This week I welcome longtime plant based author Nava Atlas to Cowgirls & Collard Greens! Not only is Nava a well established author and a vegan chef, but she’s also the creator of vegkitchen.com as well. I’m thrilled to have her here to answer a few questions as well as share one of her yummy cold weather recipes from her new beautiful book Plant Power.
After thumbing through the book, I am anxious to share my love of it with all of you. Not only is the book a beautiful hard cover, but it includes over 150 deliciously appetizing plant based recipes for both dedicated vegans and those dabbling with eating more vegetables. The basics are covered for beginners and many of the recipes are family friendly as well. Read on to learn more about the book and to get to know this bestselling author behind the scenes. Don’t miss the vegan Cream of Broccoli Soup recipe at the end of this post.
A huge thanks to Nava for her time and thanks to each of you for tuning in and for your continued support.
Yeehaw, Kayle xo
Interview with Nava Atlas
C&CG: You have an incredibly extensive background in vegan and vegetarian cooking with all of your wonderful cookbooks, what is your culinary background? Did you grow up in a family of chefs or attend cooking school?
NA: I grew up with typical, bland Eastern European Jewish food. Even as a child I found meat repulsive. So as a rebellious teenager, I declared myself a vegetarian, and was ordered to make my own meals. That I did, quite happily, and soon enough my family came around to my hippy-dippy vegetarian concoctions (this was a long time ago; the concept of vegan was barely on the radar).
After receiving a BFA in art and design (skills I still use!), I moved to NYC and married a man who was eager to go vegetarian. He encouraged me to write down my recipes, and while still in my 20’s, I combined them with my drawings, design skills, and even my love of literature to concoct my first cookbook, Vegetariana. Since it was successful, it provided an unexpected career that was good for combining with my other path as an artist and graphic designer. So no chefs in the family, no cooking school; just a lot of practice in the home kitchen.
C&CG. Congratulations on your latest book, Plant Power, what was the inspiration behind this book?
NA: The publisher, HarperOne, actually approached me to see if I would be interested in doing a comprehensive guide to adopting a plant-based diet, with more of the emphasis on the kitchen tips, ingredients, meal planning, and such. I liked the concept behind the subtitle they came up with, which starts with “Transform Your Kitchen, Plate, and Life …” But it really became a shared vision, with a great role played by the book’s photographer, Hannah Kaminsky, who is hugely talented and a delight to work with.
C&CG: This may be a completely unfair question, but do you have a favorite recipe in Plant Power, or at least a recipe that you make more often than some of the others?
NA: It’s hard for me to choose a favorite recipe, but my favorite chapter is Asian Express, as I love stir-fries, sizzling tofu dishes, and noodles. The recipe I’ve made more than any other has got to be one or the other version of vegan mac and cheese. I’ve made it for my kids and their friends what seems like hundreds of times. I still make it for them when they visit (they’re now in their 20s); it’s their official nostalgic comfort food.
C&CG: I am always looking for new recipe ideas to introduce non-vegans to plant based living. Do you have a favorite recipe to make when you attend a potluck or party?
NA: I think that for winning over skeptics, it’s always good to make a vegan version of something that’s already familiar, to demonstrate that you can still enjoy the foods you love, without the animal ingredients. Lasagna would be a good example of that, as would chili. This is a really great question but I rarely go to the same thing; it all depends on the season and my mood. I just make sure that whatever I plan to share is very tasty and plentiful.
C&CG: Is there a cookbook topic or theme that you have yet to explore and would like to? In other words, are there more cookbooks on the horizon for you?
NA: Every cookbook I finish, I swear it will be the last one, as I feel so depleted afterwards. I put so much effort into each one. But I’ve learned never to say never; food trends change and expand all the time. I’d love to go back and veganize a couple of my older vegetarian cookbooks. At the moment, I’m entering the 4th year of working on a graphic dual biography and my goal is to finish it this year before going on to anything else.
C&CG: Thanks so much for your time Nava! Thank you for creating deliciously fun, easy and joyful vegan recipes for everyone to enjoy!
A longtime favorite in our family of broccoli enthusiasts, this soup gets a thick, creamy base from pureed white beans or tofu. The addition of green peas at the end of cooking time brightens the color and heightens the flavor of the soup. This is great served with many kinds of wraps or sandwiches, or with a colorful main dish salad such as Taco Salad. Recipe from Plant Power: Transform Your Kitchen, Plate, and Life with More Than 150 Fresh and Flavorful Vegan Recipes by Nava Atlas. ©2014, published by HarperOne, reprinted by permission. Photos by Hannah Kaminsky.
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or 3 tablespoons vegetable broth or water
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
- 32-ounce carton low-sodium vegetable broth or 4 cups water mixed with
2 to 3 teaspoons salt-free all-purpose seasoning blend (such as Frontier or Mrs. Dash)
- 5 to 6 cups coarsely chopped broccoli florets and peeled stems
- 2 cups frozen green peas, thawed
- One 15- to 16-ounce can great northern beans or cannellini,
drained and rinsed, or one 12.3-ounce package firm silken tofu
- 1 cup unsweetened rice milk or other unsweetened nondairy milk, plus more as needed
To finish the soup:
- 2 cups finely chopped broccoli florets
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill or parsley, or a combination, plus more for garnish
- Juice of 1/2 lemon, or 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice, or to taste
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Heat the oil, broth, or water in a soup pot and add the onion. Sauté over medium heat until translucent, then add the garlic if desired. Continue to sauté until the onion is golden.
Add the broth and broccoli. Bring to a simmer, then cover and simmer gently until the broccoli is tender but not overcooked, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the beans or tofu and half the green peas. Continue to cook just until everything is nicely heated through.
The easiest way to puree this soup is to simply insert an immersion blender into the pot and puree until it’s as smooth as you’d like it to be. You can also leave it a bit chunky. If you don’t have an immersion blender, transfer the mixture to a regular blender and puree (don’t overprocess!), then transfer back to the soup pot. Add enough nondairy milk to give the soup a medium-thick consistency.
To finish the soup, add the remaining green peas, the finely chopped broccoli florets, the chopped herbs, and the lemon juice. Stir together, then season with salt and pepper. Cook over very low heat for 5 minutes longer, or until the finely chopped broccoli florets are tender-crisp, then serve.
Per serving: Calories: 262 with oil, 232 without oil; Total fat: 5g with oil, 2g without oil; Protein: 12g; Carbohydrates: 44g; Fiber: 13g; Sodium: 302mg