To be able to cook is one of the truest simple pleasures in my life — one that I am extremely grateful for. If you know me in “real life” or on social media it’s obvious I cook with a great amount of zest and zeal. Any opportunity to try a new recipe or cookbook is one that I will always readily accept because the next family favourite might be right around the corner or even the chance to try a new ingredient (I used lemongrass for the first time here!) or technique is alluring. Maybe thisis why I feel very drawn to Anya Kassoff‘s Simply Vibrant — she seizes the opportunity to cook with the most beautiful of seasonal ingredients. I can relate to this desire to take humble ingredients and turn them into elegantly simple and delicious meals.
In her introduction she relates a story about her grandfather who misses out on a chance to fulfill his desire and it is with this story of the missed chance that she reminds us that not every chance or opportunity comes around often so it is important to seize it. Simply Vibrant is all about seizing the opportunity to celebrate seasonal cooking. While there are many seasonally-based cookbooks she genuinely embraces the practicality and flexibility of this way of cooking by offering recipes that truly showcase the beauty of each time of year whether it be spring, summer, autumn, or winter.
I’m not sure where the food world would be had it not been for Kassoff’s daughter, Masha Davydova, urging her to start chronicling her passion for cooking on the blog Golubka Kitchen. Since 2010 Kassoff has been sharing recipes on her blog and in her first cookbook, The Vibrant Table, which was published in 2014. It should be said that accompanying all of Kassoff’s recipes are photos taken by her daughter. Both a mother’s passion for mouth-watering food and a daughter’s passion for gorgeous still-life photography are two of the things that really make the Golubka Kitchen special.
After receiving a copy of Simply Vibrant I set about trying to choose recipes to make. Instead of organizing the book by season she has organized it by meal : Morning Porridges & Pancakes, Salads and Bowls, Wraps & Rolls, Soups & Stews, Risotto, Paella, & Pilaf, Noodles, Pasta, & Pizza, Fritters & Veggie Burgers, Just Veggies, Sweets for Every Season, and lastly, Basics and Sauces. Each recipe with those sections are labelled with the corresponding season and where an ingredient might overlap a season, that recipe is labelled with two. So when I made the Barley and Chia Seed Porridge w/ Candied Kumquats that recipe fell into the fall and winter categories.
Although Simply Vibrant is labelled as “vegetarian” and “plant-based” what I’m starting to discover 15 recipes into this book is that most of the recipes are, in fact, vegan and gluten-free and those recipes that aren’t you can easily find a vegan appropriate alternative (for example when I baked up her Multigrain Spiced Bread Loaf while the original recipe calls for kefir or yogurt I used a dairy-free coconut based yogurt with spectacular results — twice!). To be honest I think the recipes in this book transcend any dietary label because the food is just that good.
The motto my husband lives by is “If it’s not chocolate then it’s not dessert.” Of course the second recipe I would try from this book would be the Chocolate and Orange Bundt Cake. I think it’s important to note here that while vegetarian we are not a -free from family because this bundt recipe is free from everything (dairy, gluten, refined sugar) which sounds like it could be the biggest, most deprived downer of a recipe — but it’s not! The resulting cake sweetened by dates, orange juice, and apple sauce is one of the most deliciously moist and fudge-y chocolate cakes I’ve ever had and it’s not even made with conventional, gluten-laden flour either! I am now in the belief that this is the very last chocolate cake recipe that I’ll probably ever need. A total mic-drop of a recipe. Seriously. Maybe this is too much praise and exultation for one recipe to bear but I think when you can bake up a cake that anyone can
enjoy fall in love with then it’s truly an amazing recipe. Did I mention that the orange aroma really vibes with that dark chocolate? The combination, while not a new one, is really well done in this recipe.
Speaking of amazing recipes, I should probably mention the Apple-Miso Mayo. To be able to reproduce something that is even better than the original is incredible. I’ve already enjoyed it in a sandwich and by adding it to the avocado on the avocado toast makes for something really delicious. While I used my food processor, I suspect that if I had used my blender the resulting mayo may have even been that much smoother. Thinking about this recipe and the bundt recipe I’m in awe of the culinary innovation. Recipe writing is a true art form, one that Anya Kassoff really excels at.
I really appreciate that there aren’t too many ingredients (none of which are difficult to source) and that there is a precision in her serving sizes. For example when I made the Smoky Cauliflower & Black Bean Hummus Burritos or the Sweet Potato, Millet & Black Bean Veggie Burgers each recipe respectively made the amount indicated at the top of the recipe. In the week that I’ve had this cookbook I’ve tried 15 recipes and each one has turned out pretty much how they should have. Flavorful, totally plate-worthy meals. While this point may seem small or insignificant so often in the age of food bloggers where anyone can publish a recipe it can be discouraging to try recipes only to have lack-luster results. So what my experience with Simply Vibrant tells me is that these recipes have been tested and re-tested so that there is a reliability and consistency with the dishes. Nothing beats a well-written cookbook.
If you’re curious to see what I’ve been cooking please check out my custom Instagram hashtag #eatworthyissimplyvibrant or my dedicated Facebook post. As I keep trying recipes I’ll keep posting pictures.
While I may be done with this review I’m in no way done with this book. I’ve got so many recipes bookmarked (I’m dying to try her homemade pasta recipe) and I haven’t even really gotten into any of her recipes that celebrate the “root to tip” use of an ingredient (that Carrot Top Chimichurri looks enticing). She outlines eating with the seasons, along with pantry and equipment suggestions and through practice and listening to your own cook’s intuition the elegant, colourful meals in Simple Vibrant can become your every day dishes too.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Penguin Random House Canada for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.