Long gone are the days of tofu that tastes like cardboard and tastless "health food." Today's chefs and bloggers are proving that meat-free doesn't have to mean flavor-free.
Written by Seattle-based Michael Natkin, the creative force behind a popular vegetarian food blog of the same name, Herbivoracious (Harvard Common Press, 2012) is one of the latest meat-free cookbooks to hit shelves. With 368 pages, 150 recipes and more than 80 color photographs (taken by Natkin as well!), this tome was clearly a labor of love and a boon for anyone looking to incorporate more vegetarian recipes into their diet. Gluten-free recipes are clearly labeled, instructions are clear and recipes take their inspiration from around the globe. Grapefruit and avocado crudo, caramelized apple and blue cheese crostini, chana chaat with pappadam, chanterlle banh mi bites, Jamaican rice and peas and brown butter cornbread are just a few examples of the creative kitchen concoctions you'll find.
One of the most celebrated cookbooks in any category of 2011, Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London's Ottolenghi (Chronicle Books, 2011) by Yotam Ottolenghi is sheer joy to flip through. Although Ottolenghi himself is not a vegetarian, this Jerusalem-born chef wrote the longtime weekly "New Vegetarian" column in London's Guardian newspaper and is known as something of a vegetable whisperer. Many of the 120 recipes have long ingredient lists, but don't let that intimidate you; they are surprisingly simple to make and come out looking like the beautiful color photographs every time. Separated by vegetable group (funny onions, brassicas, the mighty eggplant, etc.), the recipes span the globe, drawing from Ottolenghi's experiences and travels. Eggplant with buttermilk sauce, Brussels sprouts and tofu, baked eggs with yogurt and chile and saffron tagliatelle with spiced butter are a sampling of a few favorites.
Artist and graphic designer Joseph Shuldiner's cookbook, Pure Vegan: 70 Recipes for Beautiful Meals and Clean Living (Chronicle Books, 2012) is far from preachy. Pure, not puritanical, is his motto and the cookbook's vibrant, enticing recipes demonstrate that. "My intentions in writing this book," he explains in the introduction, "are not to debate the virtues of one belief system over another…" The recipes are creatively organized by time of day instead of course, and are categorized under morning, afternoon, evening, late night and very late night. With not a piece of fake meat in site, tempting recipes include breakfast strata, baked ratatouille in phyllo, eggplant Parma-style, Poblano chiles rellenos, basmati rice pudding, chocolate truffles, hot chocolate and even shiso leaf martini.
The second cookbook by beloved food blogger Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks, Super Natural Every Day: Well-Loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen (Ten Speed Press, 2011) is a delightful collection of fast and healthy dishes to inspire you. With an emphasis on not just meat-free, but also whole grains and minimally processed ingredients, the nearly 100 recipes manage to be simultaneously healthy and enticing. The book is just as appropriate for a beginner cook as an advanced one, with tutorials on basics like how to cook rice and poach an egg. Recipes to look forward to include yogurt biscuits, chickpea wraps, harissa ravioli, black pepper tempeh, roasted strawberries and tutti-frutti crumble.
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