It seems like everything is more expensive these days. From food to cookbooks, your precious kitchen scratch needs to go further. This is why (I’m going to really give it a try) each week I’ll post a review of a cookbook I enjoy using – one that I feel is definitely worth buying. Last week I posted a review for one of my all-time favourite cookbooks: My Darling Lemon Thyme by Emma Galloway. This week I’ll review another cookbook that shares the same space on my kitchen counter as My Darling – At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen: Celebrating the Art of Eating Well by Amy Chaplin.
This is not a small book by any means. It is a veritable compendium on how to cook vegan and vegetarian recipes. It also won the 2015 James Beard book award for being the best “Vegetable Focused and Vegetarian” book — Amy Chaplin is gifted when it comes to developing such amazing plant-based recipes. The delicious photography by Johnny Miller is too amazing not to mention as well!
I think one of the things that I like best about her cookbook is the first section called The Pantry. Amy Chaplin really sets up her recipes well by giving information essential to successfully cooking whole-food dishes. Also if you’re unfamiliar with, but keen to take up a more plant-based/whole-food diet this would be a great book to start with. I found A Week of Meals in My Kitchen section a good place to start when I first got the book – I had never soaked/cooked beans from scratch, but had always used canned (mostly for convenience sake). I marched out and bought dried beans and some kombu – haven’t looked back since! Having a week of flexible ideas for meals (also having a guide for when to get the grains and beans soaked and cooked) was invaluable. Many of her Pantry Recipes have become staples in my own kitchen: Quick Pickled Red Cabbage and Carrot Parsley Salad are two we couldn’t do without (although the Vanilla Chia Pudding should get an honourable mention here too).
Sometimes I think I’m a little (well, maybe a lot) obsessed with Julia Child and every time I pick up At Home I feel that Amy Chaplin has done for plant-based cooking what Julia Child did for French cooking – by making specialized cooking accessible to the average home cook. You can easily make restaurant-quality vegan and vegetarian dishes at home using Chaplin’s recipes and methods.
At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen offers a range of recipes that are simple in both ingredients and preparation (such as: Dijon Mustard-Marinated Tempeh) and challenging (such as: Heirloom Bean Bourguignon w/ Celery Root Mash…trying to work up the courage to give this one a go). Speaking of which, the Bourguignon reminds me to mention a little bit about the ingredients used in At Home. Many of the ingredients are fairly easy to procure if you live in an Urban centre. However, there are a couple of ingredients (such as some types of the types of dried heirloom beans, and dried rosebuds) that would be difficult to get. Living in Canada, it’s very hard to order by mail (exchange rate, shipping and duties being the reasons why I rarely order anything from across the border). I do look longingly at the Rancho Gordo website sometimes and wish that it were as easy to order specialty ingredients in Canada as it is in the U.S. Luckily Amy offers alternatives when ingredients can be subbed. I found her recipes flexible and had much success with any that I’ve tried (just as I had for My Darling, I created a hashtag to showcase those recipes that I made from At Home: #athomeinthewholefoodkitchense. I know that for myself I’ll give cookbooks a try if I’ve seen what others are cooking from them).
In my last review I spoke to the idea that feeling empowered in the kitchen is the key to creating positive changes to my diet in order to improve my health and well-being. At Home is another book that, in my opinion, works to empower home cooks to improve their own health and well-being. In my case it was as simple as roasting garlic – when I made the Creamy Cauliflower and Celery Root Soup directions to roast a whole clove of garlic were given so that the soup would have a wonderfully garlicky taste. I was so proud of myself and now I use that technique when I want to achieve that mellow roasted garlic taste in other dishes (try it with pizza! Absolutely devine!).
At Home also offers a wide array of seasonal dessert recipes that are absolutely delicious! Recipes in this section are broken down by season, which I really appreciate. Shopping is made easier so that one is purchasing in-season fruits for desserts. Since I live with a person who’s philosophy is “If it’s not chocolate, it’s not dessert” I’ve only made the Dark Chocolate Truffle Tart w/ Brazil Nut Crust (only a million times!) and Almond Butter Brownies but I’m looking forward to giving some of her vegan custard-based desserts a try.
Ok, I did say “vegan” in that last sentence but Amy Chaplin doesn’t really use this term often in her cookbook. Like Emma Galloway, I think Amy Chaplin wants her book to speak for itself without over-burdening it with labels. Also (in general) I think that there is a movement away from using terms like “vegan” and “vegetarian” in order to adopt descriptors like: “whole-food,” “plant-based,” etc. because people are looking to improve their nutrition without labeling it. Using the term “vegan” is a sensitive issue for some that believe in veganism being a wholly ethical choice. That being said, I think that At Home is another excellent choice for any home cook who is looking to broaden their culinary experiences or who just enjoys healthy, delicious food.