Book Review: Vegan Holiday Kitchen

Before I begin this review–and in the spirit of full disclosure–I must confess to you all that my opinions in this blog post are biased.

No, not because I was paid to do this review (which I wasn’t); not because I received a free copy of the book (which I did); and not because I was asked to write something specific by the publishers (which I wasn’t).  No, it’s because my own personal views of the author and her work have undoubtedly influenced what I will write here.

You see, ever since I first discovered the cookbooks of Nava Atlas (classics like Vegetariana; or Vegan Express; or Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews) , I’ve been in love with her recipes.  They tend to embody “my” kind of food: mostly whole foods, lots of comfort-food dishes, innovative and interesting combinations of flavors, textures, spices and herbs.  Good, hearty fare.

And while we’re on the topic of true confessions, let me also admit that when I find myself with a bunch of unassigned broccoli in my fridge, or a few lone kiwis in the fruit bowl, or a butternut squash lingering on the counter, it’s to Atlas’s books that I turn first to see what she’ll offer. I have never made a Nava Atlas recipe that didn’t work according to directions; and I’ve never made a Nava Atlas recipe that I didn’t like.

So, with that declaration off my chest (whew!), and both Easter and Passover just around the corner, I’ll move right to my review of the book.  And I’m sure it will be no surprise to learn that I think highly of this one, too.

As it turns out, most of us do judge a book by its cover, and Vegan Holiday Kitchen is a visually beautiful book.  Warm, earthy tones and opulent gilt edging grace its cover (along with a show-stopping photo by Susan Voisin–she of Fat Free Vegan fame–whose photos also occupy the interior of the book).  The exceptional production values are evident throughout, from paper that’s thick and sturdy, to text that’s easy to read, to additional tips and notes and winsome line drawings (which I assume are Atlas’s own–the woman is also a talented visual artist) on chapter headers.  Recipes are written in an easy-to-follow, clear and concise style, each one indicating specific dietary restrictions for which it is suitable.

The introduction offers various useful tips on how to navigate the holiday season as a vegan who may be strapped for time, invited to an omnivorous celebration, hosting an event, or wishing to make certain dishes ahead of time (while not Atlas’s preference, she does include a few pointers nonetheless).

Chapters cover all major holidays such as Thanksgiving; Christmas (and the attendant holiday season in general); Jewish holidays (Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Hanukkah); Independence Day and Summer Entertaining (applicable to any summer holiday); and an entire chapter on Brunches, Appetizers and Potluck Dishes (for which this brunch lover was very grateful).  Each chapter begins with an entertaining and informative section that discusses the holiday and how it can be adapted as a vegan celebration.

The first recipe I made may well be the most famous from the book (at least, I keep seeing photos of it floating around the blogosphere): the Red Quinoa Pilaf with Kale and Corn.  Deceptively simple to put together, this is a filling, warming and satisfying dish highlighted by an unusual pairing of rosemary and cumin. I took Atlas’s advice and added beans to convert the side dish to a main meal.  The smoky roasted peppers complemented the sweet, juicy pop of corn kernels and firm bite of kale in each mouthful.  This would make a wonderful autumn or winter dish for any occasion.

Next up was the Squash, Sweet Potato and Corn Chowder.  Initially, I chose this soup as a vehicle to use up the rest the bag of organic corn I’d purchased for the pilaf (and since I love sweet potatoes beyond measure, I’m happy to eat them any which way).  Upon reading the recipe (which combines butternut squash along with the sweet potato in a slightly sweet, slightly chunky soup), I was concerned that the spices might prove too strong for the delicate flavors of the vegetables. But once the soup simmered according to instructions, it softened and developed a perfectly smooth and subtle flavor with a great savory undertone.  The HH had nothing but praise for this one and made me promise to make it again.

Finally, I turned to the Spectacular Spring Salad. With my recent decision to cut back a bit on grains, I’ve been enjoying a variety of salads,  most of them featuring my favorite green, kale, as the base.  Since we don’t regularly consume the bitter greens in this salad (watercress, arugula and radicchio), it seemed like a good choice.  Combined with more common ingredients such as radishes, avocado and carrots, it was, indeed, a spectacular tangle with greens, sprouts and seeds. Tossed with a simple, fresh dressing, it created a perfect first course.

On my list of recipes still to try are Moroccan-Flavored Tofu with Apricots and Olives; Corn Fritters with Cilantro Sauce; Watermelon and Peach Gazpacho; White Bean and Sun-dried Tomato Pate; Sweet Potato-Poppyseed Coleslaw; and Rice and Pecan Stuffed Squash.  But honestly, this list is bound only by my dietary restrictions; if I could eat mushrooms, or gluten (some of the recipes for desserts look divine), or maple syrup, well–I’d likely have tagged every single recipe in the book.

I may be biased, but if you’re heading into the holidays next week still looking for menu options; or if you’ve invited someone at your table to whom  you’d like to give a worthwhile gift; or if you’re planning ahead for warm weather Bar-B-Q’s and brunches–well, get yourself to the closest bookstore buy Vegan Holiday Kitchen.  I know that, like Atlas’s other books in my collection, this one is destined to be my go-to source any time I’m planning a special occasion meal.

I’m linking up this recipe to Allergy Free Wednesday and Allergy Friendly Friday.

Never miss a recipe–or a comment from The Girls!  Click here to subscribe to Diet, Dessert and Dogs via email.  (“We love subscribers, Mum. . . almost as much as treats!”)

Other spring salads on DDD:

Asparagus, Pea Shoot and Pea Salad (gluten free; ACD all stages)

Greens with Hearts of Palm and Pine Nuts (gluten free; ACD Stage 2 and beyond)

Green Crunch Salad (gluten free; ACD Stage 2 and beyond)

Creamy Basil Pasta Salad (gluten free; ACD Stage 2 and beyond)

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Comments

  1. Well, all those dishes look and sound terrific, Ricki! I wouldn’t call that bias that you have for the author, I’d call it well-deserved “fan love” and I’m sure that you would have told us, honestly, if you were less than pleased with this new cookbook of hers.

    Shirley

    • Thanks, Shirley! And of course I would have been extremely up front about it if I didn’t like the book–actually, I wouldn’t have written about it at all. ;-) I was sort of being tongue-in-cheek with those comments, but I do adore Nava’s work!

  2. Looks like a delicious collection. I’m trying to come up with some Passover recipes to take to a friend so I may have to find myself a copy of this one. Thanks Ricki.

    • Lisa, there’s also a fabulous ebook by Emily Segal (Triumph Wellness, I think) that’s entirely Passover recipes (all vegan, many GF). I reviewed it on my blog a while back–check the Mock Chopped Liver 2 recipe–it’s on that post!

  3. I only have one nava atlas cookbook but I can understand why you love her books because I can spend hours pouring over the recipes and wanting to make every single one – must look out for this one at the shops if I ever get along there

    • So nice to know you’re a fan, too, Johanna! Makes me think even more that you and I need to share a meal in person one of these days!! :D

  4. I love this idea! It’s fabulous. That salad looks delicious Ricki! I think I’ll have to get some Nava Atlas into my collection.

  5. What a glowing review! I trust your recommendations and the recipes and pictures speak for themselves, I’m definitely getting this one.

    • Emma, I just love her recipes. They’re the kinds of things that everyone can make, and everyone seems to like. When my hubby wants uber-spicy (the only thing Nava’s recipes are not) I just add extra of whatever spices are already in there. Of all my cookbooks (with the exception of my own–ha ha!!), I’d say her recipes are foolproof. Let me know what you think if you do get it! :)

  6. Is it wrong that I get excited when I see a new post in my inbox from you?! I love Nava Atlas, and the pictures here are total eye candy!! Who wouldn’t want to eat such beautiful food!? On my wishlist now…

  7. gorgeous pictures, Ricki!

  8. wow you and everyone else i know raves about nava, i feel like a deliquent vegan for not having any of her books. i will try to get this and the others when i can, these recipes sound great!

    • Bitt, you are so funny! (doesn’t the library have any you can try?). Can’t wait to see what you think when you finally do get hold of a book!

  9. Hi There Ricki,

    I have to say, I appreciate anyone who takes the time to not only test recipes, but also share their opinions about them. I’ve never heard of this book, but after your review I feel as though I need it. This says something about the book AND your feedback. So thank you for educating me and introducing me to a new culinary read. I’m always on the lookout for vegan too! And that salad, just gorgeous!!!

    Speaking of salads (don’t you love my segway here)…

    What did you think of Mad Men this week? Finally…Betty! That woman is so darn beautiful – no matter what!

    I don’t want to give away any episode spoilers here. But I will say that Don and Harry are hilarious together. Don just couldn’t be more annoyed by him. And my husband has a prediction: that airplane is going through the window at some point this season. We shall see. :-)

    –Amber

    • Amber, now that I’ve read your comment–I have to say, your husband is probably right!! I would never have thought of that, but yes, great idea! :D (And January Jones–who plays Betty–just gave birth in real life). Glad you liked the review, too. I always cook from books before I review them. Otherwise, how would I know whether what I’m writing is valid or not? ;-)

      • Hi Ricki,

        We shall see if he’s right on that one! :-)

        My guilty pleasure is celebrity gossip, so I did read that January had a baby (she also ate her placenta, a growing trend in the world of natural birthing and natural mothering). And I have to say, I LOVE how they incorporated the change in her body into the storyline, opposed to forcing her to lose weight. What a great example for women who can’t shed those pounds as quickly as they would like, and just overall, a great example of the industry!!

        • Yes, I did hear something about that, but wiped it out of my memory as soon as I heard it ;-). I agree–a great plot twist, especially for Betty’s character. It’s an interesting angle, considering how sexist most of the male characters on the show are!

  10. I put off reading your review, for the very reasons you described as your “prejudice.” I already knew it would be a great review, and I’d end up wanting another Nava Atlas book for my cookbook collection. As I type this, one of her other books sits in a small pile of books I’m about to consult for a holiday dinner this weekend! Great review.

  11. I have to agree with you Ricki, that is a gorgeous cookbook. Nava did an awesome job!

  12. Hi There Ricky,

    Thanks so much for sharing this awesome post and salad recipe with us last week on Allergy-Free Wednesday. Be sure to check back this week for reader faves and hostess picks.

    Just a friendly check-in – I notice that the link to AFW is connected to Amy’s Slightly-Indulgent Tuesdays. :-)

    Have a great week and see you on Friday for Wellness Weekend!!

    Be Well,
    –Amber

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