I am pulling a little white lie here by calling Michael Natkin's book new — it's actually been out for several months, and I am only just now getting around to talking about it. But let me tell you: this is very good timing. The holidays are a time of feasting and celebration, and Michael's book is, perhaps more than any other cookbook I have ever found, to be a book of deeply delicious, memorable, and special vegetarian meals. These are luxurious meals to share with everyone. Michael is a friend and the author (and photographer) behind the blog Herbivoracious. He describes his blog this way: "If you'd like to eat more meatless meals that put pleasure first and skip the preaching, you are in the right place." His recipes are meatless, yes, but in a way that is persuasive and engaging even to cooks who find it hard to put the meat away. Other words Michael uses to describe his style of vegetarian cooking (all very apt) — boldly flavored, satisfying, and beautiful.
His book is a collection of recipes in this same style, photographed with elegant, beautiful care, and it's the vegetarian book I most want to cook out of this holiday season.
• Who wrote it: Michael Natkin. He photographed it too!
• Who published it: Harvard Common Press.
• Number of recipes: 150.
• Recipes for right now: Paella Cakes with Manchego and Marmalade, Braised Belgian Endive with Sauce Gribiche, Roasted Maitake Mushrooms in Smoky Tea Broth, Shiitake Tacos with Asian Pear Slaw, Pappardelle with Eggplant Ragu and Fresh Ricotta, Maple Pudding with Spiced Pecans, Chocolate Chunk Bread Pudding.
• Other highlights: Michael lives in Seattle and draws that city's many cultural influences throughout the book, with nods to Asia and Latin America, as well homegrown local produce. I feel like his strongest and most interesting chapter is the one of appetizers and small dishes, with recipes like Tea-Smoked Lychees, Chana Chaat, Blue Potato Tarts, and Chanterelle Banh Mi Bites showing off those international influences but marked still with Michael's own imagination. I also love this chapter for the ideas it offers for fresh nibbles and appetizers for the holiday season.
• Who would enjoy this book? Anyone who wants fresh international and vegetarian-inspired recipes, as well as those looking for special holidays meals that just happen to be vegetarian.
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: Herbivoracious by Michael Natkin (Harvard Common Press)
• Visit Michael's website: Herbivoracious
(Images Faith Durand)