If the meat-eaters you know still make fun of vegans because they eat “rabbit food,” then they clearly haven’t seen Hot for Food Vegan Comfort Classics, with Lauren Toyota’s decadent vegan renditions of all the fried, stuffed, mashed, and layered comfort food any glutton could lust after.
Her first cookbook, Vegan Comfort Classics, debuts this month coinciding beautifully with peak oversized sweater season. In other words, it’s the perfect time to indulge in her devil-may-care creations. From sauces to finger foods, to burgers and noodles, Toyota offers recipes every vegan cook should know — cashew “parmesan” cheese, biscuits, soup, six types of “bacon.” Plus intensive, showstopper dishes such as Philly cheesesteaks with homemade seitan that are meant to wow a crowd (like those judgmental carnivores you want to stick it to).
Speaking of said Philly cheesesteaks, let’s focus on the cornerstone genius of that recipe: Toyota’s The Nacho Cheese Sauce. If ever there was a mother sauce to be the guiding light of your inner fatty, this is it. The best part: it’s made with a spiced up blend of carrots and potatoes, which basically means any calories from the oil used to make the sauce are inconsequential. This pourable, gooey creation is going to become the backbone of your vegan mac and cheese (especially helpful if you’re allergic to nut cheeses), and the finishing touch for nachos, sandwiches . . . everything.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, her Green Curry Cauliflower Roast keeps things lighter than most recipes in the book. While presenting a head of cauliflower as if it were a traditional meat roast is nothing new, that doesn’t detract from the sexiness of when it’s done right. This roast is also one of Toyota’s most weeknight-friendly recipes — requiring just 20 minutes of hands-on prep. And it makes for a lovely little dinner when paired with some additional roasted veggies and brown rice or quinoa. If you’re a gastrophile like me, try a side of sweet-salty coconut rice to round out those sharp curry notes.
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Green Curry Cauliflower Roast
Makes 4 to 6 Servings ♦ Prep Time 20 Minutes ♦ Cook Time 55 Minutes
My love for the cauli will never die! It’s the blandest-looking vegetable of the bunch and yet has so much flavor hidden away in its deepest corners. Of course, you could cut it up, baste it, and roast it in anything you want, but there’s something about the way a whole cauliflower looks when roasted and caramelized. Honestly, it’s just sexy! Plus now you don’t have a bunch of cutting to do! This version is done green curry–style, and I like it on its own or served in slabs over brown rice.
1⁄2 cup finely chopped onion (about 1⁄2 onion)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 can (13.5 oz/400 ml) full-fat coconut milk
3 kaffir lime leaves
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped Thai basil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons green curry paste
1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1 large cauliflower
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. In a cast-iron skillet or oven-safe pan over medium heat, sauté the onion and garlic in the vegetable oil for approximately 3 minutes until just softened, lowering the heat if necessary to prevent the garlic from burning. Stir in the coconut milk, lime leaves, basil, maple syrup, curry paste, salt, and lime juice. Bring to a simmer and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until the curry mixture thickens slightly.
3. Meanwhile, trim all the leaves from the base of the cauliflower. Trim the thick part of the stalk as much as necessary so the cauliflower can sit flat in the skillet.
4. Place the cauliflower bottom side up in the skillet and pour half of the curry mixture onto the bottom, allowing it to seep into the cauliflower florets for a minute. Then flip it right side up and pour the remaining curry mixture over top. The excess will pool around the cauliflower. Use a brush to coat all parts of the cauliflower.
5. Roast for 45 minutes, basting once or twice during the bake time, until tender and a golden caramelized color forms on the outside of the cauliflower.
6. Carve into thick slices and serve immediately.
Recipe from Hot for Food Vegan Comfort Classics by Lauren Toyota ©Lauren Toyota, 2018. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.
Mandy Major is a writer and editor who recently traded New York City’s skyscrapers for the Connecticut shoreline. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Every Day with Rachael Ray, and Prevention, among other publications. A reading advocate and board member for her local library, she is working on her first collection of short stories.