Chef Michael Natkin's Herbivoracious: A Vegetarian Cookbook for People Who Love to Eat is the perfect gift to start a healthy New Year


Herbivoracious: A Vegetarian Cookbook for People Who Love to Eat (Harvard Common Press, $24.95) is this year’s perfect holiday gift for a dad or for anyone cooking for a dad -- anyone looking to keep those New Year's resolution to eat in a more healthy yet delicious way.  

The book has 150 easy to follow recipes (most of which have not appeared on his blog) and 80 photographs taken by the author.  He also provides helpful tips on technique and ingredients and tools. The dishes are beautiful, hearty, satisfying and have bright, bold flavors.  They can be prepared for catered events and everyday meals, even for people who are usually carnivores.   

Author Michael Natkin is a super dad.  Quiet and unassuming, this married father of two daughters and former computer software engineer is currently making major culinary history. Natkin is one of the first food bloggers to celebrate a best selling cookbook, Herbivoracious: A Vegetarian Cookbook for People Who Love to Eat.  And it is just in time for father’s day. 

 But let’s really give this author dad his due: Natkin is the creator and author of the award-winning blog, already wildly popular for seven years. He is known for a contemporary, light and healthy style that is as pleasing to the eye as it is to the palate. His blog has been listed for many years on Saveur magazine’s “Sites We Love,” among its many honors.

I met the evolving vegetarian writer at a tasting and book signing  in Los Angeles.   It took him minutes to prepare a demonstartion of his delicious and surprising chevre with sautéed grapes appetizer, and an even shorter time for the crowd to polish it off.

Chef Michael at work

Herbivoracious bloggers

 There were no less then 60 bloggers who drove to the event from all over the city during rush hour. Besides his devoted blogger readers the “Herbivoracious” cookbook is also being read “by cutting-edge chefs and imaginative home cooks from coast to coast,” according to last report.

 It’s  a fine introduction to meatless dishes, say in the “meatless Mondays” concept, which is gaining in national popularity, or in side dishes, which is how I’ve used the book so far. 

 Herbivoracious recipes are well tested.  As the author reminded us, “ One of the great things about being a blogger is having an audience of readers who cook the recipes I post and provide feedback.  I love reading everyone’s input” – especially, as he notes, with his dish “peppery absorption-cooked red-wine capellini (pasta), a reader found “downright sexy.”

 Natkin has intelligent and curious outlook to cover the culinary globe, with particular interests in the Mediterranean and the Middle East and in East and Southeast Asia. A third of the book is taken up with intriguing main courses, ranging from Tempeh-filled Potstickers (gyoza) to Swiss Chard and Tomatillo enchiladas.  Tantalizing Sephardic Doughnuts (bunuelos), the cupcake of 2012, make for a healthy dessert.

 An abundance of soups, salads, sauces and condiments, sides, appetizers and small plates, desserts, and breakfasts round out the recipes.   Michael also guides the reader into menu planning, explaining how to balance meals both in flavor and nutritionally, extremely  important in vegetarian cooking.

 Natkin, a vegetarian and of scientific bent himself, also provides lots of advice on how to craft imaginative and enticing meals that deliver ample protein with balanced and complementary flavors. There are additionally dozens of vegan and gluten-free recipes included among the dishes. An introductory chapter clearly lays out the makings of a globally inspired pantry of seasonings and sauces that make meatless food come alive.

Staples recommended by Michael can become smaller gift items to go along with this cookbook.  For example, Maldon, a finishing salt, “can turn a dish from pretty good to amazing” and he suggests using dried shiitake mushrooms “not to eat but to make broths..,,  to get the umami flavor.”

 And by the way, if you're wondering about the definition of “herbivores,” they are “organisms that are anatomically and physiologically adapted to eat plant-based foods.”  Michael Natkin is the perfect example.


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