Last fall, a publisher sent me a heavy package. Inside were two copies of Amy Chaplin's At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen, a vegan cookbook and whole foods manual of sorts. Amy used to be the executive chef at Angelica's Kitchen, the legendary vegan restaurant in New York City, and now works as a private chef, teacher and recipe developer. At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen is her magnum opus, if I may be so bold, a well-researched, deliciously crafted and carefully written guide to making the most of all the wide array of plants - from whole grains to beans to vegetables to seaweed, yes - available to us today. It feels like an instant classic, modern and interesting and definitive. (Also, the photography is jaw-droppingly beautiful.)
These days, it's tough to keep up with the onslaught of information blaring at you from every corner, and the cookbook market is no exception. The rate at which new cookbooks come down the pipeline is crazy, for lack of a better word, and the speed and haste in which they are thrown together is sometimes depressingly apparent. But in this case it's clear that Amy poured an enormous amount of work into getting the book just right. There is so much information here, so many thoughtful little tips and nice stories, not to mention the delicious recipes, that it really earns the adjective of encyclopedic. I'm so impressed.
I've cooked from the book for several months now, but I've also kept it by my bed for a soothing bedtime read and I'm happy to say that it works on both counts. For those of you who are interested in why soaking grains is so good for you, how to use seaweed to bolster the flavor of beans, for example, or how to make desserts out of things like ground toasted coconut, maple syrup and oat flour, you need this book. And if you're a vegan, this book will become your Joy of Cooking. I'm not a vegan, or even a vegetarian, but the recipes are so richly conceived and so well-developed that they don't read as "special diets" food, but rather as warming, soulful, wonderful food, the kind I'd like to eat all the time. (There are a few exceptions, mostly in the dessert chapter, but I imagine that for people who are gluten-free or vegan or lactose-intolerant or all of the the above, it's manna from heaven. I mean, toasted coconut crust for pies, chocolate pots de crème, Earl Grey fruit cake, helloooo?)
My latest discovery in the book is a black rice breakfast pudding made with coconut milk and lightly sweetened with maple syrup. You soak the rice overnight first, then cook it with coconut milk, water and nut milk (those of us who aren't vegan can use regular milk, like I did, which makes the pudding creamier than nut milk will) until it's soft and creamy and the "pudding" is a deep, beautiful purple. Spooned into a bowl and topped with cool slices of banana and some crisped-up toasted pieces of coconut (regretfully missing from the photos here), it's the nicest breakfast I've had in a long while. Warming, rib-sticking, tropical. Hugo loved it too, by the way!
My husband is obsessed with Amy's turmeric lemonade that I doctored with blood oranges during a recent onset of the flu, and next up on our to-try list is her silky cauliflower-celery root soup made with two whole roasted heads of garlic and roasted shiitakes. There's cherry-coconut granola and a corn-tofu frittata, a hibiscus drink made with ginger and citrus and a black bean butternut stew, among so many other things I cannot wait to try.
And! The second copy is for one of you! Yippee! Just leave me a comment and tomorrow evening I'll pick a winner.
Have a wonderful Friday, everyone. March is almost here!
UPDATE: Anne is the winner! Thanks for participating, everyone! Comments are now closed.
Amy Chaplin's Black Rice Breakfast Pudding with Coconut and Banana
Adapted from At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen
Serves 4 to 6
1 cup black rice, washed and soaked in 4 cups of water for 12-24 hours
1 cup coconut milk
1 1/4 cups milk (cow or almond)
2 cups water
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup maple syrup or coconut nectar
Sliced banana, for serving
Toasted coconut flakes, for serving
1. Drain and rinse the rice. Place in a heavy-bottomed pot and add the coconut milk, almond or cow's milk, the water and the salt. Bring to a boil over high heat without the lid, then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes. (Some liquid may escape - as above.)
2. When the rice is tender and the pudding is creamy, remove from heat and stir in the sweetener. If desired, you can thin the pudding with a little extra nut or cow's milk. Serve topped with sliced banana and toasted coconut. Leftovers can be reheated the next day with a little water stirred in to loosen the pudding.