Gail Davis

Gail Davis

Posted February 5, 2012

Published in Food, Green, Lifestyle

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Book Review: Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas

Read More: book review, cookbook, Gail Davis, Nava Atlas, Susan Voisin, Vegan Holiday Kitchen, vegan recipes

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I have an addiction—an insatiable appetite and one true weakness. I admit it. I am obsessed with vegan recipe books. Maybe it's because when I first became vegan there were so few really great vegan cookbooks available. I was out there stumbling around, hungry for delicious recipes to delight my newly vegan taste buds, and there were very few inspiring options. Now there's a seemingly unending stream of fabulous vegan books to choose from. It seems as though every time I am just getting into a fantabulous new book, there's another one right around the corner! I'm making it my mission to own, review, and share them all. Today's post is about a book I am mad-crazy in love with: Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas. The recipes are superb, and Susan Voisin's photographs are gorgeous. And best of all, the heavy, hardbound edition means the book lays flat when open to any page! I can't tell you how wonderful it is to not have to prop a jar or small plate on a page and get it all dirty with sticky fingers, just not to lose my place in the middle of trying to follow a recipe. Well, I don't have to tell you, my lovely readers. You know exactly what I'm talking about!
You think I'm kidding when I say the pictures are gorgeous? Even with my crummy snapshots of the book's spectacular photos, you can see just how eye-poppingly beautiful they are! 

My mouth was watering just thumbing through the pages!
Without a doubt, I am making this scrumptious-looking Strawberry Snack Cake for Valentine's Day!
Inside the pages of Vegan Holiday Kitchen, you'll find delectable recipes for holidays, potlucks, and special occasions. But you don't have to (nor will you want to) wait for a special occasion to dive into the recipes. Each and every one will make every day a celebration!

I dove right in to Nava's recipe for Baba Ghanouj, because I go ga-ga for this classic Middle Eastern dip. There used to be a little Lebanese restaurant down the street from where I live that made great baba ghanouj. But they closed their doors a few years ago, and there hasn't been any decent baba ghanouj around since then. The problem with baba ghanouj is that if it's too garlicky or doesn't have enough garlic or has too much or too little tahini, it can be rather uninspired. But the recipe in Vegan Holiday Kitchen turned out the most delicious baba ghanouj I have ever tasted! Who knew it was so easy to make this at home? All this time I have been missing the joy of eating great baba ghanouj, and little did I know, I could create it right here in my own kitchen! If like me, you are in love with baba ghanouj, don't wait another minute. Get your hands on a copy of this book! (You can even get lucky and win yourself a copy. Find out how at the end of this post!) 

While in a trippy-dippy mood, I decided to try the recipe for Mock Chopped Chicken Liver. Growing up in New York, one of my fondest childhood culinary memories is of the Sunday meals our family enjoyed at the once-famous Jewish-Romanian-style restaurant, Seymour Kaye's in Forest Hills, Queens. Picture crisp, white linen tablecloths and napkins, smiling servers in black vests and bowties, a gay African American piano player belting out Yiddish tunes, and a Puerto Rican chef turning out the most incredible Yiddish cuisine. That was Seymour Kaye's. Seymour's larger-than-life personality, (he'd make loud "kissy" noises when he wanted to get the attention of one of the servers!), the impromptu designer clothing store "hidden" behind a wall of curtains, the upbeat, boisterous, family-friendly atmosphere, and the incredible Yiddish cuisine made the restaurant a cultural landmark that attracted customers from Manhattan to LA. Celebrities like Walter Matthau loved the place, and I even tended bar there for a short time!

A favorite appetizer at Seymour Kaye's was the chopped chicken liver. My father used to slather it in schmaltz and grebbenes—liquid chicken fat and fried chicken fat and onion cracklings. (Sounds gross, I know, and talk about a recipe for a heart attack!) But I cannot help associating many fond memories with the flavor of this dish, and Nava's cruelty-free recipe for this Yiddish pâté, made with cashew, onion, and mushrooms is a deliciously heart-healthy counterpart to Seymour's dish. Whether or not you've ever tasted chopped liver, you will love this yummy spread! 

And while we're talking about great Jewish cuisine, I went nuts over Nava's recipe for Moroccan-Style Vegetable Soup with Matzo Balls! Matzo ball soup is usually enjoyed during Passover, and vegan matzo balls are typically made with tofu. But that's a problem for many religious Jews, because beans and bean products (like tofu) are forbidden foods during the week of Passover. What a brilliant idea to substitute quinoa flakes! Let me tell you, the matzo balls tasted fabulous and held together beautifully (even after reheating), and the soup was hearty, flavorful, and filling!

Vegan Holiday Kitchen is filled with fabulous soup recipes. And when it's cold outside, soup is a staple at our house. Being the coconut fool that I am, the recipe for Coconut Butternut Squash Soup looked too tasty not to try. With a hint of curry and ginger, and the delightful additions of red onion, apple, and kale, this hearty soup was a tantalizingly delicious departure from corn chowder, miso, and tomato soup.
I was lucky enough to receive my copy of Vegan Holiday Kitchen in time for the winter holidays. I couldn't resist including several of the delectable dishes from within its pages at our holiday dinner table. I'll let the photos speak for themselves, and just say this: each and every one of these dishes was beyond scrumptious! Hearty Lentil and Mushroom Shepherd's Pie ...

Sweet Potato Biscuits ...

Walnut Apple Stuffing (to which I added a few dried cranberries) ....
Pumpkin Cheesecake with a Hint of Chocolate (lusciousness!)...

Ruggelach (sweet cinnamony-chocolate cookies) ...

I hope your mouth is watering at this point, because I know you, too will fall crazy in love with the 200+ festive recipes you'll find in Vegan Holiday KitchenAnd I hope you'll get yourself a copy of this book right away, and start making each day your very own happy little vegan holiday!