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4.4 out of 5 stars
The Accidental Vegan
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81 of 81 people found the following review helpful
on January 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
This cookbook is one of the best vegan cookbooks I have had the pleasure to use. I have been using it consistently for a couple of weeks now. It's not the hugest volume but it's substantial and there is plenty of variety. The author owns her own vegan catering business in Seattle.
The recipes span across ethnic cuisines, with plenty of Indian, Afghani, Asian, Italian, and Mexican style dishes. There are appetizers, sides, main dishes, salads, soups, sauces, an entire chapter on seitan, and a very short dessert section. The dessert section is the only section that is pretty sparse. There is a recipe for Baklava and for some rice puddings (which were VERY delicious!).
The author does use honey in some of her recipes, which I found surprising. However, if it is a concern for you (as it is for me), I think it easily substituted.
The recipes are usually quite simple. The directions are simple (in one or two cases, a step was left out). Most recipes don't use huge long lists of ingredients, but many recipes do incorporate plenty of vegetables, which I think is a plus. It is obvious the author wants you, the reader, to incorporate your own style into these dishes. Most of the ingredients are readily available, although some recipes require more exotic or ethnic ingredients, but nothing you can't find at an Asian or Indian market or at your local health food store or co-op. Ms. Gartenstein lets you know, within the recipe, where to find ingredients that may be unfamiliar.
There are some very outstanding dishes in this cookbook. My favorites are the Hot and Sour Soup (the stuff in the restaurant can't compare!!), Pasta with Olives and Artichokes (I could eat this every day!), and Stuffed Shells. The Date and Almond Rice Pudding was heavenly (one of the ingredients is Rose Water).
I think The Accidental Vegan will remain one of my all time favorites in a collection of over 60 vegan cookbooks. I highly recommend it!
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68 of 69 people found the following review helpful
on November 1, 2008
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
As I flipped through this cookbook, my mouth started watering. I wanted to make EVERY one of the recipes, which I think is unusual. Gartenstein includes a variety of ethnic cuisines that appealed to me.

It is not perfect, though. Other reviewers here have noticed the same problems I did, but I have a few to add as well.

1. The directions are deliberately vague. This didn't bother me as I have a pretty good idea what I'm doing already. But not helpful for someone new to cooking or veganism.

2. Some of the directions she does include I didn't like. She does what most cookbooks do as far as throwing the garlic and the onions in at the same time, which to my mind either undercooks the onions or burns the garlic. One recipe (Split-pea soup) she had me throw the onions and garlic into boiling water! I shrugged my shoulders and trusted her - we did not enjoy the taste of boiled onions.

An Indian woman once explained to me how to cook a curry paste, and I use the method when starting any pertinent recipe: Saute the onions in a little oil at medium-high ("really well, quite hot and for quite a while, until crisp but not black")(this gets rid of the bad part of the onion taste), then turn to low, add finely grated garlic and ginger, fresh curry powder (store in the freezer) and a little water. Cut tomatoes fine and cook to a paste. She said to pre-cook the veggies, but I don't usually do that, then add fresh coconut milk and cilantro. So that was her recipe and I adapt that cooking method to whatever I'm doing, you know, substitute other dried herbs/spices for the curry, put the fresh herbs in last, etc.

So except for that Split Pea Soup, I just ignored her directions and did my own thing. If you are unable to do that, this book is NOT for you.

3. The salt was a problem. Sometimes she called for WAY WAY too much salt, like more than twice as much as I would use. So watch it. Other times she said "salt to taste." Well, that's fine at the end of a recipe, but when I put water and dry beans and garlic in a pot, and I'm supposed to "salt to taste," I am a bit at a loss for what raw bean-water is supposed to taste like. Can't she at least give me a range?

4. The number of servings are wacky. Somehow 1/2 lb. of tofu and a little box of frozen spinach (Palak Tofu) is supposed to feed 6 people, but 2 cups of dried beans and an entire bunch of collard greens feeds 4 (Collard Greens and Black-Eyed Peas). I made both, and the first recipe served about 3 and the second fed 7. Both were terrific.

5. It is annoying to pick up a vegan cookbook that includes honey.

6. There were obvious typos. Did anyone test these recipes or proofread the book?

So, if you have to ignore the honey, the salt, the serving sizes, and the directions, what good is this book? Well, I plan to buy this book for the fresh ingredients. No processed food or cheesy substitutes here. This is healthy whole food. I'm not sure I follow the reviewer who said this was rabbit food and mostly grains - how can the recipes be both? I have found lots of bean and tofu recipes, and I love how much she uses leafy cooking greens - I don't call a recipe rabbit food when greens are paired with other protein powerhouses, but maybe that reviewer just doesn't like greens. I happened to pick this book up at the library in the fall when the greens are so abundant, and I could make something totally different with them every day.

So there you have it. If you have the experience to ignore a good part of what she says, and you are looking for lowfat whole food with a variety of pleasing tastes, you may like this book as much as I do.
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65 of 70 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
The recipes contained in this cookbook are mostly very basic blueprints. The author did this on purpose, and it does work rather well. I love this cookbook.
Pros:
* Many recipes are low-fat
* Excellent food made with simple recipes. Recipes to try include:
Acorn Squash with Herbs
Pulao
Red Lentil Dahl
Black Eyed Pea Dahl
Curried Peas and Potatoes
Cons:
* MAJOR PROBLEM: some of the recipes contain honey. Even though this is easily substituted, this is unacceptable for a vegan cookbook. For this reason, I would not give this book as a gift to anyone who was not vegan unless they understood that vegans do not consume honey. I wouldn't want them to make me a recipe with honey in it.
* Provides little in the way of information on recipes. This relly is _just_ a recipe book. No detail is given on the origin of recipes, other than in the title. This results in a slimmer book. She gets right to the point. If you're used to background information on recipes, tips, tricks, etc, then you will be disappointed.
* VERY simple instructions (can be a pro, if you know what you're doing)
All in all, it's a great cookbook and it deserves a place on your bookshelf.
PS: Here's a tip on some of her recipes, specifically the dals. Instead of boiling the spices with the other ingredients, sautee olive oil in a nonstick pan, add onion and garlic with the spices and cook for 5 minutes. Add at the end of the cooking instead of the beginning. This results in a much spicer, fuller flavor.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on March 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
The Accidental Vegan contains a vivid sampling of fresh vegan cuisine that will knock your palate into a new dimension. You will be tempted to become an accidental vegan just for the pleasure of it. Recipes are divided into Appetizers, Soups, Main Dishes, Seitan, Side Dishes, Sauces and Dressings and Desserts.
Holiday-adaptable entrees abound and accents of international cuisine add verve and flair. Recipes are simply presented with ingredients highlighted in light green blocks against white text pages. Some exciting examples include Pasta with Olives, Artichokes and Dried Tomatoes, Yakisoba (Japanese noodles and veggies), and Devi's Basic Curry - a wonderful concoction with potatoes, cauliflowers, carrots, broccoli, garbanzo beans, and of course, spices. Recipes are simple and short, generally complete on two pages; sometimes on one. The Sauces section includes basic recipes for Plum sauce, black bean sauce, pesto, mole sauce, and faux cheese. Hummus Roasted Red Pepper Roll-Ups are a tasty appetizer. Who doesn't love Lo Mein for main dishes with Chinese influence? And of course for Italian cuisine, there is a scrumptious recipe for Pasta Primavera. Many side dishes are vegan classics, such as Corn and Bean Salad and Couscous. Even desserts shine - Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Shortbread, for example.
All in all, The Accidental Vegan fills a tasty bill that helps the planet too.
Nancy Lorraine, Reviewer
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
This has become my faorite cook book. All the reciepts are easy, fast and very tasty. I love the different tamale fillings and the enchilada pie is to die for. The separate section on sauses is great as they really perk up my pasta dishes. This is a small compact book that really packs in the different quisines: Greek, Asian, Hispanic, Indian, Italian Japanse, and American, etc. All I can add is yummmm!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on July 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
'The Accidental Vegan' is a well-compiled easy-to-follow cookbook, but as a teenage-vegan, a lot of these exotic recipies don't appeal much to me. Some of the ingredients are tough to find and many of the dishes are tough to prepare.
As far as health-value is concerned, almost every recipie focuses on a vegetable as the highlight of the dish. Everything is low-fat, low-sugar, and high in nutrients. The chapter on seitan is also useful.
Buy 'The Accidental Vegan' if you're not afraid to try something different (but healthy). It really is a good book.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 1999
Format: Loose Leaf
The easy, delicious collection of recipies in this small volume leaves me wanting more. I particularly like the book because as a customer of Lucky Palate I receive many of these menu items in the delivery service and occasionally want to try to cook them myself.
The instructions are easy to follow and the illustrations are beautiful.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
I found this book and at once decided to buy. It is the easiest vegan cookbook I've run across. The recipes are tasty, and most require 12 or less ingredients, which is a big difference from most veggie and vegan cookbooks. I have made many of the dishes (love the curry and dahl recipes) and continue to pull this book off the shelf instead of all the others I have to choose from. I strongly recommend this great book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
The Accidental Vegan is one of the best vegan cookbooks that I have encountered thus far. The meals offered are simple, and delicious. The ingredients are listed in a green box for easy decifering. The directions are simple and to the point.

I was really impressed with the Pad Thai. Devra Gartnenstein managed to make a wonderful Thai dish without the Yucky! fish sauce.

All in all, you can never have enough vegan cookbooks, and this one is a grand addition to my collection.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
This has become my faorite cook book. All the reciepts are easy, fast and very tasty. I love the different tamale fillings and the enchilada pie is to die for. The separate section on sauses is great as they really perk up my pasta dishes. This is a small compact book that really packs in the different quisines: Greek, Asian, Hispanic, Indian, Italian Japanse, and American, etc. All I can add is yummmm!
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