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SV Talks: Priscilla Feral Dishes on The Best of Vegan Cooking

I’m pretty lazy when it comes to cooking, but I love food, so every once in a while I pull out all the stops and try something new. Recently I test-drove some recipes from The Best of Vegan Cooking, the latest cookbook from animal protection organization Friends of Animals. And wow, was I impressed! Even my passable cooking skills couldn’t thwart these dishes. Pretty proud of my efforts and very well-sated, I caught up with FoA president Priscilla Feral and asked her to tell me more.

Roseann Marulli: Priscilla, thanks for speaking with SuperVegan. The Best of Vegan Cooking is a collection of recipes from a number of different chefs, each with their own style and culinary influences. How did you decide which chefs would participate?

Priscilla Feral: Trish Sebben-Krupka is an extraordinarily talented friend, and the same is true of Mike Behrend. I met and cooked with Jesus Gonzalez and Gonzalo Mendoza at the cooking school at Rancho La Puerta, in Mexico. Mary Lawrence lives in Connecticut, where I reside, and my friend and photographer Linda Long brought other chefs in to contribute their talent.

Roseann: From the dishes I’ve sampled so far, you made some very good decisions! What’s the most popular recipe? What’s your personal favorite?

Priscilla: I have favorites from the first book, Dining With Friends: The Art of North American Vegan Cuisine, as well as from The Best of Vegan Cooking. I have no idea what’s most popular, but I hear praise for Manhattan Vegetable Chowder; Butternut Squash Soup; Aunti Trish’s Pasta e Fagioli; Aioli Potato Salad; Himalayan Red Rice Salad With Cranberries; Asparagus and Spring Pea Risotto; Cauliflower Risotto; Butternut Squash, White Bean and Kale Ragout; Spaghetti With Eggplant and Tomatoes; Succotash; Mashed Potatoes With Celery Root; Blueberry-Pomegranate Sorbet; Vanilla Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream; Everyone’s Favorite Cinnamon Rolls; and Jumbo Apple Muffins.

My favorite? Cauliflower Risotto, or Linguine With Raw Nut Pesto and Tomato Sauce. Difficult question!

The aptly named Everyone’s Favorite Cinnamon Rolls, before frosting…

Roseann: Wow, I chose well! Two of the three recipes I tried were on that list. I loved the Butternut Squash Ragout—it made me feel like I was back home in the Northeast, between the root vegetables, the beans and the kale in the rosemary and garlic. And the Cinnamon Rolls—wow!!! Not too heavy, not too sweet, just absolutely delicious! I had one, and they were on my mind the rest of the night…

I also made the Spicy Barbecued Tofu Triangles. I’m usually a wimp when it comes to heat, but these were incredibly flavorful, not just hot—though don’t get me wrong, they were pretty darn hot!

My husband said he wishes I cooked like this all the time—sorry, not gonna happen. Well, the Tofu Triangles can definitely be worked into the rotation, but the Ragout and the Cinnamon Rolls are a lot more labor-intensive than dishes I’d prepare on a regular old weekday. That said, I’ll definitely be making them again at some point.

Priscilla: Yes, the recipes you mentioned are considerable work, yet the payoff is there. And the book is full of recipes for holidays, entertaining, special occasions and day-to-day living.

…and after. They require quite a bit of elbow grease (especially if you’re like me and don’t own a mixer or a rolling pin), but they are so worth it.

Roseann: The Best of Vegan Cooking just underwent a reprinting. Congratulations! How many copies sold before that?

Priscilla: 5,000.

Roseann: And do all of the proceeds benefit FoA? Do they go toward a specific program?

Priscilla: Yes, all of the proceeds benefit Friends of Animals. Some of the proceeds from books sold at Texas events benefit the primate sanctuary we manage, Primarily Primates, in San Antonio.

Butternut Squash, White Bean and Kale Ragout. Rosemary and root vegetables? This dish tastes as good as it smells.

Roseann: So the book satisfies both the foodies and the activists among us. Great!

TBoVC contains a lot of soups, salads, pastas and risotto dishes, but not a lot of entrees with a meat analog as the star. Why is that?

Priscilla: Two of my favorite tempeh dishes appeared in Dining With Friends, but I’m not particularly drawn to meat analogs. For Thanksgiving this year I’m likely making a Blackened Tempeh With Roasted Red Pepper Sauce or Tempeh With Wild Mushrooms. I love Grilled Tofu With Mustard Dipping Sauce; that’s also in the first book.

The Spicy Barbecued Tofu Triangles are not for the faint of heart—that one chipotle pepper packs a wallop! But there’s a lot more to their flavor than just heat.

Roseann: The Blackened Tempeh Dish sounds amazing! Count me in.

You’ve mentioned Dining With Friends several times. What’s the biggest difference between DWF and The Best of Vegan Cooking?

Priscilla: Dining With Friends is perhaps a bit easier, with more standards. The second book made me stretch and learn. There’s a chapter on risottos in the second book and a focus on sorbets and ice creams.

Roseann: Ah, so I learned to walk before I could crawl. That explains it!

Any plans for a third book?

Priscilla: It’s a toss-up between writing memoirs and a third cookbook. But Indian cuisine can be delightfully vegan, and I’m exploring it with gusto.

Roseann: We’ll keep our eyes peeled for the next one. Thanks again for speaking with us, Priscilla. Keep up the great work!

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