I’m kind of in love with Christine Waltermyer right now. The founder and director of the Natural Kitchen Cooking School, Waltermyer has taught at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health and is a teacher with PCRM’s Cancer Project, so it’s no surprise that her book focuses on whole, unprocessed foods. I constantly struggle with trying to eat well, so I was excited to see what she was serving up in The Natural Vegan Kitchen.
I’ve been battling that nasty change-of-season cold everyone seems to have, so I decided to start with her Ginger Squash Soup—an aromatic mix of squash, onion and ginger juice topped with scallions. I used a can of pumpkin puree that I had on hand and some summer (rather than winter) squash from a friend’s garden, so the soup was a little thinner than it might have been otherwise. But the flavor was amazing: hearty and just a little bit sweet, and with the zing of the ginger going right to work on my throat. If you’re not a ginger fan, this is not the soup for you! But if you are, enjoy. I certainly did. Next time I might add more vegetables—and stick to fall/winter ones—so that the soup is a little thicker. Another option is to not blend the veggies at all and have more of a broth, leaving some chunks of squash throughout. No matter what you decide to do consistency-wise, though, the taste is superb. To find out for yourself, Waltermyer has posted almost the exact same recipe on her school’s site.
The Ginger Squash Soup is not only delicious, it’s good for you.
Next up was the Millet-Cauliflower Mash (the recipe in the book is a little more fleshed-out, I think), which I topped with Onion, rather than Mushroom, Gravy. The mash was just what you’d expect: thick and hearty, a perfect side as the weather gets colder. This is also just one of the gluten-free dishes in the book, a nice feature for anyone with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity. But the real star of the show was the gravy, made with sliced onions, miso and arrowroot; it was a tasty, salty counterpoint to the starchiness of the mash. My only complaint was that I wanted more! The gravy came out quite thick, so next time I’ll be sure to make more. This gravy would be an amazing accompaniment to so many things…
Be sure to top the Millet-Cauliflower Mash with Waltermyer’s Onion Gravy—you will not be disappointed.
The final recipe I tried was her Tempeh Mock Tuna Salad (there’s a recipe here), and the alternative Chickpea Mock Tuna Salad. Wow! I know mayo, onion and celery go a long way toward giving mock tuna its flavor, but both of these recipes are spot-on. I’d never made fake tuna salad before, and I was surprised at how similar the taste was to the real thing; I was even more surprised by how closely mashed chickpeas resemble flaked tuna. But at the end of the day, taste is what matters, and this recipe has it in spades. I put it on toast and had a “tuna” sandwich, something I hadn’t done since I was a kid. But it was so good I was also eating it out of the bowl, which is always a good sign. I’d recommend either version, but for me the true winner was the chickpea version, because the taste was just a smidge closer to reality, plus there’s no cooking involved (if you use canned chickpeas). The only thing I’ll do differently next time is cut down on the mayo; surprisingly, Waltermyer uses a lot more than I would have expected. But that’s a minor complaint, and probably one that more-skilled cooks won’t have; it’s only novices like me, probably, who follow recipe measurements to the letter! I’m sure the more I make this dish, though, the more I’ll have a sense of how much of each ingredient to use without having to consult the book.
Waltermyer’s Mock Tuna Salad knocked my socks off! I can’t wait to make another sandwich.
Meanwhile, I noticed that there’s a thread connecting all the recipes I tried here: onion. If you ask me, you can never get too much of a good thing. Though it is curious that when I go down the list of dishes I’d like to try next, all of them contain onion: Creamy Cauliflower-Broccoli Soup, Zucchini Rice Patties, French Onion Soup, Boston Baked Beans, Vegetarian Sloppy Joes, Tofu Pot Pie, Baked Onions… I could go on. But there are other dishes I’m game to try that don’t contain it, most notably Glazed Brussels Sprouts and Chestnuts, and two desserts: Cinnamon-Scented Poached Fuit and Basmati Rice Pudding. And I’ll be taking many more of Waltermyer’s for a spin ASAP. All of which to say, I give The Natural Vegan Kitchen two big, oniony thumbs-up!