Amy Chaplin’s beautiful cookbook, At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen should be a staple in every pantry—vegetarian or not. The former executive chef of New York City’s most famous vegan restaurant, Angelica Kitchen, demystifies exotic ingredients from kombu to kraut. Recipes are 90 percent vegan; those that include butter, cheese, or eggs reference appropriate substitutes. Read the book cover to cover for superb, sophisticated recipes and on-point suggestions for everything from food storage to water filtration. Chaplin’s explanation of soaking beans and grains to remove phytic acid is among the most cogent I’ve found. Standout recipes: soft polenta with nettles, peas, and goat cheese; shaved fennel and beet salad with crushed hazelnuts; and perfect pie crusts. The chapter on tarts is worth the price of the book.
Plant-Powered for Life by Sharon Palmer is another winner, packed with 125 vegan recipes. Palmer introduces readers to a wide range of vegetables, grains, legumes, and spices with recipes that hail from culinary landscapes as diverse as Morocco, Scandinavia, and the American South. She lists nutritional details for each menu item. Her savory steel-cut oat risotto is a revelation.
In The Forks Over Knives Plan (based on the documentary of the same name), physicians Alona Pulde and Matthew Lederman prescribe a meal-by-meal makeover, jettisoning meat and most oils in order to prevent and even reverse major illnesses. Starting with week one, you’ll transform your breakfast habits; week two, lunch; and week three, dinner. By week four, you’ll be fine-tuning your new healthy lifestyle. Opening chapters discuss how to stock your kitchen, combat cravings, and order at restaurants. Personal commentaries sprinkled throughout address the emotional and practical challenges involved and remind readers that they’re not alone in this journey. The recipes that fill the second half of the book aren’t especially exciting, but the practical advice preceding them might be just what the doctor ordered.
David Perlmutter takes an entirely different—even opposite—tack in The Grain Brain Cookbook, the companion to his New York Times bestseller, Grain Brain. Citing studies that blame high blood sugar for cardiovascular disease and brain disorders, Perlmutter keeps meat on the menu but cleans bread, pasta, pastry, and sugars from the cupboard. Luckily he replaces carbohydrates with scrumptious dishes such as Portuguese-style sardines and asparagus with walnut aioli. He also includes nutritional analysis with each recipe.
In Fix Your Mood with Food, Los Angeles acupuncturist Heather Lounsbury brings traditional Chinese medicine into the kitchen to relieve debilitating ailments including asthma, high blood pressure, and depression. Lounsbury uses case studies to clarify otherwise esoteric concepts. She provides lists of ingredients and their beneficial properties rather than recipes, so don’t expect a traditional cookbook. The final pages include food-based prescriptions for emotional disorders: heal your anger, anxiety, shock, or heartache with targeted meals.