Herbivoracious: Amazing flavor profiles that are relatively simple to assemble…in short, a knockout

I wasn’t familiar with Michael Natkin before receiving Herbivoracious in a recent Vine newsletter, but I’m definitely a convert! Herbivoracious is taken from Michael’s blog of the same name. His passion for great food has led him on several internships and positions in various kitchens. A vegetarian since the age of eighteen, he’s picked up a lot of great global influences along the way. Herbivoracious is full of nods to Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Mediterranean, Latin American and Middle Eastern vegetarian cuisine. You won’t find any processed soy “meat” products or vegan cheeze. Instead, the full flavors of seasonal fruits and veggies are left to shine. In addition to all the vegetarian recipes, there is a selection of vegan and gluten-free choices as well. And did I mention how amazing the food is?

I tried four recipes from Herbivoracious: the baked penne with mushrooms and fontina, spicy tamarind-glazed potatoes, spectacular chocolate-espresso brownies, and the rosemary-blueberry sauce, which I used over Greek yogurt in the mornings. The baked penne packs a wallop of flavor; it’s full of meaty seared mushrooms with a sprinkling of oregano, red pepper flakes, and sweet vermouth (I substituted marsala, since that’s what I had on hand). The blanched baby spinach was incredibly flavorful, and the cubes of fontina melted throughout and added another dimension of flavor. This may be my new favorite pasta recipe ever.

The spicy tamarind-glazed potatoes (use less peppers if you want less heat!) combined creamy baby potatoes in a sweet-spicy sauce. The spectacular chocolate-espresso brownies were modeled in part on Ina Garten’s take on The Soho Charcuterie Cookbook: Fabulous Food for Entertaining; they were good, but they still didn’t beat my all-time gold standard of the Baked brownie from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking. The rosemary-blueberry sauce was an unexpected flavor profile that would be superb on cheesecake, crepes, or over yogurt (or ice cream!). The Sauces, Condiments, and Basic Recipes section has some fantastic bases (tomato jam with rosemary and saffron, lemon-mustard vinaigrette, Japanese sesame salt, quick harissa oil) that you’ll find yourself coming back to again and again.

There’s a beautifully compact intro on ingredients and equipment. Along the way, there are plenty of interesting sidebars, tips, suggested menus, making the most of seasonal produce, and more. You’ll find familiar favorites like mac and cheese (here it’s bolstered by smoked paprika and smoked cheese) rubbing elbows with kimchi stew, Sephardic fried leek fritters, and rice vermicelli with ginger-grapefruit sauce.

Overall, this is a book that really appealed to me with its global flavor profiles, ease of preparation, and commonplace supermarket ingredients. It’s not pretentious like some celebrity chef vegetarian cookbooks. It’s great for weeknights or for throwing together a salad or other potluck offering at a moment’s notice due to the short prep time required of many recipes. This would be a great first cookbook for someone new to a vegetarian diet, or anyone looking for delicious meat-free meal ideas.

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