BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked

Vegan Holiday Kitchen

18 Comments

Cooking for a crowd can be daunting even for the seasoned pro, especially when there are specific holiday traditions to uphold. Bound by expectations of great feasts, in addition to the dietary restrictions of every last guest, how is one supposed to plan a festive vegan meal when times of celebration come about? Before demurring and declaring it a potluck affair, do yourself a favor and pick up Nava Atlas‘ new cookbook, Vegan Holiday Kitchen. Encompassing occasions from numerous religions and all throughout the year, it’s sure to guide you out of many sticky situations in any season. Trouble coming up with a hearty main dish for unenthusiastic omnivores, who still think that vegans subsist on lawn clippings and twigs? Or maybe you’re already preaching to the choir, but have trouble with menu planning? Whatever the case, Nava’s got you covered. Attractively photographed by the talented Susan Voisin, the pages sparkle with delicious inspiration and appetite-awakening ideas.

Gravitating first towards the more wintry fare, I can see how the Hearty Lentil and Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie (page 98) could become the talk of a Christmas party. A mercifully healthy respite from the heavy, rich foods synonymous with the season, the incredibly savory flavor carries this dish far. Opting to make individual servings since I wasn’t actually hosting a great number of guests, and wanting to easily freeze and defrost portions at will, the conversion was painless. Lots of mashed potatoes were leftover after topping my personal pies, although I’m not saying that’s a bad thing at all. Next time around, I might skip the breadcrumbs at the bottom which didn’t really add much to the dish. (Edit: Nava has explained to me that the breadcrumbs are meant to make slicing and serving a whole shepherd’s pie neater and easier, which is actually pretty clever. So, definitely keep them for a complete, family-style dish, but feel free to omit them for single servings like I made.) Otherwise, it was all you could ask for from a main dish meant to impress- Highly satisfying, well-balanced with both protein and greens, and deeply flavored with umami mushrooms, soy sauce, and aromatic herbs.

Seeking a more complete sample of the recipes on offer, and wanting a simple side to whip together without much fuss, the Pasta and Red Quinoa Salad (page 236) caught my eye early on. Red quinoa eluded me at the grocery store, but the regular old white variety was a fine stand-in. Bright, fresh flavors highlighted by the creamy yet tangy dressing make this disarmingly easy salad irresistible. A delightful combination of textures, between the tender quinoa, al dente pasta (I went with adorable mini bow ties), and crisp veggies, it would be an excellent option for a spring or summer gathering. Of course, you needn’t wait that long- I enjoyed it just fine even in the freezing days of December.

All the previous success was nothing, however, compared to what I believe is the crowning jewel of this collection: The Matzoh Ball Soup (page 115). A simple but surprisingly difficult staple that both bubbies and their babies adore, it’s one dish that I’ve been missing since becoming vegan. Passover would come and go, and I could only look longingly at those pillowy spheres floating in golden broth being devoured. Previous attempts had been spectacular failures, ranging from cannon ball dumplings to magically dissolving and disappearing matzo balls, so I was pretty much convinced that I would never eat anything nearly as good as the original.

Well, I think you know where this is all going by now. I want to state, for the record, that these are the best damn matzoh balls ever. No, perhaps they’re not “fluffy” in the truest sense of the word, but they’re so ethereally light, the simple soup, so perfectly rich and comforting, that the first spoonful brought me right back to my childhood. This is what I had been missing, and will never again go without. For this recipe alone, the cookbook is worth its sticker price, and then some. (The key to absolute soup perfection, by the way, is a truly delicious no-chicken broth, so don’t skimp!)

I’m typically not one to host lavish dinner parties, but the Holiday Vegan Kitchen may slowly convince me to change my tune.

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Author: Hannah Kaminsky

Author of My Sweet Vegan, Vegan Desserts, Vegan a la Mode, and Easy as Vegan Pie.

18 thoughts on “Vegan Holiday Kitchen

  1. By the way, I never put any broth in my soups, I think it’s a waste and it offset the true flavors of my veggies.

  2. Awesome ideas. I’ve never seen that no chicken broth, sounds great! I want to try that now. Happy Holidays!

  3. Great review. You’re always so thorough and give us a good idea of what to expect. You’re making me have a strong craving for matzoh ball soup. I just actually had some over the weekend and now I could go for a second bowl. What I love about these dishes is they are so festive and have a sense of universal appeal that I’d be shocked if non-vegans weren’t digging in as well.

  4. I’d love to try the Shepherds Pie and the Red Quinoa Salad!

  5. Pretty cups of goodness. Looks yummy. :)

  6. I can’t believe those matzoh balls are so intact! What magic.

  7. These recipes look amazing! I know they would please vegetarians, vegans, and meat-eaters alike at my holiday table. I really like the idea of making individual shepherd’s pies too — they make such a cute presentation!

  8. Hannah, these dishes look terrific, in spite of not being vegetarian, I would not hesitate in going to a party like this.
    Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to you and your loved ones :-)

  9. I totally should have picked this up at barnes and noble while I was there this past weekend because I am TOTALLY stumped for what veg entree to bring to Christmas dinner!

  10. The Shepherd’s Pie looks amazing! Can’t wait to make it some time soon (hopefully next week)!

  11. Hannah another great vegan book review. If I hang around your blog a little longer I will convince myself to be vegan. The Matzoh Ball Soup looks so amazing next time I am in book store I am so getting this book. BTW I moved my blog to new location, hope you will visit me there. Happy Holidays.

  12. Wow! you really know how to make healthy food look gourmet and delicious. Everybody will want to come to your house for the holidays now. You’ll probably have all your friends and family joining you in this lifestyle.

  13. I love this book, Hannah, and you’re right! Those matzoh balls are pretty damn terrific! Now if only my photos could look as gorgeous as yours and Susan’s, I’d be one very happy camper!

  14. That matzoh ball looks perfect…perhaps even better than the ones I grew up eating but gave up once I went vegetarian!

  15. As usual, beautiful photos of scrumptious and comforting winter food. Love!

  16. My hubby bought me this book for Christmas, and I can’t wait to make something from it!

  17. It all looks so good! I’ve never seen the “no chicken base” though I do use that brand of vegetable stock hmm.

  18. I just ordered the book at amazon, I gotta make those vegan matzoh balls!
    LL

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