Atlanta's Brooke Brimm provides a plant-based roadmap for traditional dishes in new cookbook

Brooke Brimm is the author of “Vegan Soul Foodie Recipe Guide: Dishes So Decadent You Can Serve to Meat Lovers." (Craig Brimm)

With the holidays fast approaching, many of us are taking to the kitchen for festive meal planning. New plant-based takes on timeless staples are making their way to the dinner table, thanks to the rising popularity of veganism. Atlanta-based author and entrepreneur Brooke Brimm has written multiple cookbooks as the “Vegan Soul Foodie.” Her latest is a holiday guide titled “Dishes So Decadent You Can Serve to Meat Lovers.” “City Lights” senior producer Kim Drobes recently caught up with Brimm to discuss how she achieves “wow” factor meat-free meals.

Interview highlights:

Plant-based fried treats for fun-loving eaters:

“I just made a dish — this is not necessarily a holiday dish, but it absolutely could be an appetizer for the holidays. I love this malanga fritter. Malanga is a very ugly root vegetable that you can find in Asian markets. You peel it down and you can grate it up and it’s already nice and crispy. It doesn’t need any extra coating or any extra flour or anything like that. You just kind of squeeze it to activate the starch that’s there, season it up, and it’s so incredibly crunchy and yummy and I love to fry that up.”

“I love to fry vegan calamari, which is actually made from hearts of palm,” said Brimm. “You just add a little seaweed and you add your cajun seasonings to it, a wet batter and a dry batter. And it is so amazing and I love the hearts of palm because you can find that right in your regular grocery store and you don’t have to go anywhere special to find that. It’s so good.”

Soul food staples reimagined:

“For my mac and cheese, I start with a butternut squash that I’ve either steamed or boiled and I blend that down … with raw cashews, nutritional yeast — it’s a very big ingredient if you’re trying to mimic cheese … I also love a lot of garlic,” Brimm said. “Nuts, garlic, oil, nutritional yeast and [plant-based] milk, and you have vegan cheese. It’s delicious, and of course I add butternut squash just to give it that heartiness and that color.” 

“For my greens, I of course don’t use any meat. So I start off with an olive oil base and I use lots of aromatics — peppers and celery, sometimes jalapenos and garlic and shallots — and I put that in my food processor, sautée it in my olive oil and then I don’t use any liquid at all in my greens because the vegetables have so much intense flavor that if you add your greens in slowly … with a little salt, and it starts to make its own liquid. And you just put that either on low or you could put it on your pressure cooker, your stove pressure cooker or your electric pressure cooker, and you’ll have all the liquid you need, all the pot liquor you need.”

Holiday dishes even a meat eater would love:

“You definitely want to go with yams or sweet potatoes. I have a recipe for that in my traditional family meals. You want to have a mac ‘n cheese, and of course I like the butternut squash one, but I also have a cauliflower one which is delicious as well. It’s going to give you a little bit more of that sharp cheese taste because of the cauliflower. Yeah, I love garlic string beans and I love broccoli and cheese casserole. Of course, greens of any mixture and corn pudding or fried corn are great.”

“For main dishes, I like to do what I call a ‘faux dark meat’ mixture, and it’s made from mushrooms. So it’s portobello mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms and king oyster mushrooms sliced up and shredded together inside of a pressure cooker, and you just make your slurry in there and you have this yummy dark meat substitute. The key is to make sure you’re using all of your Thanksgiving-type seasonings, and then it really mimics that dark meat … your thyme, your rosemary, your sage, or if you don’t know the right measurements, you can just use poultry seasoning,” Brimm explained.

Brooke Brimm’s latest recipe guide, “Vegan Soul Foodie: Dishes so Decadent You Can Serve to Meat Lovers,” is available here.