter of watermelon recipes, including the Fresh Watermelon-Vodka Martini and Balsamic Syrup-Sweetened Watermelon Sorbet. I also already have the ingredients waiting on me to make the Candied Sweet Potato Discs and Apple Slices, Maple Almond Granola, Quinoa-Quinoa Cornbread, Almond milk, and Creamy Grits. And that’s only naming a few of the 150 recipes that fill this bold cookbook.

Leave a comment below about this post and your favorite soul food dish to be entered into a drawing to win a free copy of Vegan Soul Kitchen. All comments must be left by Friday, March 27th, 11:59pm (U.S. residents only). While you wait to see if you won, try out Bryant’s recipes below and read other coverage of Vegan Soul Kitchen.

VSK Recipes and Reviews
Read more on Vegan Soul Kitchen and check out these sample recipes. ESSENCE.com has a great interview with Bryant. Hear him talk more about soul food and the new book in his own words.

Black-Eyed Pea Fritters with Hot Pepper Sauce
Carrot-Cranberry-Walnut Salad with Cream Walnut Vinaigrette
101Cookbooks.com: Bryant Terry’s Jamaican Veggie Patties
ESSENCE: Chef’s Choice: Bryant Terry
TheRoot: Vegan Soul Food, A Tasty Read

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Filed Under Appetizers, Book Reviews, Brother Love, Soul Classics Remixed, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian/Conversions | 10 Comments Print This Post

Comments

10 Responses to “Soul Food Remixed: Vegan Soul Kitchen”

  1. LaVondra on March 26th, 2009 2:14 pm

    Tesia,

    Thank you for the above article. Although I am not completely vegan (I’m still working on the poultry), I’m getting there. Slowly, but surely. I am excited to learn more about cooking these recipes for my family. It seems that those mention will make for an easy transition from meat eater to vegeterian to completely vegan. My absolute favorite dish growing up was macaroni and cheese. It is now a favorite of my eldest daughter. She is the taste tester in the home. My youngest is the aspiring chef, so another cookbook for her would be awesome. Again, thank you for the information and I look forward to your upcoming articles.

    LaVondra “Missy” Pitts

  2. Therese Nelson on March 26th, 2009 3:08 pm

    Hey Tesia,

    I love this post. Chef Terry is not only brilliant chef, but a very cool man and a very involved philanthropist so thanks for profiling his latest work because we all need to keep an eye on all the amazing projects he has working!!

    Therese Nelson
    Executive Chef
    Get Em’ Girls Catering

  3. tplove on March 26th, 2009 3:15 pm

    Thanks Missy and Therese. I’m glad you both like the post.

    Therese, I love the Get Em’ Girls Catering site. It’s beautiful! http://www.getemgirlscatering.com/

  4. Cedrick B. Bell on March 26th, 2009 3:18 pm

    Thanks for the article. I will purchase VSK soon. I am so happy for my Xavier classmate, Bryant.

  5. Karen Smith-Coleman on March 26th, 2009 3:23 pm

    tesia…thanks for this site and thanks for spreading the word about bryant’s book…i had the pleasure of attending the book launch at moad [museum of the african diaspora] in sf and can still taste the yummy dishes served…i can’t afford to get the book just yet but have tried a couple of the recipes already [borrowed a friend’s], including the black eyed pea fritters [acara] and i HAD to make the butternut squash soup [one of the dishes at the book launch]…therese is right: bryant is a very cool guy and his work as a food activist is sorely needed right now as we get fatter and unhealthier in our communities…as an omnivore [no red meat but the feathered and fin-ned], i’m here to say that vegetarians will tell you that they like bryant’s food but when a meat eater tells you, then you KNOW it’s good! 🙂 i also have one minor criticism: lots of ingredients, lots of steps, lots of work…recipes aren’t simple but they ARE fairly easy, especially if you’re a novice cook.

  6. Keisha Streeter-Clark on March 26th, 2009 4:56 pm

    Tesia,
    Never even thought about doing Soul food Vegan style well at least not my collards that way. I will have to try it out. I really want to taste the lavender lemonade i think i may try it out. Thanks again for all of your wonderful post

  7. Nedra on March 26th, 2009 5:02 pm

    The article was a great read. I worked with Bryant at a multi-service youth agency in NYC. He did a program called b-healthy where he taught youth how to cook healthy foods, gain knowledge and insight, and food advocacy for neighborhood food justice. Bryant hasn’t stopped doing what he does best, showing people how to love food and love themselves by what and how they eat. Bryant is breaking Black-folks mind-set and reminding up of our unique and wonderful culinary history and attchment to the land. And that is beauiful!
    So thanks for writing the article, the more who read, and try something new the better.

  8. Kaiya Hughes on March 26th, 2009 7:03 pm

    Tesia,

    I have to agree with you on the open-faced BBQ Tempeh. I bought the book and didn’t realize he was alumni of my beloved school until later but… boy was it good. It was my first time trying Tempeh too. I’m pretty sure I put too many chipotle peppers instead of what was called for cause it was SPICY but still delicious. I can’t wait to make my next dish from the book.

    Don’t enter me. I have the book and loves it. Just wanted to post and say THANK YOU!

    Therese- I love the GETEMGIRLS Recipes. The book is on point!

  9. Attica on March 26th, 2009 8:10 pm

    I’m not a vegan either, but good food is good food! One all-time fave is collard greens. FYI folks, the cocktails in this book are off the hinges!

  10. Toni Love on March 27th, 2009 2:11 pm

    Tesia, now you know the word vegan turns me off but this VSK cookbook sounds ver interesting. Its funny you should write about this. I had fresh collard greens last night. Your Uncle Ric grew some collards at Paw-Paw’s (using organic fertilizer) and they were so good. In fact this is the second time that I have cooked them…1st time I used smoked turkey wings and this time I used different seasonings, olive oil and a beef bouillon cube (which I know for you is a big no-no!)but I’m going to try the Citrus Collards w/raisins Redux the next time I make them.

    Thanks for the article/cookbook review.