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Book Reviews

Plant Power by Nava Atlas

Book Review:
Plant Power by Nava Atlas
review by Marla Rose

Strange as it might sound, it’s not every day you get a vegan cookbook that is as much a celebration of produce as this latest opus from artist, prolific author and all-around vegan pioneer and goddess Nava Atlas. Although vegan cookbooks share the common thread of cutting out meat and animal ingredients, not many seem to centered around the exciting variety of beautiful plants themselves as the cornerstone of the recipes, though that seems to be changing for the better. With Plant Power: Transform Your Kitchen, Plate, and Life with More than 150 Fresh and Flavorful Vegan Recipes, Nava Atlas has moved fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and more front and center, allowing us to enjoy not only the many health benefits but also the dazzling and enticing flavors, textures and colors (remember, she’s an artist) of our meals.

With sumptuous food photography from the talented Hannah Kaminsky and a classic layout with modern touches, this a a gorgeous cookbook that you will also want to keep front and center in your kitchen as well. No matter where you are - someone who eats healthfully or someone who could stand to boost the intake of plants - this is a cookbook that will help to take you there, not requiring any exceptional kitchen skills, just a desire to eat fresh, simple foods. Plant Power is also a cookbook that will appeal to parents, people seeking more nutritious meals and also, thankfully, those of us who don’t want to spend all day in the kitchen; even without relying on processed ingredients, Nava achieves this with straightforward recipes and an approach that embraces some shortcut “convenient” foods (like salsa, marinara, etc.) rather than ”convenience” (a.k.a., junk) foods.

Beginning with a to-the-point section on “why vegan,” Nava moves on to tackling nutrition basics and then a very helpful, big section on setting up a vegan pantry, also covering topics like storing produce, strategies for meal planning, and getting kids on board with eating plant-powered meals. Actually, this sizable introductory chapter (75 pages!) would be a really great small book in and of itself for people trying to shift into creating a more plant-powered life.

In the second part of the book, we dive into the recipes. With eight sections covering everything from protein options to breakfast and a whole lot in between (pasta and pizza, soups and stews, wraps and more), Plant Power offers a lot of options, all tending toward vibrant, colorful dishes, and with variation options as well as suggestions for completing the meal with smart complements. With everything from enticing tutorials on making quesadillas to a page dedicated to simple ideas for dressing up grains, we are also learning how to improvise in the kitchen and add flavor as we go. Nava is a pragmatist about time, realizing that most of us are too busy to spend too much time in the kitchen, so she offers recipes like the Classic Veggie Chili which comes with three great ideas for using leftovers. With the Coconut Curried Vegetable Stew, Pinto Bean and Quinoa Sloppy Joes and an exquisite section on pizzas (which also includes a recipe for a gluten-free crust), we’re given meal ideas that make great a dinner but also carry over well into lunch the next day. The instructions are simple and clear, very workable for anyone’s cooking skills.

One section that is more slim is her sweets section. There are three chocolate recipes (as well as an appreciated paragraph about the importance of Fair Trade chocolate) and the rest are seasonal fruit combinations and serving ideas. As this is a book that aspires to bring plants more center on our plates, this decision makes perfect sense.

I highly recommend Plant Power. A beautiful, helpful cookbook that would be an asset to any kitchen, Plant Power would be a really nice gift or a great addition to one’s own collection. Cheerful, helpful, and, most important, filled from front to back with accessible, delicious-looking recipes, this is a cookbook that reminds us that plants are where it’s at.

Thank you to Nava and her publishers at HarperOne for permission to reprint the following recipe:

Hummus Wrap with Grains and Greens

Hummus Wraps with Grains and Greens

This hummus wrap is chock-full of flavor and a good use of leftover grains of all kinds. Once you have your grain cooked, the wrap comes together in minutes. The recipe also doubles easily. Serve with a simple potato dish, and/or fresh corn—these wraps go with most anything! Or, pair with a soup. I especially like this with Vegan Cream of Broccoli Soup.

Makes: 2 wraps

Two 10-inch wraps, at room temperature
1/2 to 3/4 cup hummus, homemade or store-bought, or as needed
2 tablespoons hemp seeds or 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)
1/2 cup or so cooked quinoa, brown rice, or black rice
A big handful or two of mixed baby greens, shredded lettuce,
baby arugula, or baby spinach
1 medium ripe fresh tomato, thinly sliced
1/2 medium firm ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
Strips of sun-dried tomato, as desired, optional

Place one wrap on a plate. Spread with about 1/4 cup hummus and sprinkle with hemp seeds, if desired.

Arrange half the quinoa down the center of the wrap. Put a big handful of leafy greens next to it on one side and half the tomato slices on the other. Sprinkle half the avocado strips here and there, followed by a few strips of sun-dried tomatoes, if desired.

Tuck two ends over the fillings; then, starting from one end, roll tightly, making sure that the ends are kept tucked in and that everything remains snugly inside.
Repeat with the second wrap. Cut each wrap in half and eat out of hand.

Nutrition information:
Per wrap: Calories: 400; Total fat: 13g; Protein: 15g; Carbohydrates: 65g; Fiber: 13g; Sodium: 500mg

Recipe from Plant Power: Transform Your Kitchen, Plate, and Life with More Than 150 Fresh and Flavorful Vegan Recipes by Nava Atlas. 2014, published by HarperOne, reprinted by permission. Photos by Hannah Kaminsky.

2013, 2014, Vegan Street

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