Herbivoracious: A Flavor Revolution with 150 Vibrant and Original Vegetarian Recipes (Anglais) Relié – 1 mai 2012
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Enter Michael Natkin and his Herbivoracious blog, and now this cookbook. He LOVES good food, and it shows! The photos are gorgeous, the recipes are just packed with interesting flavors from around the world, and there's not a lentil loaf or gloppy casserole to be found. This is the perfect book for any adventurous eater or cook, vegetarian or not. In fact, it would be a great gift for the foodie friend who's never quite sure what to make for the vegetarians in his/her life.
Some of my favorites so far are the Thai Tofu Salad, Iraqi-Jewish Eggplant Sandwich, Chermoula-Stuffed Eggplant, and my two all-time favorites, Sicilian Spaghetti with Pan-Roasted Cauliflower and Rice Vermicelli with Ginger-Grapefruit Sauce. I used to dislike both grapefruit and cauliflower, and these recipes actually converted me to loving them. I am seriously thinking of cooking my way straight through the book, "Julie & Julia"-style.
If I had to register a criticism, it would be that many of the recipes call for unusual ingredients that require a trip to various ethnic markets. But that's just part of the adventure, and if you're not willing to try a crazy new flavor or two, then you might as well stick with your beige '70's recipes. Also, substitutions are often noted if you truly can't find an ingredient.
My favorite quote from the book: "I like to think that being mindful of the implications of what one cooks and eats is not an _ascetic_ practice but an _aesthetic_ pleasure." Bravo, Michael, and bon appetit!
There are recipes, to be sure, and they are colorful and flavorful, bright and comforting, exotic and familiar. His photography is beautiful, his writing careful but easygoing and creative. In the cutthroat world of "want it now," easily-accessible recipe websites, a cable channel with millions in marketing and bright fresh cooking wall-to-wall 24/7, there has to be more than flash and color. This collection has it all going on. This collection has two things that flashy web sites and thousands of other cook books do not. First, Natkin's recipes have essential appeal that is neither about cramming too much action into them (olive oil! butter! pancetta! All at once!) nor about removing an ingredient (meat) and building around the hole. Natkin's recipes are simple and elegant, even when they are humble. One of the best features of his blog has been how the five elements of taste complement one another, and which foods give those tastes. The recipes here use just those pieces. In the Corn and Tomato Confit Risotto, for example (someone else mentioned this recipe), textures and tastes add up to a synergystic whole: the snap of the corn and creaminess of the risotto, the sweetness of the confit balanced with the saltiness of risotto. Second, the recipes are accessible. Many of the recipes have prep times less than an hour, and many of those less than half an hour. The directions are clear and make no assumptions about what you can do. Sprinkled throughout the book are snippets of knowledgeable but relaxed commentary - one of the best elements of his blog, too - on where to find ingredients, the history of a dish, how to select fruits or veggies. The result is a collection of recipes that leave you learning about the food you're preparing and eating. His passion for the food is infectious.
In the same way that my Moosewood cookbooks became my go-to cookbooks in the 1990s, as I was just learning to really cook (not just assemble food), this book is destined for a reserved place on my shelf and a frequent place on my countertops as I happily try new recipes. It's such hit-and-miss with cookbooks out there. This one is all hits.
The reasons why I've decided to give it 4 rather than 5 stars are:
(1) many of the ingredients are relatively obscure and can be hard to find. I love to cook and while I wouldn't call myself exactly a "foodie", I was surprised to see how many things in "Herbivoracious" that I had never before heard of. Pomegranate molasses? Genmaicha tea? Scamorza cheese? Fregola sarda pasta? Ras el banout spice mixture? Amba (pickled mango)? Achiote paste? Umeboshi plum paste? Berbere spice mix? Sumac powder? Dried pasilla? Kochujang paste? Purple cauliflower? There were a number of interesting-sounding recipes that I simply could not try because I wasn't about to spend a bunch of time and money trying to track down these oddball ingredients.
(2) NO NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION!!!!! This is probably the biggest problem I had with "Herbivoracious". I'm not making vegetarian cuisine because I have some ethical problem with meat consumption. No, a major reason I'm eating tofu instead of steak is because 4 oz. of tofu has only 94 kcal and 5 grams fat vs. 230 kcal and 11 g fat for 4 oz. of porterhouse. I lost 20% of my bodyweight a decade ago and I'm trying to keep that off. With a few exceptions (nuts, olive oil, avocados, etc.) plant foods tend to have a much more favorable nutrient density, packing a lot of nutrition without a lot of calories & fat. But I still want to know how many calories I'm consuming so that I don't accidentally overdo it.
-Tomato Chickpea Soup (pg. 72) The recipe was simple, but the results were surprisingly rich.
-Shiitake Tacos with Asian Pear Slaw (pg. 114) I was a bit skeptical because it seemed rather oddball fusion but it was super-tasty. Definitely not your same old veggie stir fry!
-Chiang Mai Curry Noodles (pg. 139) Spicy but delicious. I am not a huge tofu fan but I loved this.
-Sichuan Dry-Fried Green Beans and Tofu (pg. 149) Another recipe that actually made tofu taste really good.
-Grilled Tofu & Pepper Tacos (pg. 169) Yet another surprisingly good tofu recipe.
-Buckwheat Buttermilk Pancakes (pg. 244) Very fluffy and good. My 9 y.o. thought they were a little dry but I didn't think so.
-Black Bean Soup with Orange-Jalapeno Salsa (pg. 76) The soup was a bit bland. It tasted much better when I added some chicken broth (I didn't have any veggie bouillon on hand but I would imagine that would perk it up as well).
-Spicy Corn and Potato Stew (pg. 79) Way too spicy for my tastes. I added some extra lime and also some brown sugar to cut the heat, and then it was really good.
-Bocoles with Spicy Sweet Potatoes (pg. 156) The bocoles were super-tasty but heavy (presumably from being fried in oil) and the sweet potato filling was too spicy for my tastes. I added brown sugar to cut the heat and then it was very tasty.
-Chana Masala with Mushrooms (pg. 166) Again too spicy and better when I added more tomatoes and a bit of sugar to cut the heat.
-Crispy Polenta Cakes with White Beans and Morels (pg. 154) Too bland.
-Chili Borracho (pg. 170) This retained too much beer flavor even after I cooked it for an hour longer than the recipe called for.
One thing I really liked about "Herbivoracious" was the clear labeling of recipes that are vegan, gluten-free, or that have a GF and/or vegan option. My youngest child is on a gluten- and dairy-free diet so I appreciated being able to easily tell which recipes would work for her dietary needs.
I stand corrected.
This is an absolutely brilliant collection, inspiring in its diversity and pursuit of maximum flavor. In some recipes, a main ingredient is allowed to be itself and shine, in other cases, it's a single voice in a larger chorus of flavors. There's a sampling from just about any type of cuisine I can think of and that there are even "meatless" versions of traditional dishes.
It's clear the design of the book is for people who actually cook and written by someone who genuinely enjoys cooking. Legible in presentation and practical in procedure and commentary.
So far, I haven't made a recipe that I didn't like. A few of my favorite recipes include Shitake tacos with Asian Pear Slaw, Corn and Tomato Confit Risotto (especially delicious), and the Chickpea and Green Olive Tagine.