The Blooming Platter Cookbook by Betsy Dijulio
This review is contributed by Bryanna Clark Grogan: When my husband said “Oh, wow!” after the first bite of Betsy DiJulio’s Panko-Topped Cheesy Zucchini from her book The Blooming Platter Cookbook: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes* (Vegan Heritage Press), I knew this book was a winner! DH is not a great zucchini fan, but I had a small pile of zucchini that needed using and this recipe was intriguing, partly because of its simplicity, and partly because of the interesting homemade cheese that was one of the primary components. It was simple to make (and quick!) and, obviously, delicious. The cheese (and I won’t reveal the ingredients, but there’s one especially genius addition) was a simple combination of ingredients familiar to most vegans, but its complexity belied that simplicity. We’ll enjoy the leftovers on crisp rye crackers. (An aside: DH instructed me to tell Betsy that he hardly ever likes other people’s cooking as well as mine, but he loved that dish!)
While this may be the first recipe I’ve actually cooked out of Betsy’s book, I’ve been having some great times lately perusing it and picking out recipes to try. Betsy’s writing makes one feel that a good friend is writing to one, sharing special recipes and sometimes the stories behind her inspiration. Reading statements such as: “…I have been consumed by what I like to call intense ‘investigative’ home-cooking and entertaining — fueled by the advent of the food networks — ultimately leading to part-time free-lance food writing and a bit of teaching. I remain an ‘independent study’ student of all things culinary.” and “For as long as I can remember, food has been the blaze that marked the path of my life.”, as well as her preference for soy milk, make me feel sure that Betsy is a “kindred spirit” (as Anne Shirley of Green Gables fame was wont to say). And a bloody good writer, too!
My overall impression after studying the book is that it is the work of a curious, inventive, creative, and discerning cook, whose sometimes rather unusual combinations of fruits, vegetables and herbs, and savory and sweet ingredients in the same recipe, are not only spot-on, but inspire quite a few “why didn’t I think of that?” moments. Even without the lovely photos, one would find the recipes colorful and balanced, evidence of Betsy’s artistic nature (she is a practicing artist and an art teacher).
Consider Creamy Summer Torta with Figs, with its savory, herbal vegan cheese filling and Balsamic reduction; or the startling Beet Muhammara (the Turkish spread usually made with red peppers, here replaced by beets, walnuts, garlic, spices and pomegranate molasses); Blackberry and Corn Salad; Butternut Squash Bisque with Cranberry Gremolata; Curried Red-Lentil “Cheesecake” with Tamarind Sauce, to name but a few on my list of “got to make this” recipes. All I can say is, “Bravo, Betsy!”
(Oh, and by the way, there are a fair number of “basic” recipes in the book which you will probably want to use often in your own recipes, too—White Bean Sausages, at least four homemade vegan cheeses, and Blue Cheese Sauce.)
You’re going to find many recipes in The Blooming Platter Cookbook* that will surely send you into the kitchen on a colorful culinary adventure—perhaps not the same recipes that call to me, but, believe me, there’s something for everyone in this lovely, delectable, and eminently usable vegan cookbook. Enjoy!
A pair of recipes from this book here on vegkitchen:
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