Amanda Cohen is a bad-ass chef. I had the terrific experience of staging (interning) with her for a few days last year. You should read about that first.
Short-version: Amanda owns and runs the tiny, edgy, imaginative and incredibly cool Dirt Candy in New York’s East Village. As far as I know, she’s the only vegetarian chef to have appeared on Iron Chef. And she called out Morimoto. How ballsy is that?
When I heard that she was writing a cookbook, I couldn’t wait to see it. When I heard it was in graphic novel form, with the talented Ryan Dunlavey doing the ink and that Amanda’s husband Grady Hendrix, a talented author as well as mensch-about-town was involved in the project too, I knew it was going to be amazing. The wait was long, but totally worth it.
Amanda defines her cuisine as vegetable, not vegetarian – and it makes total sense. Where I might build a dish or meal around grains and beans, you can clearly see that she thinks about the vegetables first. Part of her signature style is to use the main vegetable in each dish in multiple ways. For example, in her Tomato Spaetzle, the dumplings are flavored with tomato paste, fried green tomatoes float on a jicama slaw, and the sauce is a yellow tomato coconut curry. Delicious.
Beyond the recipes, the book offers hilarious tales of the trials and tribulations of opening and running a restaurant in New York City, and a raft of insights into the theory of cooking. One of my favorite panels has a panda literally ripping the heart out of an unsuspecting diner so he can look inside and divine the eater’s true wishes. Not your typical vegetarian namby-pamby b.s.
Oh hell, I could go on and on. Let me put it this way. I picked it up, read half of the book the first evening, fell asleep, and finished it the next day. Laughed my butt off on most every page. If you like to cook vegetables and if you dig graphic novels, you need this book. It is probably too edgy for your grandma’s Hanukkah present, unless your grandma is a badass. The best way to decide is go use the Look Inside on Amazon and see for yourself.