San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)
A vegan cookbook for all
2 delicious recipes and 5 tips from chef at popular vegan Wildseed in S.F.
The chef of San Francisco’s hit vegan restaurant Wildseed is out with a new cookbook that puts vegetables at the forefront while also showcasing many Bay Areamade products as strong substitutions for meat and dairy. “Eat Plants Every Day” comes from husband and wife team Wildseed chef Blair Warsham and food writer Carolyn Warsham, who live in Marin County. They didn’t eat vegan much before Blair Warsham started testing recipes for Wildseed a couple of years ago, but now, it’s the default setting in their household. They’re choosing vegan eats more often for the same reasons vegan food is soaring in popularity in the Bay Area: It’s better for the planet and they feel healthier doing so.
But the recipes in “Eat Plants Every Day” (Weldon Owen, $30) don’t feel vegan in a stereotypical or restrictive way. Instead, they reflect the way the Warshams love to eat, with punchy flavors and an international pantry. In other words, the recipes are approachable for people interested in removing more meat from their diet but aren’t sure how to do it.
While it’s not labeled as a Wildseed cookbook, at least half of the dishes in the book have shown up on the restaurant’s menu, such as the vibrant beet poke, mushroomrich Bolognese and the bestselling paella. The recipes have been scaled down and simplified for a home kitchen, though some will likely still feel too ambitious for weeknight fare. These more cheffy dishes are offset by simpler ones the Warshams frequently make at home, like an overnight oatmeal inspired by carrot cake. (See accompanying recipes for Braised Beet Poke and Curried Cauliflower With Muhammara.)
Here are five tips the authors shared on cooking more delicious vegan fare, regardless of whether you’re vegan:
Cook like an omnivore. The Warshams approach vegan cooking the same way they think about meaty dishes, with a focus on cravable and comforting flavors. That means not shying away from plantbased products to stand in for meat and cheese — luckily, there are a lot of good substitutes out there. Blair tested every product he could find before opening Wildseed and landed on some favorites: Miyoko’s Creamery butter, which actually browns like real butter; Impossible Burger, which they say is worth the high price tag; Spero goat cheese, made from sunflower seeds; and Kite Hill’s ricotta, made from almonds. All of these products are made in the Bay Area.
Salads don’t have to be sad. The ones at Wildseed — and in the cookbook — are beautiful and celebratory. The trick is a 5050 ratio: 50% greens, 50% toppings, such as beans, seeds, nuts or more interesting vegetables like asparagus. “The greens are there for nutrients but they’re not the star of the show, everything else is,” Blair says.
More is more when it comes to vegetables. If you’re making a ragu with vegan ground beef, throw in more mushrooms than the recipe recommends. Or plan to serve a pasta dish that contains as many vegetable toppings as noodles. With desserts, up the proportion of fruit.
Don’t skimp on the stock. Many of the recipes in “Eat More Plants Every Day” contain a little stock using Better Than Bouillon’s plantbased bases, which the Warshams prefer over vegetable stock. At home, Carolyn says when she’s blown away by something Blair makes, there’s usually Better Than Bouillon stock in it. “The stock in these recipes creates so much depth of flavor,” she says.
Great vegan food often comes down to simple, good cooking. When something doesn’t taste right, the Warshams have these general tips: If the dish tastes too fatty, add something acidic like vinegar or lemon juice. If it’s too bitter, add something sweet like a teaspoon of sugar. If it’s too sweet or too salty, Blair discards half of the batch and makes a new half batch without sugar or salt, then blends the two.
Full disclosure: Janelle Bitker and Carolyn Warsham used to work together at Eater.