book review: neighborhood by hetty mckinnon

The concept of Neighborhood is mostly found in the subtitle: hearty salads and plant-based recipes from home and abroad. It’s obvious that it’s vegetable-focused and seasonal/location-based from the first few pages. But if you’re not a traditional salad lover, no worries - she describes her approach as “elevat[ing] the salad from side dish to main meal.” These aren’t iceberg lettuce & slimy freezing-cold tomato salads, they’re full of flavor, texture, and color.

Neighborhood is focused on the social, communal nature of food. The photos evoke the feeling of the neighborhoods they’re covering in each section - you really feel like you’re eating lunch at a deli in Brooklyn or at a restaurant on the Mediterranean Sea. To talk more about the visuals, the book has big, matte, colorful pages with modern classic design & typography. The photographer is one of my favorites, Luisa Brimble. If you like the simple design of Chickpea (or similar modern-magazine design, like Kinfolk, Cereal, et al.) you’ll like the look and feel of this book.

book review: neighborhood by hetty mckinnon

Most recipes come with a substitution section, to make dishes gluten-free or vegan, or to replace a harder-to-find ingredient. The index is sorted by ingredient, which is helpful - whenever we decide our meals for the week, we go based on whatever ingredients we haven’t used yet. (Looking at you, eggplant.) The dessert section is pretty fun - instead of just recipes from the author, she brings in other food lovers as if they were bringing a dessert (or two) to a party. It really makes me wish we could join them! There is only one explicitly vegan dessert in this section, though, so if you’re a vegan baking enthusiast this wouldn’t be the book we’d suggest for you.

This is not explicitly a vegan book, and the author is not vegan. She specifically calls out vegan recipes with a VG marker, but most all of them are also easily veganized. You may wonder why we feature books like this, if we’re a vegan magazine.

We love to see how “mainstream” chefs and authors approach cooking, especially vegetable-centric foods. They inspire us to try new combinations and techniques. Veganizing the majority of recipes is not difficult in these already plant-based books. If you’re a vegan who doesn’t want to see any mention of egg or yogurt, this isn’t the book for you. But if you’re like us and get inspired by easily ‘veganizing’ plant-based dishes, you’ll really love this one. And ultimately, we only feature books that inspire us to cook to the point where we actually DO IT. Isn’t that the point of picking out a small shelf of cookbooks in the first place?

Some of our favorite ways to cook are with simple, whole ingredients prepared using easier-than-they-look techniques. These are the kind of seasonal meals you can eat on your porch on a weekday night, that make you impressed with your own skills. (Even if the techniques didn’t demand much!) This book is packed with those type of wholesome recipes that you can improvise on if you need to, or pare back if you want to. This is one of the most energizing cookbooks we have on our shelf right now, and will inspire us to make gorgeous, satisfying lettuce-less salads in any season or locale. 

book review: neighborhood by hetty mckinnon

where to get it

Neighborhood by Hetty McKinnon

Roost Books

Buy on Amazon

layout

introductory section:

  • making friends with salad
  • weeknight salads
  • four ways to use leftover salad
  • and more 

the bulk of the book:

  • dear america
  • so frenchie
  • into the mediterranean
  • east, meet west
  • this is australia
  • just bring dessert

book review: neighborhood by hetty mckinnon

who this book is for

people looking to cook more plant-based and/or whole foods “bowl” style meals

the best part

the recipes run through every season, so this is great no matter what time of year you want to cook from it

book review: neighborhood by hetty mckinnon

standout recipes

  • brussels sprout caesar with croutons, borlotti beans, and sunflower seeds
  • smashed eggplant with lentils and maple-roasted radish
  • winter panzanella with roasted tomatoes, fennel, kale, and caramelized balsamic
  • cumin-roasted sweet potato with harissa chickpeas and spinach
  • thai carrot and peanut salad (with fried tofu!)
  • roasted sweet potato with leeks and mustard croutons

spiced tofu bowl (from neighborhood by hetty mckinnon)

From Neighborhood by Hetty McKinnon © 2016 by Hetty McKinnon. Reprinted in arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO. www.roostbooks.com

spiced tofu bowl (from neighborhood by hetty mckinnon)

SPICED TOFU WITH BLACK BEANS, BARBECUED CORN, AND RED BELL PEPPERS

This recipe is one of many twists and turns. It started off as a scrambled tofu stir-fry, inspired by a Sophie Dahl recipe. But, as with many dishes in my repertoire, it soon morphed into a salad of Tex-Mex influence. The heavily spiced, smoky tofu is really one of my favorite things to eat. My kids love it just as much. Roll it up in a corn tortilla or soft taco shell for a simple, flavor-packed family meal.

VG | GF | SERVES 4~6

spiced tofu bowl (from neighborhood by hetty mckinnon)

  • 2 red bell peppers (about ¾ lb; 350 g)
  • 3 corn cobs (about 1¼ lbs; 550 g)
  • 2–3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots (see note page 32), peeled and finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 28 oz (800 g) firm tofu,
  • torn into chunks
  • ½ jalapeño chili, deseeded and finely diced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • One and one half 15 oz cans (500 g) black beans (about 2 cups), drained
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Sea salt and black pepper

SUBSTITUTE

Red bell peppers: store-bought roasted red peppers

  1. Preheat a griddle pan or barbecue. You need it smoking hot.
  2. Lay the peppers on the pan or barbecue and cook for 10–12 minutes, turning, until blackened on all sides. Place the peppers in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave to steam for 10 minutes. When ready, peel off and discard the charred skin along with the seeds and membrane, and roughly chop the pepper flesh. (To save on time and effort, you can definitely use store-bought roasted red peppers.)
  3. Add the corn cobs to the pan or barbecue and cook on all sides, until slightly charred. Leave them to cool slightly, then run a sharp knife down each side to remove the kernels.
  4. In a large frying pan, add 1–2 tablespoons of olive oil and the shallots and garlic and cook over medium heat until the shallots are translucent. Add the tofu chunks, then the chili, cumin, turmeric, and paprika and move around, making sure the tofu is evenly coated in the spices. Add a big pinch of salt and pepper and cook for 5–6 minutes until the tofu is starting to take on some golden color.
  5. Combine the bell peppers, corn, black beans, tofu mixture, and cilantro and mix well. To serve, squeeze over the lime juice and finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

spiced tofu bowl (from neighborhood by hetty mckinnon)

Leave a comment