Good-Health Reads: Ellen Kanner

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With so many health-transforming books being released, WholeFoods wanted to know what the experts are reading. Here, Ellen Kanner, author of Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner, shares her thoughts on three books she couldn’t put down.

I eat food. I also cook food, write about food, grow food, guide mindful eating workshops, develop recipes and am a soulful vegan. So to me, food is more than dinner. It’s wellness, pleasure, place, inspiration, education, culture and connection. Food is about everything we bring to the table, from who grows what we eat to who we share a meal with…if we’re awakened and receptive to it. These three new books help connect us to all food can be, each in its own way. 

 

We Are La Cocina Cookbook: Recipes in Pursuit of the American Dream, edited by Caleb Zigas and Leticia Landa

The American dream—of coming from hardship to make a home, a business, a life—is delicious, like Fernay McPherson’s creamy, dreamy mac and cheese. And Maria Carmen del Flores’ pupusas (puffy Salvadoran corn cakes), Reem Asil’s fattoush (Arabic bread salad) and Nafy Flatley’s mafé, (African peanut stew). These and all the diverse flavors of the world are gathered together in We Are La Cocina Cookbook: Recipes in Pursuit of the American Dream.

La Cocina, the Bay Area incubator kitchen, empowers low-income home cooks to create a career of preparing the beloved dishes of home. Launched in 2005, it provides low-cost commercial kitchen space, business consulting, helps its entrepreneurs scale up production, and connects them to potential financing sources. Graduates sell artisanal products, operate farmers market food stalls, own and run restaurants, and now many appear in this cookbook, compiled by La Cocina co-founders Caleb Ziyas and Letitia Landy.

The 75 recipes, individually appealing, become more so taken as a whole and paired with the stories of the women who created them. Eric Wolfinger’s images capture the essence of who they are.

Just as We are La Cocina is more than a cookbook, La Cocina has become more than a program, it’s a community, bringing together women and providing them with a powerful support network. It’s given both locals and immigrants from all over the world financial independence, greater self-value, greater voice, and a way to bridge cultures and community through food.                              

 

Sababa, by Adeena Sussman

We tend to think of the Middle East as conflict-riddled, so thanks go to Adeena Sussman, who assures us everything is wonderful — tzababa, as they say Arabic. In Hebrew, they say sababa. Paging through Sussman’s new cookbook of the same name makes us believe. Filled with easy-to-make, sunny Israeli recipes Sababa reminds us how food can bring us together. 

Born in California, Sussman has made Tel Aviv her home, and blends the two cultures with the authority of someone who knows Israeli food and flavors and understands American sensibility. The book bears the clarity and cozy style Sussman brings to Chrissy Teigen’s bestselling cookbooks (Sussman co-authored).

Sababa combines recipes for familiar favorites like hummus with those that may be new to Americans, like kubanah. The buttery overnight bread traditionally made before sundown on the sabbath. Sussman also offers her own twists on traditions, like tahini and olive oil granola. Most recipes skew to the simple and doable, relying on bright flavors like garlic, lemon, sumac, olive oil, and Israeli condiments like pomegranate molasses and zhoug—Sussman provides recipes, but they’re sold commercially, too. Her inviting tone is matched by Dan Perez’s gorgeous light-filled photography.

Amid the recipes and images, Sussman tucks in writing about her shuk, her local market, where she shops almost daily for fresh produce and favorite ingredients. It’s become “my constant companion, the organizing principle of my days, a comforting routine that has evolved into a way of life and a habit of cooking joyfully from this country’s bounty.” It’s not just good, it’s sababa.

 

5-Ingredient Vegan, by Nava Atlas

Nava Atlas was vegan before the Impossible Burger, before supermarkets stocked tahini and tamari, before vegan was cool.  She helped make it cool, as well as possible, with 11 vegan cookbooks. These days, Atlas, an accomplished artist as well as a prolific cookbook author, confesses she doesn’t want to spend all day in the kitchen.  But she’s still committed to being plant-based, still prefers simple home-cooked meals. Her solution—and yours—is her new book, 5-Ingredient Vegan.

5-Ingredient Vegan recipes rely on store-bought condiments like tamari, tahini  and other umami bombs and pantry staples like quinoa, tinned tomatoes, and  coconut milk. They bring the flavor and do the work so you don’t have to. Atlas combines these and other readily available ingredients for fast, no-fuss, gotta-have recipes like peanut satay noodles, polenta with black beans and spinach, and chocolate granola clusters. Food photography comes courtesy of fellow vegan culinary star Hannah Kaminsky, and Evan Atlas, the author’s son.  

Times have changed since Atlas first went vegan. More plant-based info is available, more plant-based products, and as a result, more people are going plant-based. 5-Ingredient Vegan not only makes becoming vegan approachable, it’ll coax reluctant cooks into the kitchen, and hungry eaters to the table regardless of dietary choices. It’s the kitchen hack everyone needs to get more with less.  

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