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The Candle 79 Cookbook debuts: A Q&A with Joy Pierson

Candle 79 Vegan CookbookIf you’re a vegan in New York, Candle 79 is likely your temple of culinary worship.

Since it opened in 2003, the restaurant has transformed the way vegans experience their food, and has shifted the way animal-free cuisine is perceived in the wider culture—from tasteless rabbit food to Zagat-rated gourmet meals that are high in flavor and low in compromise.

Now, vegan-friendly cooks anywhere will be able to re-create the restaurant’s recipes in their own kitchens, with the launch this week of the Candle 79 Cookbook.

While some of the recipes require a few extra steps—i.e. making cashew cheese or foraging for ingredients that aren’t stocked at every grocery store—many are simpler than you would imagine, including the Seitan Piccata, the restaurant’s most famed dish.

We caught up with Joy Pierson, co-owner of Candle 79 and a co-author of the cookbook (with Angel Ramos, Executive Chef, and Jorge Pineda, Pastry Chef and Chef de Cuisine), to learn more:

Joy Pierson
Joy Pierson, co-owner of Candle 79 and co-author of the new cookbook

Why did you decide to create the cookbook? We get so many requests for recipes. People really want to make these things at home. Angel, Jorge, and I wanted to give them that ability, especially if they’re not in New York. We also wanted to showcase the upscale dining experience—to have a book that shows how beautiful vegan food can be. A lot of people say that they could be vegan but they can’t make delicious food. We show that it’s not a compromise—you can make delicious food.

Many Candle 79 devotees will want to make their favorite dishes right away. But for someone who is not familiar with the restaurant, which is a great first recipe to try? I’d say one of our signature dishes, the Seitan Piccata. We’ve been serving it for so long, and people come in and say “That was the best veal I’ve ever had.” And the creamed spinach and the potato cake it’s served with are so good—it has the beautiful elements of a whole meal.

And desserts? The Chocolate Mousse Tower is a good one, because it gives people the idea that you don’t need dairy in order to make a rich, decadent dessert. You can have an amazing chocolate experience without cream or butter.

seitan piccata
Candle 79's famous Seitan Piccata

Got any tips for a novice vegan cook? Are there ingredients you should always have on hand? One of the things I always suggest is lots of herbs and spices. They make everything delicious, animal or no animal. Also, going to the farmer’s market and buying what’s beautiful and fresh, and then picking a recipe based on that.

Do you have a personal favorite dish from the cookbook that you like to make at home? I do a lot of brunch. So I’d say the Tofu and Seitan Sausage Scramble and the Home-Style Pancakes. I also have the most fun with the Chickpea Crepes. You can fill them with seasonal ingredients, like butternut squash right now, and asparagus and mushrooms in the spring. And you develop the technique as you keep doing it. —Lisa Elaine Held

Candle 79 Cookbook: Modern Vegan Classics from New York’s Premier Sustainable Restaurant. Available in our Amazon Store under “Alexia’s Picks,” $17.36