Use this cookbook’s recipes to make meat-free meals for all

"Plants Only Kitchen" by Gaz Oakley (Hardie Grant, $27.50)
"Plants Only Kitchen" by Gaz Oakley (Hardie Grant, $27.50)

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

“Plants Only Kitchen: Over 70 Delicious, Super Simple, Powerful and Protein-Packed Recipes for Busy People” by Gaz Oakley (Hardie Grant, $27.50)

Gaz Oakley dreamed of becoming a chef watching TV cooking shows as a kid in his native Wales, and left school at age 16 to follow those aspirations. After several years of working on restaurant lines, however, he realized that the high-pressure lifestyle was bad for his health. He switched to a sales job with regular hours, and got into a serious weight-training regimen. Though he succeeded in building muscles, he developed ongoing stomach aches, and suspected his meat-heavy diet was the culprit.

Watching videos on veganism convinced him that eating animal products was hurting his body as well as the planet, prompting him to experiment with plant-based meals. Eager to spread the vegan message to friends, he quickly realized that lectures on the evils of meat-eating weren’t going to win them over. Instead, he invited them over for dinner and let the flavors do the talking.

That strategy proved so effective, he built an Instagram page (@avantgardevegan) that has grown into a brand with more than a million followers, a popular YouTube channel and three cookbooks. “Plants Only Kitchen” is his latest.

I’ve cooked enough from the book to attest that Oakley is more than just a telegenic persona with an edgy mohawk and a knack for styling food. His clever hand at spicing more than compensates for the lack of meat in Black Bean Stew with Pearl Barley. And his Seared Watermelon “Tuna” Salad — where watermelon “steaks” are oven-roasted, bathed in Asian seasonings, and seared in a skillet before serving on a salad of rice noodles and sugar snap peas — tastes remarkably similar to the real thing.

Light on text and heavy on bright graphics, hunger-inducing photography, and simple recipe icons denoting gluten-free and 15-minute meals, these pages make a persuasive case for embracing veganism, whether for a meal or a lifetime.

Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at susanpuckett.com.

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