Monday, March 07, 2011

Book Review: Speed Vegan:
Quick, Easy Recipes with a Gourmet Twist

by Alan Roettinger
And a Great Giveaway!

When I first met Chef Alan Roettinger at Portland VegFest last year, I was struck by his commanding presence. Maybe I was simply awed by his stature, or maybe it was the white chef's jacket—(they have that effect on me). But Chef Alan also reminded me of myself twenty-something years ago. Those first few years of going to veg conferences surrounded by like-minded people and all kinds of delicious vegan food made me feel very much like a kid let loose in a candy store. Perhaps he felt the same way.

In the introduction to Speed Vegan, Chef Alan wrote that he had started eating an exclusively vegan diet only a few weeks before going to press with the book. Like so many other newbie vegans, he reported that his body was "ecstatic with the change" and that he was enjoying more energy, needing less sleep, and was feeling invincible in all of his athletic activities. (No surprises, there!)

He also penned some of the most encouraging words about cooking that I have ever read. Among them is my favorite line:

"What will make your food extraordinary is not the recipe, or even the ingredients—it's you." 

With so much inspiration at the outset of his book, I decided to make an entire Sunday dinner with recipes from Speed Vegan. My menu looked like this:

Campari-Braised Radicchio Salad with Grapefruit
Orecchiette with Herb Sauce
Balsamic Mushrooms
Dried Fruit Compote

That sounded impressive and challenging to me, but even though all of the dishes were complex in flavor, they were also a snap to prepare!

I've been eating a lot of pink grapefruit lately, but mainly for breakfast. So finding a recipe for grapefruit salad was a real treat! Campari-Braised Radicchio Salad with Grapefruit sounded like a winner to me, not only because of the grapefruit, but for its two leafy vegetables that are seldom-enjoyed at my house—radicchio and watercress, and also for relying more on Campari than oil for its dressing. (It even comes with ideas for what to do with the leftover Campari.) The salad was alive color and bursting with a mingling of earthy and citrusy flavors!

I love balsamic, and I have a pantry filled with several varieties, so I'm always thrilled to find new ways to use them. Balsamic Mushrooms is a mushroom-lover's delight, blending together the woodsy flavor of baby bellas, the fruity acidity of balsamic, and the sweetness of agave.

Talk about a delicious way to get your greens on! Orecchiette with Herb Sauce is one of those dishes I would never have thought of creating myself. The sauce is sort of like a pesto, but not really (there are no pine nuts, basil, or cheese in it). But what you do have is a rich, creamy, green sauce made from baby spinach, watercress, fresh tarragon, and flax oil, that just kind of clings lovingly to the pasta and fills your taste buds with joy. Have you ever seen a more brilliant shade of green?

If I had been in a wine-drinking mood, this meal would have paired perfectly with a bottle of Organic Wine Works Radical Red. But as it turned out, I got to use the bottle of sweet dessert wine I'd received at a white-elephant gift exchange last Christmas to make dessert. (I knew that bottle was going to come in handy one day!) With raisins, apricots, blueberries, cranberries, cherries, and strawberries, the recipe for Dried Fruit Compote had more fruits in it than you can shake a stick at! I was able to find everything but dried strawberries, so I substituted blackberries. And in one of my most classic perimenopausal moments, my newly purchased dried apricots disappeared within minutes after taking them out of my shopping bag. (I still haven't found them!) I had a couple of dried apricots in the pantry and some prunes, so I used those instead. Delicately flavored with tangerine and served over Purely Decadent Vanilla Bean Coconut Milk Ice Cream, this dessert was a delectable indulgence.

True to the book's title, all of the recipes in Speed Vegan came together in no time and went from prep to table in less than thirty minutes, at what I consider, lightning-fast speed. The dishes were all exceedingly flavorful, which will give your dinner guests the impression that you slaved for hours in the kitchen. And why would you want to spoil that fantasy?

I loved the Balsamic Mushrooms so much, I wanted to share them with you. So here is the recipe from Speed Vegan excerpted by arrangement with Book Publishing Company. Copyright © 2010. 


1 lb mushrooms, preferably cremini or baby portabello
3 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely diced shallots
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs dark agave nectar
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme, or 1/4 tsp dried
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper


Wash the mushrooms well and pat them dry. Quarter them, taking care to keep the stems attached.

Heat the oil in a large pan over high heat. Add the shallots and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the mushrooms and stir well. Cover the pan and cook until the mushrooms begin to release their liquid, about 1 minutes. Remove the cover and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Add the vinegar, agave nectar, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes, until the mushrooms are lightly glazed with a smooth sauce. Serve at once. Makes 4 servings.

Are you a fan of mushrooms? What are you favorites? Please let me know if you try this dish and what you think of it. And if you enjoyed this post, please let me know by leaving a comment below.

You can find out about all the newest vegan book titles from Book Publishing Company by following them on their Facebook page. And if you'd like to win your very own copy of Speed Vegan or one of five other fabulous vegan books from Book Publishing Company, simply click on the "Live Delicious, Eat Vegan" link below! Good luck!


Anonymous said...

This looks like a wonderful book! And as usual, your food photos are making my mouth water. Thanks for the link to the giveaway! I love a big, fat portobello "burger." I'm looking forward to trying this recipe with baby portabellos.

Majic said...

Love your posts! Thank you for the great vegan recipes ~ as well as the info on the cookbook giveaway. Yummay :)

Anonymous said...

Looks great! I wonder if it's available for Nook Color. I'd love to win a copy - even though I probably buy it anyway. I'd give it to my mom - I'm trying to get her to follow a vegan diet but she runs into trouble as she hates taking a lot of time to cook.

VeganMarr said...

Hate mushrooms but they look pretty in the picture! ;-) Everything looks delicious. Love when someone writes a book of EASY, tasty recipes cuz people just dont have alot of time these days especially when they're trying a new way of eating. I'd love to win this & give it to the large family next door. I got the hubby (who has a heart condition) to listen to the audio of THE CHINA STUDY & he's working on going vegan.

Anonymous said...

I love this post, and I hope to win a copy of Speed Vegan so I can make that fruit compote. It looks incredible!

Justine said...

That grapefruit salad is gorgeous! Speed Vegan sounds like my kind of book. I'm always looking for ways to shorten the time I spend preparing dinner.

The Vegan said...

I don't love mushrooms but even I would give that dish a try. And all the others are just making my mouth water. These are some really gourmet looking dishes for dishes that can be quickly prepared.
I think this is a great book to buy and/or recommend.

Anonymous said...

Shiitake! My favorite mushrooms are definitely shiitake! But I love balsamic, and cannot wait to try this recipe. (Maybe I'll even use shiitake mushrooms!)

Jenn said...

That mushroom recipe looks nearly exactly like my favorite way to prepare button mushrooms - or portabellas - sear on high heat then treat with herbs, olive oil & balsamic. It works great when motorcycle camping because I can pick up half pound of button mushrooms, cook them up like that and eat them over instant mashed potatoes & a bunch of sauteed spinach for a very very hearty meal (with a buddy, of course).

Millie said...

What an amazing meal. I must check this book out...thanks Gail.

Helen said...

Thank you for sharing your experiences with the recipes in this book. It sounds wonderful! And thank you also for the link to the giveaway. I'd love to win any one of those books!

P.S. My favorite mushrooms are porcini. I had them quite often while traveling throughout Italy.

Alan Roettigner said...

Thanks for your very kind remarks! Let your followers know that they can preview some recipes from Speed Vegan for free on my website:

Cook and eat at home!

Kathy Hester said...

What a tasty meal. I wish we lived closer to each other so I could get a dinner invite!

Vegiegail said...

That's wonderful, Chef Alan! Thank you for stopping by and letting my readers know where they can find more delicious recipes from Speed Vegan!

Anonymous said...

Everything looks so delicious! Add this one to the list of vegan cookbooks on my wish list! I'm heading on over to try and win a copy now!

Emily said...

Just made the mushrooms for dinner. They were delicious even though I substituted maple syrup for the agave. I'm a newbie vegetarian experimenting with veganism... thanks for posting!

Vegiegail said...

Wow, Emily! That's wonderful! Thanks for letting me know you made the mushrooms and that you enjoyed them so much. I'll bet the dish was scrumptious made with maple syrup!

Alan Roettinger said...

There is some controversy on agave (low glycemic index--good; high fructose content--bad, so I fully understand why someone might opt to substitute with maple syrup. It bears mentioning, however, that as a society we need to consider weaning ourselves off of sweeteners a little, and allow our tastes to come into balance. Bitter foods (dandelion, radicchio, bitter melon) are every bit as enjoyable in their own way, and come with terrific health benefits.

Vegiegail said...

Thank you, Chef Alan! I couldn't agree with you more! Much has been written about agave, (much of it is untrue), and it's no surprise that people are confused about sweeteners. After reading Dr. Klaper's thought-provoking article, "Slaying the Sugary Beast," I am cutting back drastically on sweeteners, altogether, and I'm planning an upcoming post about this very subject.

moonsword said...

Thank you for sharing the recipe! My favorite mushrooms are portobellos, in the very talented hands of my dad, who marinates them in some secret sauce of wine, tamari, spices, etc then grills them, stacks them and sandwiches them. Sheer utter heaven!

Jennifer said...

I can't think of any edible mushrooms I don't like. I think chanterelles might be my favorite, though. I hope to try morels soon! That looks like a great recipe to dress up my more ordinary mushrooms in the meantime.