21 July 2012

Weekend Cooking: Herbivoracious by Michael Natkin

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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
Gluten Free
Serves 4
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
For the Arugula Pesto
  • 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)
To Complete the Salad
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnut pieces (optional)
1. For the vegetables: Place the potatoes in a large pot of cold water with the salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat to maintain a vigorous simmer. When the potatoes are fork-tender, 10 to 15 minutes, transfer them to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Add the green beans to the water and boil for 2-1/2 minutes. Transfer the beans to a separate bowl. Rinse both vegetables in cold water to cool; drain well. Cut the potatoes in half if they are much larger than bite size. Set aside.

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.

Buy Herbivoracious at an Indie, at Powell's, at Book Depository, or at bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs
Published by Harvard Commons Press, 2012
ISBN-13: 9781558327450
Rating: A
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Chinoiseries 7/21/12, 6:33 AM  

Herbivoracious is one of my new favourites :-) The photography, I completely agree, is wonderful. I haven't tried the potato and green bean salad yet, but it's definitely on my to-cook list. I really, really like his recipe for Ethiopian/Egyptian ful medames. Have you tried that one yet, Beth?

Uniflame 7/21/12, 6:43 AM  

How awesome! I will have to check this book out :) Thanks for sharing!

E.J. Stevens 7/21/12, 7:01 AM  

This looks delicious! For vegans (like myself), you can substitute 2 tablespoons brewer's yeast (nutritional yeast) for the cheese in most pesto recipes.

Can't wait to read this book. :)

caite 7/21/12, 7:09 AM  

I have to say I thought the same think when I read about the grilled pineapple salsa...it sounds like it would be lovely with some grilled meat or fish..lol

(Diane) bookchickdi 7/21/12, 7:46 AM  

I love the cover photo on the book. My SIL has two children who eat gluten-free and this potato and green bean salad is perfect for them.

Carol @ Always Thyme to Cook 7/21/12, 8:03 AM  

The Pesto salad looks delicious and if it's an indication about the recipes in the book, then I have to add this one to my ever growing list.

Beth S. 7/21/12, 8:09 AM  

You had me at "doesn't rely on fake meats." :) Definitely going to check this book out!

Heather S-G 7/21/12, 8:12 AM  

That cover photo IS gorgeous. And what a reason to dive in head first, huh? I'll hunt this one down, it sounds greats- especially for these hot months!

Lisa@ButteryBooks 7/21/12, 8:32 AM  

I have never met a pesto I didn't like. Even though it is 7:30 am, I want to devour that dish.

Sandy Nawrot 7/21/12, 8:32 AM  

This guy sounds like a Renaissance Man! It is in times like this that I wish I liked vegetables. It would be so much better for me, I know.

bermudaonion 7/21/12, 9:27 AM  

I think I'll look for this for my sister - it sounds like a cookbook she'd love.

Melynda@Scratch Made Food! 7/21/12, 9:30 AM  

I must check out that book, I know I can find room on my cookbook shelf! The salad sounds wonderful, and I am all about the pesto!

SprungAtLast 7/21/12, 10:44 AM  

Oh, I must try this book. The Child is obsessed with popcorn and it has popcorn recipes.

Jenn 7/21/12, 11:28 AM  

Loved "Herbivoracious" and was so glad to get a copy. I'm very happy to have a whole bunch of new veggie based recipes in my arsenal.

Esme 7/21/12, 3:36 PM  

Pineapple salsa would be great on pork.

Linda 7/21/12, 3:47 PM  

Yum. That salad sounds delicious!

Carole 7/21/12, 4:10 PM  

This is always such an interesting link up. Thanks for hosting.

I notice that you have stayed with the original Mr Linky's which I have as well. Somehow the ones with the thumbnails get to be a bit overwhelming once there are quite a lot of links. Although being able to see the little pics is a plus. What do you think?

This week's Food on Friday is on Salads. There are already over 80 links which is amazing.

Would love any links to good salad ideas that your readers might have.

Have a super week.

Julie P. 7/21/12, 4:19 PM  

I'm always curious to take a look at the vegan recipes because they often times work for Booking Son and his food allergies.

Beth Hoffman 7/21/12, 4:56 PM  

Thanks for sharing the recipe, it sounds wonderful, as does this book!

Peaceful Reader 7/22/12, 12:26 AM  

This sounds like a book for me! Thanks for sharing the bean recipe. I've wanted to try an arugula pesto for awhile now.

Karen White 7/22/12, 12:12 PM  

The mint in the arugula pesto sounds yummy! WIll definitely try this one. I also appreciate vegetarian cooking that doesn't rely on processed foods.

Cecelia 7/22/12, 12:37 PM  

I can tell from the tone of your review that this cookbook impressed you, and I can't wait to find out more about it myself. Thanks for sharing!

Joy Weese Moll 7/22/12, 2:52 PM  

I put this on my TBR. It sounds like an excellent book for omnivores who eat a lot of vegetarian meals.

Heather 7/22/12, 3:25 PM  

I am not impressed when a vegetarian or vegan recipe instructs me to buy a fake meat product. why include fake meat when you have chosen a food path that doesn't include meat. Seems rather like cheating. Sounds like a very tasty book. Thanks.

Kailana 7/22/12, 8:11 PM  

Sounds good! I need to explore cookbooks more...

Peggy Ann 7/22/12, 9:54 PM  

This looks so good! Two of my favorite things together. Thanks Beth!

Becky 7/22/12, 11:31 PM  

This sounds great. Having grown up a meat and potatoes girl, I'm always looking for healthier recipes with a wider variety of vegetables. Thanks for sharing!

Joanna Hennon 7/24/12, 8:55 AM  

I really love books like this one, I'm sure to get it soon.

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity 7/25/12, 9:01 AM  

Week after week I see vegetarian cookbooks and I think I really need to check some of them out to give me some more ideas of how to incorporate veggies into our diet. Especially as Elle doesn't seem to be a big meat eater (not sure who her parents are!!!). I'm also coming to really appreciate cookbooks that also discuss ingredients and equipment. Feel like I've learned so much more than just simply reading a recipe.

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