Filled with elegant recipes, Extraordinary Vegan is the latest book from writer and private gourmet vegan chef Alan Roettinger. As someone who finds pleasure in subtle flavors and healthful plant-based cuisine, I was instantly intrigued by Roettinger’s promise of making food “to support health, thrill the senses, surprise the imagination,” and more.
In the book’s introduction, and weaved throughout the many recipes found therein, Roettinger puts great emphasis on applying great care, passion, and love into preparing and cooking food. These things, he says, are what differentiate ordinary from extraordinary cuisine. Therefore, though many of the ingredients are fairly common and accessible, Roettinger encourages readers to find the freshest and best of everything, and prepare them with that extra bit of attention, which he calls “the currency of love.” This can help readers infuse surprises into their cooking, which brings about joy for all who eat the food.
Most of the ingredients that the author uses are common whole foods that can be found in most supermarkets and farmer’s markets. There are no specialty brands, or pre-packaged “substitute” products such as faux meats or soy/nut milks. What brings these seemingly commonplace ingredients together into gourmet creations are Roettinger’s use of alluring spices, condiments, vinegars, and oils, integrated into the recipes with his expert technique. Indeed, before diving into the recipes, Roettinger guides readers through several lists of these favorite “extraordinary ingredients,” which he breaks up into four sections: Chiles and Chile Powders, Dried Herbs and Spices, Fats, and Seeds, Flavorings, Sweeteners and Such. He then transitions to a chapter exclusively dedicated to fundamentals, which walks readers through the basics of preparing some of the recurring ingredients used in the main recipes (everything from basic quinoa to preserved lemons).
The recipes themselves showcase a little bit of everything, from raw wraps and smoothies, to high-protein breads, soups, curries, and decadent desserts. As part of this review, I decided to try a soup recipe called “A Very Different Butternut Squash Soup.” I often make my own soup, and was excited to see how Roettinger’s version and his recommended “extras” would spice things up (figuratively and quite literally). For this particular recipe, the “extraordinary” ingredient that really stood out was saffron, a pinch of which was added to the almost-ready soup. I had never previously cooked with saffron before, and was pleasantly surprised at how so little of it could really enhance the flavors of the soup, highlighting the warmth of the chile powder and accentuating the roasted red peppers in the soup.
For nutrition-conscious readers, Roettinger remembers to list nutrition facts per serving for every single one of his recipes (including the items in the fundamentals chapter), which I definitely appreciate. Those who abstain from consuming gluten (or are trying to cut back for any reason) might also be pleasantly surprised to learn that all of the recipes in the book happen to be gluten-free! It is not a focus of the book at all—in fact, I only saw a small note about it in the whole publication—but a happy side effect of the author’s emphasis on wholesome, clean, and easily-digestible ingredients.
Alan Roettinger’s Extraordinary Vegan is a charming addition to your cookbook collection, one that I would recommend reserving for hosting special dinner parties or impressing the in-laws. As there are some unique “extraordinary” ingredients in many of the recipes, it might take a few trips to the market and some advance planning for the casual cook or beginner chef to feel comfortable with some of the dishes featured in the book. Still, the variety is really wonderful and the actual recipes quite easy to follow, so with some patience and that extra love that Roettinger so emphasizes, almost anyone can infuse high-caliber gourmet cuisine into their kitchens with the help of Extraordinary Vegan.
Here are two decadent recipes you can preview and enjoy from the book–one savory, one sweet, and both are beginner friendly!
makes 4 servings
- 4 cups Brussels sprouts
- ¼ head red cabbage, cored and very thinly sliced
- 1 large carrot, finely shredded
- 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- ¼ cup flax oil
- 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 2 tablespoons raw cashew butter or almond butter
- 2 tablespoons mellow white miso
- 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium tamari
- 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- 2 teaspoons sriracha sauce
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
- Peel off any wilted or discolored leaves from the Brussels sprouts. Beginning with the top, slice the Brussels sprouts as thinly as possible, discarding the stem end. Put the Brussels sprouts in a large bowl.
- Add the red cabbage and carrot and fluff with your fingers until the vegetables are thoroughly mixed.
- Put the lime juice, flax oil, vinegar, cashew butter, miso, tamari, garlic, sriracha, and ginger in a small bowl and whisk until smooth and well combined.
- Pour over the vegetables and toss well. Serve at once.
Per serving: 423 calories, 17 g protein, 18 g fat (2 g sat), 58 g carbohydrates, 705 mg sodium, 300 mg calcium, 17 g fiber
Alan’s Tip: If you’re not a fan of spicy food, you can cut back or omit the sriracha sauce with no serious consequences to the flavor of the dressing.
makes 4 servings
- 4 ripe Bosc pears, with stems intact
- 4 cups pomegranate juice
- 7 green cardamom pods
- 1 bay leaf
- Select a medium saucepan that will accommodate the pears snugly in an upright position, allowing space for the stems to fit with the lid in place.
- Core the pears from the bottom to remove the seeds, leaving as much of the flesh as possible. Peel the pears, leaving the stems attached.
- Trim the bottoms slightly, so the pears can stand up straight. Put them in the saucepan and add the juice. It’s normal for the pears to turn on their sides and float at first. If you have a large strainer, set it over the pears gently to keep them submerged.
- Break open the cardamom pods and remove the seeds. Crush the seeds to a gritty powder in a mortar with a pestle or on a cutting board with the back of a wooden spoon.
- Add the cardamom seeds and bay leaf to the saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer until the pears are tender, 20 to 45 minutes. To test the pears for tenderness, insert a paring knife into the thickest part and lift. the pear should slip off easily.
- Using tongs, grasp the pears by the stems and lift them out of the saucepan, allowing several seconds for the juice to drain well. Set them on a plate.
- Increase the heat to high and bring the juice to a boil. Boil until the juice is reduced to about ¾ cup, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be a fairly dense syrup, thick enough to coat a spoon. If any juice has accumulated around the pears, carefully tip the plate and let it run back into the saucepan.
- Remove from the heat and let the syrup cool for about 10 minutes. Discard the bay leaf.
- Using a large spoon, drizzle the syrup over the pears. Lift the pears with the tongs and transfer them to dessert plates.
- Drizzle again with the syrup and serve at once.
Per serving: 250 calories, 1 g protein, 0 g fat (0 g sat), 64 g carbohydrates, 0 mg sodium, 20 mg calcium, 6 g fiber
Variation: Chop 1 cup raw or roasted pistachios into ¼-inch-thick bits. Put the pistachios in a coarse strainer and shake to strain out any very fine, powdery bits. Put the chopped pieces in a medium bowl. After drizzling the pears with syrup, roll them in the pistachios until evenly coated. Carefully set the pears on dessert plates and pour a little of the syrup around them. Serve at once.