Thursday, July 17, 2014

Your Punk Rock Vegan Cookbook

Chef Joshua Ploeg was my Isa before I knew who Isa was. I'd just gone vegan back in 2004 when my friend Jil, who inspired me to move from vegetarian to vegan when we were in an animal rights group together, invited me to a vegan dinner at the DeCleyre Co-op. DeCleyre is this punk rock house near the University of Memphis with a rotating cast of activists, anarchists, punk rockers, vegans, feminists, and just generally radical folks.

I used to hang out there a bit back in my youth, and I think DeCleyre is still around in some form today. But I'm so out of touch. Anyway, this vegan dinner (and a crazy dessert made from cactus) was prepared by Joshua, who at the time, was doing a traveling vegan chef thing (and maybe he still does?). I bought one of his cookzines — Something Delicious This Way Comes: Spellbinding Vegan Cookery — and other than a couple Sarah Kramer/Tanya Bernard books, that was the extent of my cookbook collection. I made a LOT of his recipes back then, and I later ordered his vegan Dutch cookbook, Dutch Much?

Meet Joshua Ploeg!

Joshua's punk rock attitude and delicious recipes helped me stay on the vegan path in my early days. I've remained a big fan and have collected more of his cookzines over the years. I even had another chance to eat his home-cooked food when he stopped through Memphis for a Vegan + Bikes Dinner in 2012.

I was super-thrilled when I learned he was working on a punk rock cookbook!! It's called This Ain't No Picnic: Your Punk Rock Vegan Cookbook. I got to peruse an early electronic copy and provide a blurb for the Microcosm Publishing website. And not long ago, my official copy arrived in the mail! 

Photo stolen from the Microcosm website

This glossy, full-color tome somehow retains it's punky zineness despite the slick look. Maybe it's the collage-y layout and generous use of just about every typeface on the planet. Plus, it's loaded with pictures of punk kids stuffing their faces. Flipping through the pages takes me back to that very punk rock dinner at DeCleyre.

I have my eye on a bunch of recipes I'd eventually like to try, but first, I settled on Refried Beans Pizza for Joey Ramone (named after the refried beans scene from Rock and Roll High School and rather timely consider the recent death of the last Ramone. RIP, Tommy). 

It uses a stovetop crust (how punk rock is that, right?!). You make a yeasted dough and let it rise, and then you cook the crust in a skillet with a bit of oil. Flip it. Top it. Put a lid on it to steam the toppings, and voila. This is topped with salsa, refried beans, black olives, and cilantro. And after slicing, you know I just had to sprinkle it with nooch.

I really loved this crust, perhaps more than any baked crust I've ever made from scratch. My oven is a little janky anyway, so this is more reliable. Plus, the night I made this, my power went out. So I lit my gas stove with a lighter and cooked and ate in the dark. Pretty sure I get bonus punk points for that one.

This book is so much fun. There's a chapter of recipes inspired by punk songs (a mushroom-tofu wienerschnitzel inspired by the Descendents song of the same name, chop suey inspired by Siouxsie and the Banshees' "Hong Kong Garden").

And then there's a chapter on recipes you can make on a road trip, say when your band is touring in a van or something. Dashboard Jerky made from marinated veggies, tofu, and tempeh that you literally dry out on your dashboard in the sunlight! Coffee Pot Curry made with veggies, coconut milk, tofu, and spices in a French press!

Joshua even shares helpful kitchen tips, like cutting veggies with a credit card, blanching in the microwave, and smoking tofu on the stovetop. 

But before you go off thinking this is just some novelty cookbook, think again. Joshua is a for-real chef with for-real skills. He combines punk sensibilities with gourmet talent. So it's like the best of both worlds – fancy meals that celebrate quality without the uppity foodiness. 

His photo of the julienned Rip Her to Shreds for Debbie Harry Asian-style salad (made with daikon, plums, Asian pear, carrot, three colors of bell peppers, rice noodles, Thai basil, and lemongrass) looks like something you'd be served in a five-star restaurant. And he never relies on plant meats (nothing against that!!) but instead makes everything from whole foods. 

He even managed to class up something he calls Old Dumpstered Bagel Rarebit and 40 Oz. Mimosa (basically tomato and cashew cheese rarebit made from day-old bagels served with mimosas made with beer and sparkling OJ).


lysette said...

It sucks Microcosm published this book. I'd love to support Joshua but I can't morally or ethically support Joe Biel, owner of Microcosm.

Anonymous said...

May I ask why you can support him? I like to be in the loop :)

Sheridan said...

I love everything about this post. And that pizza looks amazing. Skillet crust?! Yeah!

Renard Moreau said...

[ Smiles ] The pizza definitely caught my attention.

foodfeud said...

I saw this book at work! Love the title. It definitely sounds like fun. How cool you were so in the scene when he was just beginning! Punk rock cred, for sure.

lysette said...

Reply to Anonymous,

Look up Microcosm/Pioneers Press lawsuit.

Jaylen said...

This is so awesome! I can't wait to check it out!
Love yr blog btw!!