Saturday, November 05, 2011

Book Review: Vegan Holiday Kitchen

Lucky me! Recently I was sent a copy of Nava Atlas' new book VEGAN Holiday Kitchen, for a chance to check it out, and blog about it. I've heard of Nava Atlas' many great cookbooks over the years, but I don't actually have any of them for some reason. So, I was happy to finally have a chance to investigate!

First impressions:
This book is crazy beautiful. I am a sucker for good aesthetics. The photos are by Susan V. of Fat Free Vegan, and they are truly gorgeous. There isn't a photo for every recipe, but there are many photos throughout the book. The layout is very nice with one page per recipe, great fonts, and plenty of space on the page for comfortable reading. Also, the cover is beautiful (don't you think?) and even the paper feels really smooth and classy. Ahhh...

The recipes:
The recipes are organized by holiday, including Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter... but there are also celebrations which are less often included in holiday-themed cookbooks - including a large chapter on Jewish Holidays, Potlucks, Brunches, and Summer Entertaining - which I think is really cool. Also, she doesn't just give you 4 recipes for each holiday. Au contraire! There are 38 recipes in the Thanksgiving section alone!!

First up, I made the Asian-Flavored Tofu & Cucumber Platter, from the Summer Entertaining section (even though it is totally not summer anymore). This was a really nice dinner. It's got tofu, cukes, red bell pepper, and mung bean sprouts... served over baby spinach with a sauce/dressing on top. It was a light salad and made a lot (many of the recipes in this book make 6-8 servings, which is appropriate for parties, but you may need to half them for regular home cooking). When I had the leftovers for lunch the next day - it was even better! The flavors of the sauce had really settled in more fully to the tofu and veggies.

I also picked two recipes from the Jewish Holidays section (specifically Rosh Hashanah): Moroccan-Flavored Tofu with Apricots and Olives over quinoa, and Turkish Eggplant Stew. I was really excited about the tofu dish, but I thought it was just okay. This recipe called for buying pre-made baked tofu... which isn't my favorite thing. First of all, there are so many different flavors of baked tofu - how can you guarantee what the final dish will taste like? Also, it's expensive to buy pre-baked tofu. I know many people will appreciate the ease and convenience of that step (especially at busy holiday times), but I'd rather be directed to make a delicious baked tofu just for the flavors in this recipe - or at least be given that option. I think I might try this recipe again, but I would tweak it around a little and definitely make my own tofu. On the plus side, the whole thing came together in less that 30 minutes, which is always nice.

The Turkish Eggplant, on the other hand was great. Easy, simple and delicious. I think it would be really great served with flat bread... and maybe even with a little bit of pomegranate concentrate to give it a hit of sour and pungent!

Lastly, I made a two-part meal... This is the Mixed Greens with Green Apples, Beets & Pistachios from the Christmas section of the book. Mmmm! Mr. Vegan Eats & Treats and I loved this salad. The toasted pistachios were a great combo with the roasted beets! Also there are fresh apples and dried cranberries in there - which provide a great tangy balance to the earthy beets and carrots. This was a really great combo of flavors.

To go with the salad, I also made Three Sisters Stew, from the Thanksgiving section. This is my favorite thing I've made from the book so far. So deliciously magically tasty! Roasted butternut squash, red bell peppers, corn, spices, all cooked together into a hearty and delicious dinner - which was even more delicious for leftovers the next day. Mmmm. I'm already considering making this for actual Thanksgiving.

My only complaint about this book:
The recipes have varying degrees of instruction. Some will say things like "3 cups cooked quinoa" or "cook the beets until tender," which is fine for me, but might not be enough hand holding for someone who is less experienced in the kitchen and doesn't know how to cook their quinoa. On the other hand, some recipes call for more pre-made elements than I am used to (like the baked tofu I mentioned above) which is convenient for a less-experienced cook, and feels a bit like an incomplete project to an experienced home cook.

Special diets:
Right under the title of each recipe is a really clear section saying whether the recipe is soy-free, gluten-free, or nut-free. In many cases it will say something like "Gluten-free, if you use rice flour" or whatever. I really like this feature, since we have gluten-free AND soy-free people in my family who I need to take into consideration when planning a celebration menu.

Final Wrap-up:
All in all, I really like this book and I am stoked to have it. I have already written down so many interesting looking recipes from this book that I am eager to try - including Grilled Eggplant Curry, Double Sesame-Roasted Asparagus and Cauliflower, Lentil & Tomato Salad, Black Rice with Corn and Cranberries, Sweet Potato & Poppyseed Coleslaw, and Sauerkraut, Potato & Apple Stuffing. The index is great, the layout is beautiful, and I love that so many recipes are included for each holiday/occasion - so that you are sure to find something that appeals to you. Personally, I really enjoy having a few holiday-themed books in the collection because I've found that it really does help with the brainstorming and menu planning... and this book will definitely be frequently consulted!

Happy Holiday Season and Happy Cooking!

9 comments:

  1. I agree with you about things like baked tofu -- I have trouble even finding such "exotic" things here, so I usually end up making my own anyway, but I'm never sure which way to slant the flavors for a particular dish. Despite that, this book looks so great! I wish I were coming to some celebration meals at your house :)

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  2. I've been excited about this cookbook for quite some time!

    Sounds like the recipes can be enjoyed at any occasion, which is always a plus.

    Thanks for the informative review!

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  3. Was wondering abou that book! My mom is always looking for "holiday" recipes!

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  4. Mmm looks good. I was literally writing at my Thanksgiving menu when I went to read this post hehe

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  5. Yes! I just picked this up from work the other day and I'm really glad! It is super beautiful and I'm stoked to make quite a few things for the upcoming holidays, though I haven't made anything yet. It has some great information.

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  6. Are you giving this book away because I kinda want it now :) hehehe. I think I know what I'm buying now... P.S. How was the yoga workshop? I miss Norther Cali already! It's the best place ever... sniff sniff

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  7. I’ve never heard of this book before, it sounds great, I love holiday themed cookbooks. Thanksgiving is over for us but Christmas is coming up and I always need ideas for brunches and potlucks. Nice review, you’re seriously making me crave that salad.

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  8. Thanks for the review! I was curious about this book. I really want to try that Christmas apple salad.

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  9. Oh. My. Goodness. I want to reach through the screen and eat every one of those dishes. Going down to my local bookstore to see if they have it - cannot wait to try the Asian-flavored tofu and cucumber platter.

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