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Vegetarians in Paradise

Vegetarian Books

Each issue the VIP birds endeavor to soar to the highest literary peak to peck out the most unique, informative, and accomplished book or books that contribute to vegetarian enlightenment.

This month we review a cookbook for anyone seeking information on preparing raw and cooked dishes featuring leafy green vegetables..

Wild About Greens:
125 Delectable Vegan Recipes for Kale, Collards, Arugula, Bok Choy,
and Other Leafy Veggies Everyone Loves

By Nava Atlas

Sterling, 2012
Hardcover, $24.95

Cookbook author Nava Atlas never runs out of innovative ideas to bring a fresh repertoire of tantalizing recipes to her bevy of fans. Her newest cookbook, Wild About Greens: 125 Delectable Vegan Recipes for Kale, Collards, Arugula, Bok choy and other Leafy Veggies Everyone Loves, is an exciting foray into the veggie patch of leafy greens.

While kale, collards, and arugula have long been part of her everyday fare, her membership in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture farm), added ubiquitously to her refrigerator's green inventory. Because members of her CSA clamored for recipes for preparing their green bounty, Nava, who was the CSA newsletter editor, began sharing her recipes. Her husband took up leafy green gardening, too, adding to the steady flow of greens into the kitchen. Writing a cookbook featuring greens was an idea marinating in the author's mind for some time.

Wild About Greens Divided into chapters, the book covers basic preparation of greens and pairs them with beans, grains, pasta, and other vegetables. Also covered are salads, dressings, dips, soups, stews, juices, and smoothies.

In Wild About Greens, Nava provides not only a banquet of tasty recipes, but also a helpful primer on the multitude of health benefits of leafy greens, along with tips on buying, preparing, freezing, and dehydrating.

Introduction to Leafy Greens delves into the unique qualities of each variety, how it compares to other greens, and into which recipes and recipe categories it best fits. She describes broccoli rabe, a favored green in Mediterranean regions where it's also known as rapini or Italian broccoli. It may surprise some to learn broccoli rabe is not even a member of the broccoli family but belongs to the turnip and mustard green family.

Nava recognizes that while the milder flavor of kale and collards make them popular in smoothies, green drinks, and salads, she is aware of the health aspects of bitter greens. She combines dandelion greens with more delicate greens and adds ingredients like fruits, nuts, olives, or tomatoes to decrease the bitterness.

Invaluable for those new to leafy greens is the chapter on basic preparation with techniques for steaming, sautéing, blanching, and braising. Provided are detailed directions for washing greens. Since bits of dirt hide in small crevices, she recommends cutting the greens before washing to expose those hidden areas.

Beyond the basics is a wonderful storehouse of recipes that allow greens to shine. Nava's Quinoa with Kale, Sweet Potatoes & Pecans is an appealing example of how well greens pair with grains. It's a stunning pilaf with warm colors and savory flavors to brighten any meal.

Beans, grains, and greens take on a festive touch in Collard-Wrapped Yellow rice and Black Bean Enchiladas, a Tex-Mex-style dish seasoned with fresh cilantro and spices, and topped with salsa.

Nava Atlas Anyone new to kale salads may chuckle at the idea of massaging the greens before adding other vegetables or seasonings. The technique, using any of three different methods, makes kale more tender and easier to chew. Creativity abounds in the author's kale salad world with seven different salad combinations. Most unique is Kale Salad with Cauliflower & Sweet Potatoes that includes avocado, red bell peppers, and scallions tossed in olive oil and wine vinegar dressing.

Recognizing the popularity of green smoothies and green juices, this industrious author becomes a tour guide explaining the difference and benefits of each technique. While green smoothies are prepared in a high-speed blender, green juices require a juicer to extract the juice from the greens.

The book is "very green" at its core, graphically designed to feature recipe ingredients, variations, chapter headings, and attractive leafy vegetable illustrations in green. Tucked into the center are eight pages of dazzling color photos by photographer Susan Voisin of the Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen blog.

Wild About Greens is destined to become the go-to classic cookbook for anyone seeking information on preparing raw and cooked dishes featuring leafy green vegetables. With author Nava Atlas as guide, anyone can feel confident enough to bring greens home from the market and prepare beautiful, eye-appealing, and healthful dishes for the family.

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