Wild About Greens: 125 Delectable Vegan Recipes for Kale, Collards, Arugula, Bok Choy, and Other Leafy Veggies Everyone Loves
With some 20 vegetarian and vegan cookbooks to her name, Nava Atlas has nothing to prove. Yet I still found myself equally divided between hope and skepticism with her latest, “Wild About Greens.” Could a vegan cookbook really find new ways to make the world’s repertoire of leaves yet more interesting, when for many people, the most surefire way to make greens interesting is to add pork (as in collard greens with ham hock, dandelion greens with bacon)?
Braised hardy greens with mixed mushrooms adds up to exactly the sum of the parts — porcini, kale, sun-dried tomatoes — without adding much to that statement. Spicy peanut or cashew sauce, on the other hand, will permanently change your attitude toward the same greens. It’s good enough to eat in a stir-fry or on pasta. It’s practically good enough to eat straight out of the container, but I wouldn’t know anything about that.
Atlas, who lives in New York’s Hudson Valley, likes to combine avocado and tahini in dips and dressings. The dip makes a ho-hum impression (described by my family as “like a cross between guacamole and hummus, but not as good as either”). The dressing, however, makes a vibrant match for massaged kale and cucumber salad.
Despite its tiny list of ingredients and dead-easy preparation, stir-fried sesame kale and red cabbage come together in a surprisingly refreshing marriage of flavors, and it’s good cold, too. Smoky potatoes with turnip greens gain a distinctive profile from liquid smoke and smoked paprika. I viewed the combination with doubt, but they really do add the same strength of flavor (if not the same character) as you would get from a smoked ham.
If you are wondering if you will be able to make a meal out of any of these recipes, I’m happy to say the answer is yes. Atlas knows that balsamic vinegar and soy make a killer combination, which she wields to dark, sweet effect in balsamic-glazed chickpeas and mustard greens. Even my kids asked for seconds.
No one will walk away hungry from Atlas’s Vietnamese-style bean-thread noodles with spinach and Napa cabbage, though it could really use some mint and — and if you are not vegan or vegetarian — a generous splash of fish sauce. Hoisin-glazed bok choy with tofu and soba noodles goes beyond the sweet, sloppy mess a hoisin stir-fry can be, with the canny addition of some toasted sliced almonds and a bit of orange.
Spinach or arugula and miso pesto would never be mistaken for the Genoese original, but it’s a fast vegan alternative with a salty, biting character of its own.
After a week, I was persuaded that there really is something new to be said about greens. Atlas’s bold, liberal way with vegan ingredients ensures that even the most jaded palate can find something to like. While not every last one of these recipes is a showstopper, taken as a whole they will certainly up your game when it comes to leafy greens.