Best of Julia's Vegan Kitchen

November 2010

That side bar on the blog is getting a bit unwieldy, so I thought it might be helpful for me to sift out some of my very favorite recipes I've made in the past 14 months. I've been thinking quite a bit about how this list and this blog don't exactly reflect the way that I eat: for one, it seems as if I eat a disproportionate amount of cookies, but this is because your cookies always need a recipe, while your random last-minute healthy stir fry probably doesn't. And, a lot of my favorite foods--hummus, roasted greens, stir-fried tempeh--barely require recipes. Still, having put together the following list, I'm pretty excited to share it with you.

The Asian Squash-Pear Soup with Mushrooms from Veganomicon is one of the most perfect soups ever: sweet, savory, creamy,'s got it all. Also, my mom and her boyfriend made it on their first date! Hema Parekh's Chili Eggplants with Fresh Basil is also really rich and delicious, and Orange Pan-Glazed Tempeh or Tofu is probably the best marinated tofu/tempeh recipe I've ever tried. Tangy Tahini Noodles with Tempeh and Vegetables came about as an accident, but the combination of flavors can't be beaten.

The recipe for Baingan Bharta in Indian Home Cooking is one of the top five things I've ever made (you may remember, it's the thing that was so good it made me want to cry). Another standby is some version of Chana Masala, although I haven't yet blogged about the really really amazing recipe in The Asian Vegan Kitchen. Suvir Saran's Dal with Ginger and Lime is the best dal recipe around, and Matar Tofu Paneer Dal, while not remotely "authentic," is incredibly satisfying, both in flavor and texture. Most recently, Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Coconut have rocked my world.

Despite my love of middle eastern cooking, I don't have too many recipes to share; I think this is because I stick to really simple foods like hummus, baba ganoush, and tabouleh. Still, Robin Robertson's Chickpea and Green Bean Tagine is complex and comforting, and her Turkish-Style Stuffed Eggplant with Walnut Sauce is the perfect thing to serve for a dinner party. That Walnut Sauce deserves a shout-out all of its own, it's so good. Somewhat similar to the walnut sauce is Mouhammarah; I tried several recipes, and this is my favorite.

I don't make as much "European" food, but there are a few things here that I really love. The Stir-Fried Cabbage and Mushrooms was amazing, although now those Indian-style brussels sprouts are competing with it for best cabbage recipe ever. Stuffed Mushrooms, Walnut- and Mushroom-Stuffed Tomatoes, and Mushroom-Cashew Pies all have similar stuffings, and they're all amazing. Since making the Sausagey Shepherd's Pie with Mushroom Gravy, I've realized it's not actually a shepherd's pie, but it's still really fun and delicious. Again, that Mushroom Gravy is worth mentioning on its own; it goes great on anything. Finally, my version of Robin Robertson's Mediterranean Bean and Sausage Ragout is a complex, interesting, and comforting one-dish meal that I will make again and again.

A great portion of the food I make might fall under the category of "Vaguely East-Asian/Macrobiotic/Wacky American Vegan Comfort Food." It's in this category, too, that my friends/cooking soulmates Myer and Arhia specialize. I've found the Tofu Scramble to be with me for the rest of my days, and the versatile Macro-Southern Fusion Casserole, originally from 3 Bowls, is a wonderful staple to have up your sleeve. Marinated Tofu, too, is simple and yet goes with everything. Finally, two sauces here are of immense importance: Myer and Arhia's Macro Crack (aka Tahini-Tamari Sauce) is a deceptively simple food that brings out the best in many things (pasta, veggies, much more). And its cousin, Miso-Tahini Sauce, never fails to disappoint, either. I particularly love this latter sauce on Roasted Greens.

Indeed, some of the best dishes are the nearly-recipeless ones that just allow vegetables to be their delicious selves. The Green Bean Guacamole Salad was particularly (and surprisingly) amazing this summer, as was the Watermelon Tomato Salad with Basil and Cashew Cheese.

That Cashew Goat Cheese is also really great for entertaining; use it as a spread for crackers. Also good for parties are the Savory Sesame-Herb Shortbread Cookies, though they're so rich (yum) that you would not want to put cashew cheese on them, too.

I'm not really into sweet drinks (I'd rather have cookies and/or beer), but the recipe for Fizzy Ginger Ale that I made with Julia K was really perfect, except for the carbonated explosion it caused. Proceed with extreme caution.

It's particularly hard to choose favorite cookie recipes; there are so many! The following, though, are among those I keep coming back to. Chocolate Chip Cardamom Cookies add a sophisticated spin to the classic without detracting from what made it good in the first place. They're slightly chewy and caramelly, with lots of flavor. Fat Mints are incredibly rich and chocolatey, with chocolate chips as well as cocoa. Ginger Cookies, possibly the first recipe I ever veganized, are chewy and spicy. Lemon Sesame Cookies are elegant and interesting. Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar burst with spicy flavor and have a great texture. Pistachio-Cardamom Shortbread Cookies, with or without rosewater, are beautiful to look at and are rich yet sophisticated. Sell Your Soul Pumpkin Cookies (also from VCIYCJ) are the best pumpkin cookies I've ever had.

A few more sweets: my friend Arhia's Cardamom Chocolate Chip Muffins are probably the most perfect muffin ever made, and I really really love my spicy, orangey Sattre Pumpkin Bread, which originated as a family recipe, though it's been much tweaked.