At a book release party for Michael Natikin’s Herbivoracious I fill my plate past capacity with the gorgeous spread laid out at a Culver City restaurant, his cookbook’s recipes incarnate. It isn’t until I’m halfway though the incredible tasty bites that I realize that it’s vegetarian. Of course it is, its Herbivoracious. This is how I like my vegetarian food, as a celebration of produce rather than and explanation for missing meat. This is what Michael has managed to do, turn out an entire book of recipes so full and beautiful that the addition of animal protein would be an imposition. Recipes that range from perfectly simple to complex and inspirational. This isn’t a book for vegetarians, or for accepting meat eaters, it’s a book for everyone who loves food.
Cookbooks, in a real life paper and page form, are even more important to me that ever. As I pull out my Grandmothers copy of The Joy of Cooking, with her notes scrawled in the margins with a soft pencil I can feel a connection with her that would have been lost if eReaders had been invented 50 years ago. I feel her in the pages, and she is still able to teach me what I was never able to learn when she was alive. I want this for my daughter, for my future Grandkids, another piece of me to be found in an old box, when they are ready to receive it. Cookbooks should be the last thing to be digitized, you won’t pass down a kindle, make notes in the blank spaces with a number 2 pencil.
But the main reason to buy cookbooks is simple: recipe testing. Cookbook recipes are tested, over and over, to insure that the unchangeable print is perfect. Bloggers make a recipe once, giving online recipes a much higher rate of flaws, my own included. You are our testers and your feedback gives us insight in how we write the recipes and if we later make changes to what we have already posted. With bloggers cranking out up to 10 recipes a week, you can hardly blame us. But cookbook authors take much more time and care, agonizing over measurements, yields, terms and times, getting hundreds of hours of opinions and feedback because once it prints, that’s it. No updating posts, or responding to comments, the recipe has to be perfect.
That is why you should buy cookbooks.
Even if you aren’t a vegetarian, ESPECIALLY if you aren’t a vegetarian, Michael Natikns book is a must own celebration of produce. Buy it, make notes in the margins, and pass it down to endless generation of food loving humans.
Caramelized Apple and Blue Cheese Crostini
Recipe from: Michael Natkin, Herbvoracious
Makes 16 crostini
- ½ cup loosely packed fresh tarragon leaves
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- 16 thin slices of crusty baguette
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 small apples such as Pink Lady, cut into 16 wedges
- Tiny pinch of cayenne pepper (Don’t be afraid of this, it put this dish over the top!)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup blue cheese (such as Blue de Causses or Gorgonzola dolce), at room temperature
- Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon) or large crystal sea salt (such as red Hawaiian salt)
- (I added a drizzle of raw honey)
1.Preheat oven or toaster oven to 400 degrees.
2. Set aside 32 nice looking tarragon leaves. In a mortar and pestle or mini food processor, roughly puree the remaining tarragon with the olive oil.
3. Brush the baguette slices with the tarragon oil, reserving the crushed tarragon. Toast in the oven (on a baking sheet) or toaster oven until golden brown and crispy, about 5 minutes.
4. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the apples on in a single layer, working in batches if needed, until both sides are golden brown and somewhat tender, about 5 minutes. Season with a pinch of cayenne pepper and several grinds of black pepper.
5. To serve, arrange two slices of cooked apple on each crostini. Top with ½ teaspoon of the blue cheese, a speck of the crushed tarragon, two whole tarragon leaves, and a few grains of sea salt. (Drizzle with raw honey, if desired)