Six Degrees of Nava Atlas

[This post is part of an ongoing series of interviews with cookbook authors, bloggers, women entrepreneurs and home chefs whose work I enjoy and admire. If you've got someone in mind you'd like me to approach for an interview, please shoot me an email at dietdessertdogsATgmailDOTcom, or leave a comment here and let me know! And now, enjoy today's installment!]

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Today I’m thrilled to share with you an interview with vegan cookbook author Nava Atlas, who runs the site VegKitchen.com, where you’ll find “Easy Vegan and Vegetarian Recipes, Tips, and Products for a Healthy, Plant-Based Lifestyle.” The popular site is a fantastic resource for all things vegan and vegetarian, from recipes to nutrition to raising veg kids and more.
Many of you are already familiar with Nava, the creative mind behind Vegan Holiday Kitchen (perfect for Passover or Easter dinner–see my review here), Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons, (and my review), The Vegetarian Family Cookbook, and more. Most recently, Nava penned Wild About Greens.  Many of you also know that I’m an unabashed fan of Nava’s recipes and use them often. You may not know, however, that Nava also writes humorous nonfiction, literary essays, and more, or that she’s a talented visual artist as well as being a prolific author and brilliant chef.
Here’s your chance to learn a little more about Nava, as I had the opportunity to chat via email with her and ask a few questions about her new book and career recently. And be sure to enter the giveaway to win a copy!
Wild About Greens

What was the inspiration for Wild About Greens? How did the book come about?

The inspiration was my own hubby, who grew enough chard during the summer of 2010 to feed a small nation. Every time he came in with another big bunch, I freaked out. What to do with so much chard? I started searching for some ideas, and discovered that there hadn’t been a comprehensive book on greens since 1996. Added to my own culinary dilemma, I was aware of the growing craze for kale, and the idea for a book was born. Of course, now there are several books on kale alone.
Researching the book to make it comprehensive was a bit daunting, but testing the recipes was fun, and helped me to get to know several types of greens that I hadn’t had much experience with, including mustard greens and escarole. The variety of greens I grew to like more than I expected was collard greens; but I couldn’t warm up to dandelion greens at all. Greens are the best of  addictions; I still use one or another or even several, pretty much every day.
You’re well known in the vegan community as a talented and prolific cookbook author. But many of your fans also know about your other talents as visual artist and writer. How would you say that these other interests have an impact on your work as a recipe creator or cookbook author?

For a long time I kept the two paths pretty separate, but I find that my skills as a food writer, designer, and visual artist are merging, and they intersect in a number of ways. I used my experience in writing recipes to create Secret Recipes for the Modern Wife , a faux-1950s cookbook in which the “recipes” and altered ads comment on contemporary relationships and issues still faced by women. I’ve also started a series of artworks under the umbrella title of “Meat Science,” all of which comment on the ethical dilemmas and environmental disasters caused by animal agriculture — which ties in neatly with my vegan ethics. In my artwork, I like to use humor and irony to explore difficult subject matter.

I’m also a completely bookish person and literature geek. Hence my book, The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life. No real crossover there; it’s an area of interest (reading and writing) that’s fairly discrete. If your readers are interested in my creative pursuits outside the kitchen, my art site is here  and Literary Ladies is here .
Collard Rolls on Diet, Dessert and Dogs
[Collard-Wrapped Yellow Rice & Black Bean Enchiladas from Wild About Greens. Recipe coming up tomorrow!]
Which three recipes from the book would you recommend for people just getting started with dark leafy greens?
At the demos I’ve done to promote Wild About Greens, people just go crazy over the raw massaged kale salads. A couple of really simple ones are Kale Salad with Dried Fruits and Nuts and Kale Salad with Asian Flavors. Stir-Fried Collard Greens are a revelation, especially after the longstanding myth that they need to be boiled to death in order to be eaten. And like kale salad, they can be varied in any number of ways.  I like to stir-fry them with napa cabbage or romaine lettuce for a great side dish.
For anyone just starting with greens, it’s always a good idea to start with the familiar; baby spinach is so widely available, versatile, and easy to use, raw or very lightly cooked. One simple recipe I like is Polenta or Grits with Spinach and Caramelized Onions.
What’s your most recent new food discovery?
It’s not exactly new, but within the last year or so, hemp seeds have become a staple in my kitchen. They’re a great source of omegas, good-quality protein, etc. and you can use them in or on pretty much anything.
What’s your next culinary project?

Harper One in San Francisco approached me with an idea for which they thought I’d be the right author: It’s titled Plant Power: How to Practically and Joyfully Transform Your Kitchen, Plate, and Life. It will be both a guidebook and a cookbook for people who want to adopt a plant-based lifestyle, starting with their own kitchen. The recipes will be vegan, of course, but we’re aiming for those who want to rethink their eating habits in a more plant-strong direction, even if they don’t go fully vegan. There will be a lot of tips and ideas for menu planning, shopping, kitchen organization, etc., in addition to the recipes. And it will be very visual and colorful, with photos by Hannah Kaminisky. This combination how-to guide and cookbook is due out mid-2014.

Thanks so much, Nava! It sounds like you’ve got more exciting projects on the way. I have no doubt that Plant Power will be another incredible book–one that I look forward to reading. 
Stay tuned for a great recipe for Collard-Wrapped Yellow Rice and Black Bean Enchiladass (pictured above) from Wild About Greens on the blog tomorrow. I’ll also be giving away a copy, so be sure to COME BACK AND ENTER THE GIVEAWAY to win it!

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Comments

  1. Great interview, Ricki. It is nice to get a glimpse of the person behind writing the book. Looking forward to the recipe because you know I love my greens. :)

  2. I too grow chard and kale, as well as broccoli, cabbages, Brussel sprouts, lettuces, rocket, coriander, green beans, broad beans … me, love my greens on my plate? whatever makes you think that????? :) what a fab idea for a book!

    • Christine, that sounds like SUCH an amazing garden! :D And I couldn’t agree more. I loved the book and can’t wait to cook my way through it!

  3. Nava is such a wonderful person – and wow Ricki, her new book looks right up your alley!! I probably need some new ways to enjoy greens, too :)

  4. we seem to have a lot more kale available now so I must look out this book for more ideas – I only have one nava atlas book:-) but I do admire all her cooking and was not aware of her creative writing and art

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