BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Au Naturel

I’ve got to hand it to them- The folks at Book Publishing Co. really know how to get serious blog coverage, as proven by the half-dozen reviews for The Natural Vegan Kitchen I’ve already spied floating about the blogosphere. Tempted by my very own copy for review, plus the opportunity for readers to win one or one of many other vegan cookbooks for themselves, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse, either.

Based on the cooking principals of macrobiotics, the emphasis on health and whole foods can be seen in every recipe, right down to the nutrition facts posted at the bottom of each page. A boon for anyone concerned about what they eat, the virtues of these methods are clear and proven in black and white. However, since most tasty nightshades are frowned upon, desserts are made without white flour or sugar, and fat is kept to a minimum, I had to wonder: At what price did these nutrition stats ring in?

Diving right in at my favorite section, desserts, the Lemon Kanten Parfaits sounded like wonderfully invigorating, citrus treats to brighten up these lingering wintery days. Skeptical of a dessert sweetened solely with apple juice, it wasn’t until I took my first spoonful that I really saw the potential in this assembly. Light, refreshing, and surprisingly satisfying, I might have preferred that the kanten set up a bit more firmly, and had a more intense lemon flavor, but I can definitely taste the makings of a winner here. Opting to laying on crushed oatmeal cookies to lend a more decadent quality and finishing off with a dollop of rich cashew creme, the dessert on a whole was wonderfully well-balanced. Call it the sleeper hit of the book, I was greatly impressed by this initial offering.

Unfortunately, the same can not be said about the Lentil-Walnut Pate. Thrilled to discover that I already had everything required on hand, I whipped it up in a flash and was chowing down in no time. What met my tongue, however, was a bland, mushy paste completely devoid of personality or interest. Perhaps with more aggressive seasoning or a creative blend of flavorful spices, it might be improved, but this one as written gets a big “thumbs down” from me.

Craving a hearty meal to warm up a chilly evening, the Moroccan Vegetable Stew Over Couscous immediately stood out as a “must make.” Substituting soy curls for the seitan and switching out the currants for green peas, (due to my well-documented distaste for dried fruits in savory dishes) the preparation was very straight-forward and dinner was on the table before I could even arrange place settings. Packed with tender butternut and the “meaty” duo of soy curls and chickpeas, all served over fluffy couscous, this was one seriously satisfying dish. Warmly spiced but not hot, even the most timid of palates could appreciate this flavor profile. Rounded out by the inherent sweetness of the squash, yet again, I found it an incredibly well thought out composition of complementary elements.

Should any of that sound appealing to you as well, don’t forget to enter the giveaway going on through April for a chance to score your own copy. Until then, the publisher has generously agreed to allow me to share the recipe for that enticing Moroccan Stew to whet your appetite.

Moroccan Vegetable Stew over Couscous
Adapted from The Natural Vegan Kitchen by Christine Waltermyer
With Permission from Book Publishing Co

2 Tablespoons Water
1 Teaspoon Neutral Oil
2 Medium Carrots, Sliced Thinly
2 Cups Peeled and Cubed Butternut Squash
1 Cup Diced Onion
2 Cloves Minced Garlic (2 Teaspoons)
1 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
2 Cups Cooked Chickpeas
2 Cups Thinly Sliced Seitan or Rehydrated Soy Curls
1 14-Ounce Can Diced Tomatoes
1 1/2 Cups Vegetable Broth
1/3 Cup Frozen Peas
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/8 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

1 Cup Dry Couscous
2 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Parsley
2 Tablespoons Lemon Zest

Heat the water and oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Add the carrots, butternut, onion, garlic, and cumin. Cook and stir ocassionally for 5 – 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add in the chickpeas, seitan or soy curls, tomatoes, broth, peas, and spices, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Decrease the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes so that the flavors can meld.

Cook the couscous according to the instructions (I typically boil twice as much water by volume to couscous, turn off the heat, add the dry couscous, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving) and ladle the stew over the couscous. Top with parsley and lemon zest to garnish.

Makes 6 Servings

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