When Natural Gourmet Institute grad Chloe Coscarelli became the first vegan chef to ever win Food Network’s Cupcake Wars last year, I had a hunch a cookbook deal wouldn’t be far behind. And now that her debut recipe collection Chloe’s Kitchen (Free Press) is finally here, it’s clear that her winning ways don’t begin and end with dessert.
First off, the book is absolutely lovely to look at. Big, full-color photos of sumptuous, cruelty-free cuisine and an airy, easy-to-read layout made me want to dive right in. And her fast-but-fancy ideas are too much fun not to share, so I prepared for this review by whipping up her recipes for three different occasions.
For Oscar night at my neighbors, I won the award for Best Party Guest when I arrived with platters of Coscarelli’s crowd-pleasing “small bites,” including artichoke-walnut pesto crostini, avocado-shiitake sushi, balsamic bruschetta, and everyone’s favorite—sweet-and-sour party meatballs (made from brown rice, lentils, and walnuts). Then for my band-mate’s birthday bash at a nearby rock club, I skipped Coscarelli’s famous ginger nutmeg spice cupcakes in favor of something more portable—sea salt toffee bars! These addictive cookies that feature a layer of shortbread, topped with a layer of brown-sugar caramel, topped with a layer of chocolate, and crowned with a sprinkle of sea salt were off the salty/sweet charts. And though I had a little trouble cutting them uniformly into squares once they firmed up in the fridge (shortbread tends to have a mind of it’s own), the party people I fed them to were too busy stuffing them into their mouths and moaning in ecstasy to notice. Then last night, when I wanted to make an evening in watching a multi-part Nixon documentary with my boyfriend a little less grim and a lot more delicious, I adorned our TV trays with a batch of herbed polenta cutlets with Marsala mushroom ragout and we felt very scmancy indeed.
Next on my cooking agenda will be Coscarelli’s Southern skillet black-eyed peas with quick buttery biscuits or maybe some sweet potato gnocchi. But with 125 irresistible recipes to choose from, I know she’ll be keeping my kitchen busy (and my friends happy) for a long time.