Mark Bittman's cookbooks have yet to disappoint and this companion of his earlier edition of The VB6 Cookbook is no exception. If not familiar with the concept, the idea is to eat vegan during the day and dishes using a small quantity of meat, cheese or eggs for the evening meal. Whether to head off possible health problems or make diet adjustments for current issues, this book offers clear suggestions/solutions in a user friendly, and of course, delicious way. The concept is stated, but I take a more flexible approach as to which meal I consume meat - or whether I consume any on a day-by-day basis.
The book contains over 350 recipes (115 basic recipes with variations) divided through chapters organized by meal - Breakfast, Lunch, Snacks, Dinner and Dessert. There is also an essential chapter called VB6 Building Blocks that contains 15 make ahead recipes for use during the week like Big Batch Brown Rice and Grains, All-Purpose Tomato Sauce, Everyday Salad Bowl, Your Own Salad Dressing, Big Batch Cooked Vegetables, etc. Utilizing some or all of these preparatory recipes is yet another tool smartly included to help the user work efficiently so cooking meals is less time consuming. Also within the book are information and ingredients recommended to have a pantry ready for action organized in three ways - Unlimited, Flexible and Treat.
Specifics for the book construction - this is a hardback book made with quality paper that when a page is splashed, remains undamaged if the spill is wiped up promptly. The binding is tight and it will take some time for it to relax so for the time being the book is not willingly laying open on the counter top, so a cookbook holder is in use.
I counted 33 full color pictures with the majority of them located in the Dinner chapter where they really matter. Most of us know what oatmeal should look like so not photograph is necessary, but that is not the case with some main dishes, so a shot of the finished Mussels in Coconut Broth or Red Paella with Scallops dishes is appreciated.
Except for headings, the text is printed in black ink which makes the small font size used for the recipes, mostly 8 and 9 point along with a little 10 point, as easy to read as possible. The comprehensive index makes locating any recipe quick and easy, and I am surprised how often I don't find one in a cookbook.
I tested the Mushroom Nut Burgers over Greens and as suggested in the recipe, made more than one batch of the burgers and froze them for future meals. The seasonings were excellent, so I made no adjustments -- and the burgers delicious. Next I prepared the Walnut Banana Bread which uses whole wheat flour, cooked brown rice, ripe bananas, walnuts, and, among other ingredients, 3/4 of a cup of maple syrup. The expense of maple syrup probably dictates I won't prepare this sweet loaf often, but it did not disappoint.
Southwestern Bean Dip with Peppers whipped up quickly and is a great replacement for the commercial bean dips I normally purchase. The Tofu Jerky was a happy surprise. The taste satisfies when only something spicy (like barbecue potato chips) sounds good, yet it is reasonably healthy and protein dense. Finally, I prepared Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie, substituted ground turkey breast for beef or lamb. The inclusion of half a head of chopped cabbage added a subtle flavor component and made the reduced quantity of meat less noticeable.
Not surprisingly, I encountered no problems while preparing any of the recipes I tried, and was pleased with the results and will make them again. And, there are many more dishes I look forward to testing. The recipes in this book are not filled with exotic ingredients that require extensive searching in specialty shops. The author clearly wants to offer delicious solutions to a healthier way of eating and make it accessible to all. I am impressed with this well thought out cookbook.