Amanda Cohen owns Dirt Candy, a vegetarian, or more accurately a vegetable, restaurant in the East Village of New York. We already know that vegetarian food has moved far beyond its 1960's hippie reputation, but you may not know exactly how far unless you've experienced Ms. Cohen's bold, sassy, vegetable-focused food. Her cookbook, which quite fittingly is also a graphic novel, features Ms Cohen as a chef/ninja battling everything from bad contractors to kitchen injuries while trying to find a way to get more corn on her menu.
Dirt Candy is not the kind of cookbook you will grab when you've just arrived home from work at 6:30 and you want dinner on the table at 7:00. The recipes are a little involved (some are very involved) but they are also a lot of fun. Consider Cohen's recipe for onion soup which goes far beyond caramelized onions in a beef broth with the addition of Kumquat-Peppercorn Marmalade and Grilled Cheese Croutons. Her Roasted Squash Salad has Pepita Clusters, Blue Cheese Croutons, a maple balsamic dressing and an amazing sounding bacon made with slices of smoked butternut squash that have been roasted with a touch of sugar until crisp.
• Who wrote it: Amanda Cohen and Ryan Dunlavey with Grady Hendrix
• Who published it: Clarkson Potter/Publishers
• Recipes and projects for right now: Butternut Squash Soup with Butternut Squash Dumplings; Fennel Salad with Candied Grapefruit and Grilled Cheese Croutons; Roasted Carrot Buns with Carrot and Cucumber Ginger Salad; Mint and Tarragon Fettuccine with Yogurt Saffron Sauce and Zucchini Relish; Zucchini Ginger Cake with Zucchini Cream and Zucchini Candy.
• Recommended? Yes, but you may have to have a bit of the kitchen ninja in you to pull it off. Which, of course, is not a bad thing.
• Other highlights: Besides recipes, the book is also the chronicle of what it's like to open and run a restaurant. You get a real sense of the long hours, enormous challenges, and, finally, sweet reward of life in a restaurant. Also, there's a fun pickle section, plenty of dinner party-worthy entrees, some amazing desserts including a new way to think about ice cream (broccoli ice cream!).
• Who would enjoy this book? Because this isn't a conventional cookbook, I think its audience is a little more narrow than most. I would recommend this book to people who are looking to push their vegetable and vegetarian cooking into new territory, who aren't afraid to spend an afternoon in the kitchen, and who of course love a good graphic novel. That said, even if this doesn't sound like you, you should give this book a look. Something tells me just you might find something interesting here.
→ Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: Dirt Candy by Amanda Cohen and Ryan Dunlavey with Grady Hendrix (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2012)
Related: 5 Tips for Vegetarian Menu Planning
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.
(Images: Dana Velden )