The first time I cracked open this book, I was simultaneously mesmerized and annoyed to hell. I was mesmerized because it is quite possibly the most beautiful book I’ve ever held in my hands. No lie. And I was annoyed because lots of non-vegan recipes were labeled as vegan. No joke.
I’m no vegan purist, and I knew this wasn’t a vegan book (it is vegetarian, though… in case you’re worried), but when the very first recipe (ghee) is labeled “vegan,” despite calling for a pound of dairy butter, I’m gonna roll my eyes and scoff. Like, a lot.
So we weren’t off to the greatest start, this book and I. Even after I brushed off my annoyance, I still wasn’t sold on it. Everything seemed so fancy. Almost too fancy. Too gourmet. Too… not me.
And then I started cooking from it, and I found the recipes were actually quite simple, and unbelievably delicious. The more I cooked from it, the more I fell in love. Cooking from this book felt like an adventure, journeying into new ingredients and flavor combinations that I never saw coming. By the time I realized I simply must own it, I had banned myself from getting any new books for six months. That’s okay though, as I’ve been hoarding a library copy this entire time (five months now), and I’m hopeful I might get a copy of this for Christmas (or buy my own after the new year).
Almost all of the recipes are easily veganized. The few that aren’t are due to eggs (as in, a fried egg) or some totally fancy cheese. For the most part, however, the recipes are naturally vegan (if you replace the ghee and honey… girl loves her ghee and honey).
Recipes are sorted by the seasons, which I’ve been admiring a lot lately. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by having so many books, and so many recipes inside each to choose from. I don’t like having too many options at any given time, and I really enjoy being restricted to a single chapter for one part of the year, then moving along to another later on. The book seems to keep feeling new and fresh this way.
I’ve adored almost every single recipe I’ve made. I say “almost” because there was one thing I didn’t like (but everyone I fed it to liked it), and that was the 10-Spice Chocolate Chili. Blame it on personal taste… whole coriander seeds just kill me. I find them to be brutal little land mines that explode in my mouth, my tastebuds falling casualty to the chemical warfare. Don’t get me wrong, I love coriander, just not whole coriander. If I’d replaced the seeds with ground coriander, I bet I would have liked the chili a lot more. But I digress. Everything else I have loved.
Since I can’t possibly describe all the wonderful dishes I’ve made, I’ll just mention my five favorites. It was hard to narrow down, but these recipes stood out to me the most.
Grilled Zucchini and Green Onions with Baby Spinach and Hazelnuts. This is a perfect example of her salads. I first made this early in summer when I was craving a light, easy dinner. I was totally taken aback when I bit first bit into it, though. How something as simple as a lemon and serrano dressing could taste so perfect (and complex) is beyond me. There must be some crazy chemical reactions going on between these ingredients… the sugars from the grilled veggies, the acidic lemon, and the spicy serrano… it all results in pure perfection.
Pan Bagnat with Sunflower Seed “Tuna”- Three feet long and five inches wide, this is the biggest sandwich I’ve ever eaten (however, let it be mentioned that it was over multiple days, and shared with my husband). It was as big as a house, the bread its foundation and roof. In between was the sunflower seed “tuna,” a briny blend of seeds, capers, dill, lemon juice and vinegar. Just smelling it makes your cheeks swell with saliva. Slices of cucumber, garden tomato, and red pepper made up the decor, and the walls were painted with olive oil, and adorned with kalamata olives, more capers, and onions. If this was a house, it’s one I never wanted to leave. Beneath the its crusty outer shards, the bread was soaked in flavor, wet and juicy. I wanted to dissolve into it. Parts of me might have. It might be the most perfect thing I’ve ever eaten.
Black Lentil Salad with Tzatziki, Avocado, and Pea Shoots. This recipe showcases her unique yet impeccable pairings. The hearty lentils are complemented by tangy olives and tzatziki (I simply used non-dairy yogurt to make it vegan), while the avocado lends its creaminess, and the pea shoots add a fresh and wild finishing touch. So many bright and wonderful flavors going on here. And if there’s anything better than a meal to remember, it’s using the leftover parts to make something completely different, but just as fantastic. I used the leftovers to create some mind-blowing grilled eggplant gyros.
The Life-Changing Loaf of Bread with Olives and Caraway is not exaggerating. It is indeed life-changing. It’s a dense little loaf that has my name written all over it. Olives? Caraway? Be still my savory heart! Perfect for morning toast, as one little piece packs a very filling punch. I will also say that while I loved the caraway, my husband and a friend did not. I plan to make it again with other ingredients, perhaps cranberries and walnuts next time.
Salt ‘N’ Pepper Chocolate Chip Cookies – Yes, salt and pepper. Cookies. Need I say more? Just trust me that it works. It really, really works.
I still have so much more to cook from this book. While I will probably never make everything, I ultimately decided that I need this book in my collection because it inspires me, and every time I make something, it feels like such a treat. Like an adventure. Like I’m not just cooking dinner, but I’m actually making magic. Not many books do that for me, but this one really, truly does.