I spent today testing driving Mistress Ginger – or rather, Mistress Ginger Cooks, a fabulous and fun cookbook that will keep you smiling even as you whisk, whisk, whisk away at that batter in your six-inch heels. I cannot tell you how much I love this book, in all its fabulous, sparkly, lipsticked glory.
Mistress Ginger (aka Justin Leaf) is a performance artist, dancer teacher, and caberet showgirl with so much sass and flash she’ll leave you spinning. She also happens to be very handy in the kitchen (as well as other living spaces, I hear), and has compiled a collection of recipes that will add spice to your shelf. The highlight of this book, aside from the pages and pages of photos of Mistress Ginger and her dazzling smile, is her wit and commentary, which will have you madly searching through each recipe for the juicy bits.
The book begins with a short intro section on “this thing call vegan“, in which Mistress Ginger teaches us the correct way to say vegan:
You say, ‘Oh, I just made these delicious vegan cookies,” and you say the word “vegan” as though Glinda the Good Witch herself, in her magic pink bubble, has just arisen from the depths of your consciousness and uttered the word “vegan” in a voice dripping with loving compassion.
Vegans, it is now your lifelong duty to speak the word “vegan” in just this way. Try it now, I’ll wait.
Mistress Ginger informs us that she was brought into the fold by former vegan lovers, who convinced her that although we cannot escape all the suffering in this world, we can do our best to minimize it. However, she’s quick to point out her many, many (even omnivorous) lovers, and that the book (and veganism) is accessible to everyone (it’s right there in the subtitle, after all!) She goes on to give advice on making the vegan transition, share the staples of her vegan panty – I mean pantry!, give a primer on lesser-known vegan foods, and even provides menus to help you get started.
On to the recipes – she first plunges into breakfast foods, with a selection of smoothies, cooked grains, and the obligatory tofu scramble. You’ll also find Glamola Granola, Wicked Waffles, and French-kissed Toast. From breakfast she slides effortlessly into breads, beverages, and juices, including Blueberry Stud Muffins, Naughty Naan, and Love Juice (made with cherries, apple juice, sparkling water, and Kirsch). It was here I found the Pop My Cherry Scones (pg. 40), which won the contest for first recipe tested. Made with a base of almond meal and whole wheat pastry flour, these scones feature cherries, sliced almonds, and crystallized ginger for a bit of an extra kick. We ate them straight out of the oven, piping hot and sticky sweet from the bit of sugar sprinkled on top. (Mistress Ginger advises waiting 5 minutes to be classy, but we lack restraint.)
Next up are salads and sides, including a Threesome Salad (that’s three ingredients, but you can share it with as many people as you like) and Potent Pepitas, followed by soups, stews, and sandwiches – including a Miso Sexy Soup, Wild Child Chowder, and a ChiChi Panini. Tonight’s supper, Chickpea Wrap-In-A-Snap, was found here — it starts with a lovely chickpea salad adorned with green grapes, scallions, parsley, celery and dill, all wrapped up snug as a hug in a tortilla with a generous portion of spinach. Sadly, I do not have photos to share of these, as we were unable to contain ourselves from inhaling the food off of our plates and then fighting over who would get seconds. (Let this be a testament to Mistress Ginger’s cooking skill.)
Moving on, the book features multiple scandalous main dishes, including Scantily-Clad Squash and Tofu, a *gorgeous* Brazilian Rainbow Platter, and even a Valentine Risotto (featuring heart-shaped beets!). There’s also a section on dressings, spreads and sauces, including what looks to be a divine Shakti Spread (with red lentils, sunflower seeds, and curry seasonings), Notta Ricotta, and Coconutty Cream Cheese. The last and most generous recipe section is dedicated to sweets and desserts, including Gingersnatch Cookies and a Barbarian Torte (this looks *amazing* as is going to be featured on either the Thanksgiving or Christmas menu, I cannot wait to try it). The book wraps up with some additional vegan resources – which is completely awesome, but I was so sad to get to the end.
The best part of this book is Mistress Ginger’s infectious personality and well-tuned advice. For instance, in her Brazen Butternut Bisque (pg. 80), she advises you on not only how to attractively ladle portions into each bowl, but also in your presentation:
Make a grand entrance. Gingerly descend a long winding staircase with soup bowls in tow. If you happen to trip on your gown and take a tumble, try not to spill the soup. There’s a fine line between fancy and tacky.
All in all, this is a hilarious, warming, and highly-entertaining read. Mistress Ginger truly shows that she not only knows how to entertain our bellies, but also our souls. I am so glad to have this book in my collection, and hope you’ll consider including it in yours!