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Soul Food Remixed: Vegan Soul Kitchen

[1]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 [2], 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 [3], 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 [4] 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 [3] (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 [5] nectar [6] 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 [7] 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 [3]. 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 [8]
Carrot-Cranberry-Walnut Salad with Cream Walnut Vinaigrette [9]
101Cookbooks.com: Bryant Terry’s Jamaican Veggie Patties [10]
ESSENCE: Chef’s Choice: Bryant Terry [11]
TheRoot: Vegan Soul Food, A Tasty Read [12]

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