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Michael Natkin didn't grow up in a vegetarian household or in the gourmet capital of world. Instead, while still in high school, he jumped in the deep end, taking over the family cooking to create macrobiotic dishes for his mother who was battling cancer. Despite a few total disasters when he was still a teen and despite a long career in computer graphics, Natkin found his footing in the kitchen, eventually sharing his recipes on his blog Herbivoracious.
The first thing to know about Natkin's wonderful cookbook, Herbivoracious, is that it's not just a collection of the recipes you'll find on his blog. The book includes new dishes as well as information on ingredients and equipment. The second thing to know is that this isn't your typical vegetarian cookbook; the flavors are fresh and the recipes have a wide appeal.
I was particularly pleased to see that Natkin does not rely on fake meats (soy hot dogs and the like), instead he grounds his recipes in foods you'd find at the farmers' market or in the outside aisles of the supermarket. At the same time, he isn't a food snob. His recipes run the gamut from braised endive and smoked asparagus to flavored popcorn and onion rings.
Although you will certainly find several dishes that call for tofu and another handful that use beans or legumes, Natkin's tastes are more 21st century than the old hippie-style vegetarian fare. The recipes in Herbivoracious cover a range of flavors (Asian, Mexican, French) and use a variety of cooking techniques (including grilling). The directions are easy to follow, and Natkin provides tips and advice when needed. Each recipe is accompanied by a time estimate, and those that are vegan and gluten-free are clearly marked.
I am very impressed that Natkin did all the photography himself. The dishes are not only beautiful (look at the cover photo) but are shown exactly as they really are. Natkin doesn't use plastic ingredients, sprays, or props to make his food look appetizing. What you see is what you get, which means you really can create a meal that looks just like it does in the cookbook.
Among the recipes I have marked to try are grilled radicchio, chopped salad with Greek flavors, and Swiss chard and tomatillo enchiladas. The grilled pineapple salsa is also on my list, even though I'm thinking it would be awesome on grilled pork tenderloin (sorry Michael, I'm not a full-time vegetarian). I love Natkin's updated takes on traditional foods (vegetarian Navajo tacos) as well as his new-to-me combinations of flavors (Sicilian spaghetti with cauliflower).
Whether you're a vegetarian, vegan, or omnivore, you'll find plenty to choose from in Michael Natkin's Herbivoracious. The following recipe was a huge hit, with its bright, summery flavors.
Potato and Green Bean Salad with Arugula Pesto
About 1 hour (15 minutes active)
For the Vegetables
- 1 pound small, waxy potatoes, such as red-skinned
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 8 ounces green beans, trimmed and halved
- 2 ounces baby arugula (about 3 cups loosely packed leaves)
- 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1-2 garlic cloves coarsely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ounce Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (about 1/4 cup)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup toasted walnut pieces (optional)
2. For the arugula pesto: Combine all the ingredients in a mini-food processor. Process until the mixture forms a fairly smooth paste with some texture left. Alternatively, you can use an immersion blender or a regular blender if you make a double batch. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
3. To complete the salad: Toss the potatoes and green beans with the arugula pesto, several grinds of black pepper, and the walnut pieces (if using). Taste and add more salt if needed, and serve.
BFR's notes: I used pine nuts.
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Published by Harvard Commons Press, 2012
Source: Review (see review policy)
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