It isn’t often that I truly rave about a cookbook. When you spend as much time as I do immersed in the world of food–blogs, books, photographs, not to mention one’s own recipe development–it’s easy to become a little numb to the beauty of what you see. There is so much talent out there, and we foodies get exposure to a lot of it.
But Amy Chaplin’s At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen, which I’ve had since earlier this fall, has rocked my world. I’ve been waiting to spend some time with this gorgeous collection before I wrote about it, because it’s truly a cookbook to savor, to read page-by-page. But with Christmas and New Year’s Eve upon us, I’ll submit that, if you decide to treat yourself to one food book for the holiday season and the new year ahead, it should probably be this one.
Amy Chaplin has worked as a vegetarian chef for over twenty years. Most famously, she’s the former executive chef of Angelica Kitchen, one of the most renowned vegan restaurants in the country. She’s worked as a recipe developer, a teacher, and a private chef (to such notable clients as Liv Tyler and Natalie Portman), and her work has appeared in all sorts of prestigious food publications. Amy’s also the author of a pretty gorgeous food blog/website, where she posts her creations regularly, and an equally lovely Instagram account.
If I had to sum up Amy’s culinary style, I’d say that it’s hearty, wholesome, and flavorful. Reading through her book (and knowing about her culinary heritage and training and experience), I see macrobiotic influences, as well as a familiarity with global cuisine. But her book isn’t a macrobiotic book, nor is it limited to one culinary perspective. In its pages you’ll find everything from chia pudding to tempeh burgers to kitchari to cashew cheese. The book is not 100% vegan, but I’d guess that it’s easily 92% vegan, and every recipe that calls for goat cheese or the like can be modified easily to be vegan.
A legume primer from At Home in the Whole Foods Kitchen
One of the first passages I read in Amy’s book was about the beauty and heartiness of whole grains. She called them her “desert island food,” which made me smile. I have similar feelings about a warm bowl of rice or quinoa, and in our grain-phobic, carb-phobic (everything-phobic?) health food culture, it’s so refreshing to see a food writer who can cut through the noise and appreciate these nourishing foods, which have sustained human populations for millennia. She also knows how to do wonders with beans, another food that is sometimes irrationally feared these days. For grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and numerous other ingredients, Amy provides detailed information on soaking, cooking methods, storage, and selection. At Home is a cookbook first and foremost, but it’s also a rich and textured resource on how to stock, care for, and use a whole-foods-oriented kitchen.
Another thing I appreciate about Amy’s book is that it’s a perfect marriage of health-minded and food-celebratory. At the risk of dwelling on some of the food alarmism that I see poisoning the health world these days, I’m finding that it’s harder and harder to find titles that celebrate good health while also celebrating the joy and taste and experience of great food. Amy is of course trained in preparing food that has healing properties, but she also celebrates delicious desserts, morning baked goods, and other treats.
Amy’s Spelt Almond Waffles and Vanilla Chia Pudding
The result is a collection that feels nourishing for both the body and the spirit. Roost book’s copy for this book seems to sum up its spirit in even more evocative language:
Imagine you are in a bright, breezy kitchen. There are large bowls on the counter full of lush, colorful produce and a cake stand stacked with pretty whole-grain muffins. On the shelves live rows of glass jars, all shapes and sizes, containing grains, seeds, beans, nuts, and spices. You open the fridge and therein you find a bottle of fresh almond milk, cooked beans, soaking grains, dressings, ferments, and seasonal produce. This is Amy Chaplin’s kitchen. It is a heavenly place, and it is this book that will make it your kitchen too.
That’s about right.
From the book: Herbed black quinoa muffins with sweet potato and caramelized onions
The book is divided into two parts. Part One walks you through setting up a pantry, finding common ingredients, picking appliances, and making weekly menus. It also provides a bastion of simple, basic recipes that are essential to a plant-based and whole foods diet. Part Two is where the magic happens: well over 200 pages of recipes, from black rice breakfast pudding with coconut and banana to beet tartlets with poppy seed crust and white bean fennel filling to a roasted fig and raspberry tart with toasted almond crust. It’s a challenge not to want to make each and every item right away.
Beet tartlets with poppy seed crust and white bean fennel filling
The folks at Roost books and Amy have generously agreed to let me share a recipe from the collection. It was hard to choose, but the one I selected is a recipe that I think captures the spirit of Amy’s food: satisfying, wholesome, close-to-the-earth. It’s Amy’s Heirloom Bean Bourguignon with celery root mash, and it is a feast for both the eyes and the tastebuds.
No, this isn’t a simple nor a quick recipe, but Amy explains that it’s a celebratory dish for her–an offering for, say, Christmas Eve dinner (how appropriate!). The book’s headnote also specifies that the vegetables should be scrubbed but not peeled to retain nutrition, that a large, ceramic or glass rimmed baking dish is best for roasting the vegetables, and that any large, creamy bean in fine in place of Christmas limas. The stock can be prepared three whole days in advance. This is the sort of recipe that I can assure you is worth the work it demands: hearty, complex, and beautiful, it is the epitome of whole foods cuisine.
At Home in the Whole Foods Kitchen is a treat for the eyes and the soul. And because I’m so smitten with this special book, it is my special pleasure to share a copy with all of you as part of a giveaway. Enter below to win your own copy of this gorgeous collection! (US residents only, please).
Good luck, readers!
Tomorrow, I’ll be checking in with an easy, make ahead breakfast option for Christmas morning (or any wintery morning). Till soon.
All images in this post from At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen by Amy Chaplin, © 2014 by Amy Chaplin. The photographs are © 2014 by Johnny Miller. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications Inc., Boston, MA. www.roostbooks.com