Anita Lo, Andrew Carmellini, and Daniel Humm are just a few of the top New York City restaurant chefs publishing cookbooks this season. But for vegetarians and vegans living in the city, the most exciting cookbook release this season is most certainly going to be Joy Pierson’s Candle 79 Cookbook: Modern Vegan Classics From New York’s Premier Sustainable Restaurant. “The misconception is that vegan food does not taste good,” says Pierson, who co-owns the Upper East Side restaurant (154 East 79th Street, 2120537-7179). “But that is not true when fresh ingredients are cared for and combined well with the proper seasoning as we strive to do in our restaurants and in our books.”
Indeed, the 100 recipes in the just-published cookbook (co-written with chefs Angel Ramos and Jorge Pineda) celebrate a bounty of herbs, spices, and seasonings that help bring vegan cuisine beyond the tofu cookbooks of yore. “We use a lot of international flavors in our cuisine. Because of the tradition of their cultures, Asian and Indian cuisine are often the easiest ways to eat vegan,” says Pierson, noting that some of the restaurant’s top hits include the nori-crusted seitan with soba noodles, the dumplings, and the tamarind seitan. But her top three dishes from the book fall into more of a Western tradition: the chocolate mousse tower, the paella, and the beet, fennel, and fig salad.
While cooking vegan at home (Pierson’s other restaurant, Candle Café, even has a line of frozen vegan entrées at Whole Foods) and reading books about the effects of a vegan diet (like Pierson’s favorite, The China Study, by Colin Campbell) can help introduce meat eaters to the cuisine, Pierson says that the best way to begin a vegan diet is to simply walk into a vegan restaurant and explore the menu. “When we first opened Candle Café we had a double bacon cheeseburger on the menu,” she says. “I love taking someone’s all-time favorites and veganizing them.”