ROBERTSON_VEGAN BOOK

The recently published Vegan Mac and Cheese book by Robin Robertson, of Woodstock, is displayed along with her cheesy primavera mac and cheese dish, which is one of the recipes included in the cookbook.

WOODSTOCK — Vegan cookbook author Robin Robertson has built a career on making vegan eating quick and easy.

She loves making her own food, but only if it doesn’t take all day.

“I don’t like to spend a lot of time in the kitchen,” she said.

Now, with a new cookbook coming out this fall (it’s at least her 25th, though she said she stopped counting after 20), Robertson recently whipped up several dishes of vegan mac and cheese in her Woodstock kitchen to discuss how much easier — and tastier — vegan eating has become over the years.

She loves a challenge, so whenever someone tells her they could never be vegan, she writes another book.

“Anything you can cook, I can cook better vegan,” she said. “I can recreate anything.”

Still, she said, it takes a lot of experimentation to replicate the taste of foods when making them vegan. “I think the cheese was the hardest thing,” she said.

In her new book, “Vegan Mac & Cheese,” she said, “The miracle of nutritional yeast is what’s giving me the cheesy flavor.”

When it comes to satisfying vegan dishes, the four basic flavors of sweet, salty, bitter and sour aren’t enough, she said.

There’s a fifth flavor, a savory taste called umami, that gives the mouth the rich flavor of a dish.

“That’s what people associate with meatiness,” Robertson said.

She focuses on how to recreate the “fifth flavor” in her dishes to solve that problem for people who feel vegan dishes are lacking in richness.

Miso paste is one of the ways she creates umami.

The cookbook features more than 50 vegan recipes like Cheesy Primavera Mac, Indian Curry Mac, Mom’s Classic Mac UnCheese and Salsa Mac and Queso.

For those who want more veggies, the book offers recipes like Buffalo Cauliflower Mac, Arugula Pesto Mac UnCheese and Smoky Mac and Peas with Mushroom Bacon.

For parents of fussy eaters she includes a sneaky veggie-filled pasta dish with vegan hotdogs and chips.

“It’s so easy and healthy,” she said.

Robertson, who chose a vegan lifestyle for ethical reasons, said she isn’t concerned with avoiding foods that taste like meat. She also is not above buying processed foods, recommending brands like Gardein, which makes vegan burgers and nuggets, and Chao dairy-free cheese slices from Field Roast, made primarily from fermented tofu, coconut oil and potato starch

She also uses mail-order company The Herbivorous Butcher to buy faux meat products.

“It’s a great time to explore plant-based diets,” she said.

It used to be that vegan and vegetarian alternatives to meat, dairy and eggs were far from adequate substitutes.

It was even worse trying to eat out, she said. Usually, the only vegan sources she found were Thai and Chinese restaurants.

But more and more, restaurants and food companies are offering vegan food that actually tastes good — enough that the taste divide between vegan and nonvegan foods is becoming harder to notice.

For those thinking of going vegan, Robertson said, “It’s never been a better time.”

“Vegan Mac & Cheese,” published by Harvard Common Press, will be available on Sept. 17 in bookstores or on Amazon.com for $19.99. Visit Robertson’s website at www.robinrobertson.com

Following are two recipes from “Vegan Mac & Cheese: More than 50 Delicious Plant-Based Recipes for the Ultimate Comfort Food” by Robin Robertson © 2019, Harvard Common Press.

Cheesy Primavera Mac

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Sauce

1 large russet potato, peeled and chopped

1 medium carrot, chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1/2 cup unsalted raw cashews

1/3 cup nutritional yeast

11/2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 tablespoon white miso paste

11/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Salt and ground black pepper

Pasta and Vegetables:

16 ounces tricolor rotini, or other small pasta

2 cups small broccoli florets

3 scallions, white and green parts, minced

2 cups chopped fresh spinach, arugula, or watercress

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

1/4 cup crushed vegetable chips or potato chips or hulled sunflower seeds, for garnish

1. To make the sauce: In a saucepan, combine the potato, carrot, garlic, and cashews with enough water to cover. Place the pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 11/2 cups of the cooking water. Transfer the cooked vegetables and cashews to a high-speed blender, along with the reserved cooking water.

2. Add the nutritional yeast, olive oil, paprika, oil, miso, and lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed. Set aside.

3. To make the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions until al dente. About four minutes before the pasta is done, add the broccoli to the pasta pot. Drain the pasta and broccoli and return them to the pot.

4. Place the pot over low heat and add the scallions, spinach, and cherry tomatoes. Toss to combine.

5. Pour the reserved sauce over the pasta and vegetables and toss to combine and heat through. Transfer to a large serving dish and serve hot garnished with crushed chips or sunflower seeds.

Spinach-Artichoke Mac UnCheese

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Olive oil or vegan butter, for preparing the baking dish

16 ounces rotini, or other bite-size pasta

2 cups chopped baby spinach

1 pound firm tofu, well drained, or 1 1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked overnight, then drained

3/4 cup vegetable broth

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

2 tablespoons dry white wine

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon cornstarch or tapioca starch

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 (12-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped

3 scallions, white and green parts, minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or parsley

1/4 cup toasted panko bread crumbs

Smoked paprika

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly coat a 31/2- to 4-quart baking dish with olive oil or vegan butter. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions until al dente. Stir in the spinach, then drain, and return the mixture to the pot.

3. In a food processor or blender, combine the tofu or drained cashews, vegetable broth, nutritional yeast, wine, lemon juice, cornstarch, garlic powder, onion powder and dried basil, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Process until smooth and well blended. Add the tofu mixture to the cooked pasta.

4. Transfer the tofu mixture to the pot containing the cooked pasta and spinach. Add the artichoke hearts, scallions, and fresh basil. Gently stir gently to combine. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed.

5. Spread the mixture evenly into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the panko and smoked paprika. Loosely cover and bake until hot, about 20 minutes. Serve hot.

(3) comments

Violet

I will never give up cheese

JEngels

These recipes sound so sad. If you want macaroni and cheese, make some. If you want vegan, enjoy that too for what it is, why make a pale imitation?

BillboBaggins

I agree. Cheese isnt vegan. This is called mac& artificial cheese substitute.

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