BY JEANNE O’BRIEN COFFEY PHOTOGRAPHS BY DAVID ENGELHARDT FOOD STYLING BY MASHA DAVYDOVA
ANYA KASSOFF GETS some odd looks from airport security when she travels—the vegetarian cookbook author’s carry-on is often stuffed with salad mix and bountiful bunches of kale.
“I never eat the food on a plane,” says Anya, who also brings along olives and nuts for snacking. When she reaches her final destination, her carry-on also ensures she can start the day off as she prefers, with a big salad. “No matter the season, salad is just so delicious,” she says.
Anya’s second cookbook, Simply Vibrant: All-day Vegetarian Recipes for Colorful Plant-Based Cooking, puts those leafy greens at the forefront. “It’s been years, but I still get excited about green leafy vegetables,” Anya says, noting that near her home in Florida the farmer’s markets are full of many unique types of greens, so she is always discovering something new.
Anya changed the way she eats almost a decade ago, after the birth of her second child, Paloma, when some health issues caused her to rethink what she was putting in her body. And her daughter has never known another way. In all her baby pictures, Paloma is surrounded by green shakes, green juice, and green soup. “Everyone around me was saying, ‘Poor baby. She doesn’t eat candy?’ But she has her raw chocolate, so she is fine,” says Anya with a laugh.
Especially when that raw chocolate is good quality and baked into sweet potato brownies, as it is in a recipe from Simply Vibrant, the second cookbook to come out of her successful food blog, “Golubka Kitchen.” “Sweet potato is the queen of vegan baking,” Anya says. “I use it in desserts all the time. You would never know that sweet potato is in there, but it gives extra nutrients alongside a nice texture.”
The brownies get another boost of sweetness from pureed dates—Anya avoids sugar, preferring something less refined like dates, or perhaps a touch of maple syrup or mesquite powder made from the ground pods of the mesquite plant, which add a subtle sweetness.
The date and sweet potato combination also turns up in pecan pie. Anya, who collaborates with her older daughter Masha Davydova on the cookbooks and the blog, says combining sweet potatoes with dates and seed or nut butter creates a flavor that is similar to caramel.
From breakfast bowls to veggie burgers, Simply Vibrant offers a road map for modern plant-based eating. Hopscotching across the globe, Anya’s list of pantry must-haves includes everything from miso to sriracha, and a chart suggests what produce is available in what season.
Many of the recipes in the book, like “Spring Vegetable Black Rice Pilaf,” can be used as a mix-and-match template, offering a base to add in whatever is available and in season. Pilaf, a simple one-pot combination of rice with some stock and vegetables, offers endless possibilities. “Rice pilaf is a very easy dish to put together, but the taste is really complex and satisfying,” Anya says.
Anya likes to look at the season in terms of colors, flavors, and textures. “I really wanted to look from the perspective of offering something for every season,” she says, noting that winter flavors tend to be heavy and savory, while spring offers zest, and the summer brings lightness and brightness. So for her summer “Beet and Zucchini Veggie Burger,” the zucchini adds airiness while the beet adds intensity. “That burger is very light, but at the same time very satisfying,” she says.
Likewise, her “Four Seasons of Panzanella” (a Tuscan bread salad) starts with a base of day-old bread and a few different dressings and toppings that use the most common, abundant, and flavorful vegetables and fruits of each season. “It’s a logical way to make panzanella,” says Anya.
That traditional Tuscan salad is most often made with stale bread, reflecting another of the book’s tenets. As much as possible, Simply Vibrant looks to reduce waste, using the same vegetable in multiple dishes and incorporating everything from carrot tops in chimi-churri to beet greens in risotto so fewer edibles are squandered.
While Anya generally sticks to a plant-based diet, she knows when a dish will benefit from a bit of egg or cheese. “I’m not really into labels or just eating vegan or raw,” she says. “We eat what we like and what makes us feel better. It’s all exciting food.”
Beet And Zucchini Veggie Burgers
MAKES 6 BURGERS
□ 1 T neutral coconut oil
□ 1 medium onion, chopped
□ 1 medium carrot, peeled (if not organic) and shredded
□ 1 small chili, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
□ Sea salt
□ 1 small red beet, cooked and shredded
□ 1 c cooked green or French lentils
□ Juice of 1⁄2 lemon
□ Freshly ground black pepper
□ 1 small zucchini, shredded
□ 2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
□ 1⁄3 c chia or flax meal
□ 6 burger buns or wraps, for serving
□ Avocado mayo or apple miso mayo, for serving
□ Tomato slices, lettuce, red onion, and sprouts or microgreens, for serving
► Melt the oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, chili, if using, and a big pinch of salt, and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the shredded beet, lentils, lemon juice, and black pepper to taste. Stir to combine and cook for about 3 minutes, until most of the liquid is evaporated. Taste for salt and adjust if needed. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and let it cool slightly.
► Add the zucchini and garlic to the bowl and mix to combine, then add the chia or flax meal and stir to mix thoroughly. Let the mixture rest for 15 minutes to allow the chia or flax to gel.
► Preheat the oven to 475° F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
► Form 6 patties using a 1⁄2-cup measure, and arrange them on the prepared baking sheet. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until toasted in appearance.
► Remove the patties from the oven and let them cool slightly before serving; the burgers will firm up when cooled.
► Serve the patties in the buns or wraps if you like, with the mayo of your choice, tomato slices, lettuce, red onion, and sprouts or microgreens. Left-over burgers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Sweet Potato Chocolate Brownies
MAKES 12 LARGE OR 24 SMALL BROWNIES
□ 1 c chopped dark chocolate or dark chocolate chips
□ 11⁄2 c raw hazelnuts
□ 1⁄2 c almond flour
□ 3 T unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for dusting the brownies
□ Pinch of sea salt
□ 9 to 10 large, soft Medjool dates, pitted
□ 1 medium sweet potato, baked, peeled, and roughly chopped
□ 1⁄4 c almond butter
► Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper, extending the paper up the sides. Place the chocolate in the freezer.
► Spread the hazelnuts on a baking tray and toast them in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove them from the oven and let them cool, then rub them in a clean kitchen towel to remove the skins. Reserve a few whole nuts for garnishing the brownies, and place the rest of the nuts in a food processor; grind into a meal. Make sure you don’t over-process. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and put aside.
► Place the chilled chocolate in the food processor and grind into the smallest pieces possible. Transfer to the bowl with the ground hazelnuts and add the almond flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Stir to mix evenly.
► Combine the dates, sweet potato chunks, and almond butter in the food processor and puree until smooth. Spoon this mixture into the bowl with the ground hazelnuts and chocolate; stir to combine thoroughly.
► Spoon the batter into the prepared bak- ing dish and even out the top with a spoon. Transfer the dish to the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top of the brownie is firm to the touch.
► Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool to room temperature, then transfer the brownie to a cutting board, using the parchment paper to lift it out of the pan. Dust the brownie with cocoa powder. Chop the reserved whole hazelnuts and sprinkle them on top, if desired. Slice the brownie into bars. They are great at room temperature but even better cold, and will keep well in the refrigerator for five days.
GOOD TO KNOW:
The purest form of dark chocolate is between 85 percent and 100 percent cacao.
Spring Vegetable Black Rice Pilaf
□ 11⁄2 T neutral coconut oil or olive oil
□ 1⁄2 green chili or jalapeño, seeded and sliced
□ 2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, finely sliced
□ 4 garlic cloves, sliced
□ Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
□ Zest and juice of 1 large or 2 small limes
□ 2 c vegetable broth or purified water
□ 1 c forbidden black rice
□ 1 bunch asparagus, tough ends removed, sliced diagonally in about 1-inch pieces
□ 2 c fresh peas or thawed frozen peas
□ 2 to 3 c chopped spinach leaves or baby spinach
► Warm the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the chili or jalapeño and stir it around for 30 seconds. Add the leeks and sauté for 5 minutes until they begin to soften.
► Add the garlic and salt and black pepper to taste (add more salt if using water instead of vegetable broth), and sauté for another 2 minutes until the garlic is fragrant. Add the lime juice and cook for another minute until most of the liquid is absorbed.
► Add the broth or water to the pan, increase the heat to high, and bring it to a boil. Add the rice, scattering it over the broth somewhat evenly. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook for 30 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.
► Add the asparagus to the pot and stir to incorporate. Cover the pot and let the pilaf cook for 7 minutes until the asparagus is crisp and tender. Add the peas, spinach, lime zest, and a pinch of salt. Stir thoroughly until the spinach wilts, then remove the pot from the heat.
► Season to taste with more salt and pepper and serve immediately.
Spring Panzanella With Radishes And Peas
SERVES 4 TO 6
FOR THE VINAIGRETTE:
□ 4 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
□ 1 t Dijon mustard
□ 1⁄4 c chopped fresh dill
□ 1⁄4 c olive oil
FOR THE PANZANELLA:
□ 4 slices whole-grain bread, torn or cut into cubes
□ Olive oil, for drizzling the bread
□ 2 garlic cloves, minced
□ Sea salt
□ 11⁄2 t neutral coconut oil
□ 2 c sugar snaps or snow peas, strings removed
□ 2 c fresh or frozen green English peas, thawed if frozen
□ 10 to 15 radishes, thinly sliced
□ 2 to 3 c mesclun greens or other salad greens of choice
□ Freshly ground black pepper
□ Handful of pea shoots (optional)
► Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
► Combine all of the vinaigrette ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.
► Arrange the bread on the prepared baking sheet, drizzle it with olive oil, and sprinkle with the garlic and sea salt to taste. Transfer to the oven and toast the bread for 20 minutes, until golden.
► In the meantime, melt the coconut oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the sugar snaps and a pinch of salt and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, until they are bright green and lightly cooked, but still crispy. Add the peas and another pinch of salt, stir to coat for a minute, and then remove the pan from the heat.
► Combine the toasted bread, cooked sugar snaps or peas, radishes, and greens in a large bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over top, season with freshly ground black pepper, and toss well. Scatter on the pea shoots, if using, and serve immediately.
GOOD TO KNOW: Radishes are very low in calories— about 17 per cup.
Anya Kassoff’s Five Favorite Things
Here are the items food blogger and author Anya Kasso can’t live without.
“I love it for its anti-inflammatory properties and bright color. I love adding it to vegetable broth—it makes for amazing, healing broth that’s really great to drink when you’re under the weather.”
“Since I’ve started incorporating leafy greens into pretty much every one of my meals, I’ve noticed major positive improvements in the way I feel. I start many days with a large salad, and try to squeeze greens into most of my meals thereafter, too.”
“Miso is amazing for building flavor in plant-based dishes. I use it in my favorite Tahini Lemon Dressing (the recipe is in the book), as well as in soups, mains, and even some desserts.”
FRESH GINGER ROOT
“Ginger is a great flavor enhancer. In the winter, I usually start my morning with a juice of fresh ginger, fresh carrot, and fresh turmeric. It’s my coffee. I make a lot of Asian-inspired dishes as well, and ginger is very important there.”
CAST IRON SKILLET
“It’s really nice for all kinds of pilaf and paella, and even oven pancakes. Because it cooks so evenly, it doesn’t burn on the bottom. I even use cast iron to make polenta pizza right in the pan.”