Delicious Living Blog

The best new cookbook this summer

Vegetarian and vegan recipes have been taken up a notch or two by Michael Natkin in his cookbook, Herbivoracious, filled with down-to-earth ethnic recipes for vegetarians and vegans that will inspire home cooks and satisfy any vore (carni-, omni-, or herbi-).

With so many delectable fruits and vegetables in season, the only thing as delightful as savoring a meal made with them is imagining the endless possible combinations of deliciousness that might result from these fresh ingredients. As much as I love online recipes, I will never give up my hardcover cookbooks. My tiny kitchen bookshelf has room for just a handful of favorites, but every once in a while a new cookbook shows up on my desk that deserves to be taken home—to be pored over while sitting on the deck in the evening with a cool glass of Torrontes after the kids have gone to bed.

Herbivoracious, by Michael Natkin, is just that kind of cookbook. With mouth-watering photos, Herbivoracious is filled with vegetarian and vegan recipes that are inspired by ethnic cuisines—both down to earth and tantalizingly creative. (Who would have thought that sautéed grapes and goat cheese—super simple to put together—would make such an incredible appetizer?)

Originally from Louisville, Ky., Natkin describes in the book’s intro the tender beginning of his love affair with vegetarian cooking: “My own obsession with cooking is inextricably linked with vegetarian food. When I was 18, my mom was dying after a decade-long battle with breast cancer. She had decided to try a macrobiotic diet, but she was too weak to do much cooking…. I took over our kitchen …” Influenced by essential vegetarian authors like Ed Espe Brown (author of the Tassajara cookbooks), Natkin’s popular blog herbivoracious.com provided the genesis of the book.

As Natkin points out, we now have a greater awareness of traditional foods (who doesn’t love the street food trend?) and variety of ethnic culinary ingredients widely available to us, as well as farmer’s markets and natural products stores offering heirloom fruits and vegetables.

These are rich times for a home cook. “I propose to bring you a collection of vegetarian recipes that are so full of flavor, so pleasureable to make and to eat, and so satisfying that, if you are an omnivore, you won’t give a second thought to the fact that they contain no meat. If you are a vegetarian, you’ll be able to greatly expand your repetoire of everday and special-occasion dishes,” he writes.

Over the past week, my family and I have cooked the Indian Fry Bread Tacos (very kid friendly!) and the Sicilian Spaghetti with Pan-Roasted Cauliflower. I look forward to the Ethiopian Ful Medames (fava beans), Swiss Chard and Tomatillo Enchiladas, and the Rustic Peach and Nectarine Crostata very soon... Believe me, I could go on!

In any case, I highly recommend the book; and yes it has earned a well-deserved spot in my crammed shelf next to Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone and Heidi Swanson’s Supernatural Cooking.

What are your favorite healthy cookbooks? Let me know in thecomments.

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