Pure Food and Wine is the kind of place that astounds you with its food. It is beautiful to see and delicious to taste. And it’s raw, vegan, gluten-free, and non-processed. That seems rather limiting, but they make it work in amazing ways. My husband, a dedicated omnivore who will eat just about anything that hasn’t eaten him first, still asserts his meal was the best he’s ever had. And said he would eat raw and vegan all the time if I could cook like that. But I can’t. I don’t have the energy or drive to make that food, though I’d really like to. So I call it “aspirational food.”
Aspirational food is what largely comprises Herbivoracious, the cookbook by Michael Natkin that includes recipes collected from the eponymous (and award-winning) blog. Natkin’s food is not all raw and vegan, but is all vegetarian. And beautiful. To me, the book could easily be stocked in the “Fantasy” section of the bookstore as it is almost less a book of recipes than a catalog of beautiful plates of food I will only think about making. That’s not to say the book is full of impractical recipes; on the contrary, there are several dishes that are already part of my repertoire, such as Persian Rice Pilaf with a Crispy Crust, Lemon Mustard Vinaigrette, and a Dutch baby. But also included are recipes like Tea-Smoked Lychees, Kimchi Stew with Shiitake and Daikon, and Congee with Crispy Yuba. I will never make these dishes. But I certainly want to (and I certainly want to eat them).
And I certainly enjoy looking at them and reading about them, which is why I’m quite happy to have this book. The recipes are inspired by dishes from all over the planet and are guaranteed to impress at your next dinner party. If you serve a meal entirely from this book, the food will delight even the most devoted meat-lover. My guess is that if you never mentioned the meatlessness, no one would ever give it a thought. I’m thinking about making the Vietnamese-inspired Caramel-Cooked Tofu. And the Basi Gnudi with Summer Squash. And the Zabaglione with Roasted Plums. Thinking.
The book is now in its second printing and available on Amazon in hardback and on Kindle, but check your local bookstores first. You’ve really got to see this beautiful food. And Natkin makes excellent notes about the ingredients, equipment, and origins of the dishes. It’s a great book for herbivores and omnivores alike.