If I had to describe Michael Natkin’s new cookbook Herbivoracious: A Flavor Revolution with 150 Vibrant and Original Vegetarian Recipes using just one word, it would be impossible. Because “creative”, “inspiring”, and “exciting” all come to mind, and they all describe the book perfectly. Good thing I can use as many words as I like ;)

I’ve long admired Michael: in addition to having a family and a full-time job, he’s so passionate about vegetarian cuisine that he works his butt off to write an excellent blog- and now a cookbook- in his spare time. Oh, and he took all the (beautiful!) photos for the cookbook, too…talented, much?

Michael’s been a vegetarian for many years and though he never attended culinary school, he’s clearly one heck of a cook. I love his bold flavor combinations, and how he utilizes ingredients from around the globe. Back when I first heard Michael was writing the book, I signed on to test one of his recipes; I absolutely loved it, and I’ve been looking forward to the book’s publication ever since.

The Harvard Common Press sent me a review copy of Herbivoracious several weeks ago, and here are five of the recipes that caught my eye when I first flipped through the book:

Chanterelle Banh Mi Bites
Kimchi Stew with Shiitake and Daikon
Watermelon Radish and Watercress Salad
Cool Tomato and Buttermilk Soup
Caramelized pear and ginger scones

Oh, and I am kind of obsessed with the Sauces, Condiments, and Basic Recipes chapter: I plan to make just about everything in it.

So far, I have tried the Brown Butter Cornbread, the Persimmon, Parsley, and Olive Salad (this was the recipe I tested), and the Sabich, an Iraqi-Jewish pita sandwich (the recipe for which you’ll find below). Everything has been great, and I will be coming back to this book again and again.

Though I could say something like “the recipes in Herbivoracious are so packed with flavor, you will never miss the meat”, I am not going to do so. Why? Because Herbivoracious is a great cookbook, not just a great vegetarian cookbook.

Michael recently left his day job and is planning to open a restaurant…I’d like to congratulate him on the release of his book, as well as this new endeavor! I hope I can get out to Seattle some day and eat at what’s sure to be a fabulous place.

Michael Natkin's Recipe for Sabich (Iraqi-Jewish Eggplant Sandwich)

Yield: 4 sandwiches

I've never had it before trying this recipe, but in his headnote, Michael says Sabich is a popular Sabbath food for Iraqi Jews. Though I left out the parsley and the amba, I still thought it was a really amazing sandwich.

Ingredients:

*2 plus tomatoes, finely diced
*Half an English cucumber, finely diced
*juice from 1 lemon
*Kosher salt
*1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
*1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into generous 1/4-inch slices
*4 large eggs, hard cooked, peeled and sliced (omit for vegan)
*1 cup pre-seasoned tahini (sesame paste, also known as tehina or tahina) or 1 cup plain tahini seasoned with 1 clove minced garlic and lemon juice to taste)
1/2 cup loosely packed flatleaf parsley leaves
Half a small white onion, minced
1/2 cup thinly sliced or diced dill pickle
Amba (pickled mango; or use a little harissa or other hot sauce)
4 pita breads (omit and serve as a salad for gluten-free)

Directions:

1. In a small bowl, make a simple salad of the tomatoes, cucumber, and lemon juice, adding salt to taste. (I added some crumbled feta cheese, as well.)

2. Put the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the eggplant in batches until completely tender, turning to brown on both sides, about 7 minutes total; drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. (You can also grill the eggplant instead of frying for a different, lighter taste.) Transfer to a serving dish.

3. While the eggplant is frying, put the eggs, hummus, tahini, parsley, onion, dill pickle, and amba in small bowls so diners can build sandwiches to their own specifications.

4. Toast or grill the pita bread.

5. Serve it forth, preferably with a cold beer, and encourage everyone to make a gigantic sandwich.

Reprinted with permission from Herbivoracious: A Flavor Revolution with 150 Vibrant and Original Vegetarian Recipes by Michael Natkin. Copyright 2012 by The Harvard Common Press.

Herbivoracious won’t officially be available until next week, but the folks at The Harvard Common Press are so wonderful…they’ve offered to send one of my readers a copy of the book. If you’d like to be entered to win, please leave a comment below by Monday, April 30th, 2012 at midnight EST. I will pick a winner via random.org sometime on May 1st, 2012. This giveaway is only open to US residents and I must have your email in order to notify you if you win. Good luck!